Recently, federal agencies submitted their goals for the final year of the Obama administration, marking the first time this was done at the start of the fiscal year instead of with the president’s budget in February. Of the 92 goals submitted, 40% were new. These goals are intended to help drive agency efforts and cross-agency collaboration throughout the year. For example, the Department of Education set a goal of increasing college attainment to 48.4 percent of adults aged 25 to 34 by September 2017. To do so, it will continue to find methods for improving affordability, access, and graduation rates.
- Tell a story instead of using corporate speak: When you communicate agency goals, think about your team or the group you’re speaking with and align your explanation with their work rather than speaking from on high. Facts and figures are often quickly forgotten, so it can be more effective to explain goals, or the potential impact of agency goals, through anecdotes focused on the outcome for the agency’s customers. If possible, allow front-line managers to present agency goals. They know best what their team is working on and what their own employee’s goals are, and can best communicate the message on a level that is effective.
- Don’t rely only on websites or printed messages: Goals are best communicated in person, in a forum that allows for two-way communication. Updates can be made electronically or in person, but the initial discussion and periodic follow ups should happen in small groups or one-on-one.
- Let your employees know how their goals align with agency goals: Explain to your employees how they are contributing to the overall agency goals to keep them motivated and engaged in the organization.
- Invite questions: Allow your employees to ask questions both about the overall goals and the methods for working toward them. If you don’t know the answer, find out, and circle back with your group.
- Overcommunicate at times: If there are changes being made in the agency that relate to the goal, or if there has been rapid progress toward achieving the goal, keep employees updated. Don’t wait for a once monthly staff meeting or email. When important events occur, let them know in the moment.
- Let employees know which goals are new and which are updated: Tell your employees the specifics of the new goals and why they are important for the agency. If a goal has simply been changed, briefly let employees know about the changes and share the reasons for the changes.
- Explain how goals are being measured: Let your employees know about the benchmarks the agency hopes to achieve and how success will be measured. If you can, put the metrics somewhere visible, or communicate them regularly so employees can see the progress.
- Don’t forget to communicate those goals that are no longer seen as a priority: Clearly define for your employees which agency goals are of highest priority, which have been met, or which have been removed. This will help your team develop more focused projects or processes that work toward the most important goals.
- Seek feedback: Don’t wait for your employees to come to you with thoughts on the best ways to help the agency achieve its goals. Instead, actively seek feedback, be it electronically or during meetings. Ask them how they think things are progressing, what the think could be changed for the better, and what is currently working best.
- Remember that many employees have sought out federal service: Not too many people enter government for the pay, but instead seek to align themselves with the goals, values, and mission of a specific organization. When you communicate agency goals, draw on these intrinsic motivations for joining government to help your employees see why the goals matter to the overall mission of the agency and the customers it serves.
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