, , ,

The Next level of employee engagement in the federal government

The US Office of Personnel Management has decided that WE will become the federal governments “test bed” for a relatively new concept called ROWE Results Only Work Environment.

News story from Gov Exec

Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry announced at a White House forum on Wednesday that he is moving 400 agency employees into a pilot program that will go beyond existing workplace flexibility and telework programs and could serve as a model for the rest of government.

“If flexibility can succeed in the federal government with the unrivaled complexity of our missions … as well as our red tape, quite frankly, it can succeed anywhere,” Berry told participants at the White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility,

The ROWE website: http://gorowe.com/


IMO this is perhaps on the scale of changing to 40 hour work week AND the empowerment of the employees during the 30’s. Much BIGGER than pay for performance or any other of the employee engagement programs over the past years (TQM, MBO amongst others)

I have been a federal employee for several decades and I spent MOST of yesterday in a state of shock listening to both to the announcement to the OPM employee’s and a couple of hours of the sessions at the White House.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Henry Brown

From the White House Press Office

Includes a 51 minute video:

Small Business Owners, Workers, Business and Labor Leaders, and Experts Join Administration Officials to Discuss Workplace Practices for a Changing American Workforce

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and the White House Council on Women and Girls are hosting the White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility to discuss the importance of creating workplace practices that allow America’s working men and women to meet the demands of their jobs without sacrificing the needs of their families.

Small business owners, business leaders, policy experts, workers and labor leaders are joining with senior administration officials today to share their ideas and strategies for making the workplace more flexible for American workers and families. The opening and closing sessions, as well as five breakout sessions focused on best practices and benefits for the American workplace and workforce, are streaming live on http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/live. In addition, much of the event is streaming on Facebook and Ustream, and the White House will include comments taken through these social networks in the feedback collected through the forum.

In conjunction with the forum, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers is releasing a report presenting an economic perspective on flexible workplace policies and practices. The report documents some of the changes in the U.S. workforce which have increased the need for flexibility in the workplace, including the increased number of women entering the labor force, the prevalence of families where all adults work, increasing eldercare responsibilities, and the rising importance of continuing education. It then examines the current state of flexible work arrangements and discusses the economic benefits of workplace flexibility – such as reduced absenteeism, lower turnover, improved health of workers, and increased productivity. The analysis is available online here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/files/documents/100331-cea-economics-workplace-flexibility.pdf.

“Workplace flexibility isn’t just a women’s issue. It’s an issue that affects the well-being of our families and the success of our businesses,” said President Obama. “It affects the strength of our economy – whether we’ll create the workplaces and jobs of the future that we need to compete in today’s global economy.”

“Flexible policies actually make employees more – not less – productive,” said Mrs. Obama. “Instead of spending time worrying about what’s happening at home, employees have the support and the peace of mind they need to concentrate at work which is good for their families – and the bottom line.”
The Office of Personnel Management is also announcing a pilot program to incorporate flexibility in the government to provide better, more efficient service for the American people – even in the face of snow storms and other emergencies. The pilot program will build on the cost savings telework provided during last winter’s snow storms and expand opportunities for federal employees, here in Washington and across America, to telework on a regular basis.

“Employers, including the federal government, will have to implement flexible work policies if they want to attract the best and the brightest,” said Valerie Jarrett, Senior Adviser to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls. ” The President is committed to making sure that the federal government can compete for talent because he knows that good people produce better work, which in turn, leads to better service for the American people.”
Shortly after taking office, the President signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, restoring basic protections against pay discrimination for women and other workers, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which is delivering relief to working families across the country, including tax credits and child care assistance for working families.

The President’s Budget for FY2011 builds on those initiatives with a series of investments to support caregivers for elderly relatives or family members with disabilities, to help families afford the cost of quality child care, to aid states wishing to establish paid leave funds, and to build the knowledge base about work-family policies.

Theresa A. Trainor

Henry, I experienced some shock yesterday also. I hope I’m around long enough to see this really work. I’m open to the idea of my office being a “tool” for getting my job done – and I think I have a job that would be very compatible with the ROWE ideas. But having done some work in the field of program evaluation, I think it will be a huge challenge to set up and monitor meaningful metrics for many of the jobs in government. I’m also old school in some ways – I don’t think we have the “right” necessarily, to all the flexibility that the ROWE presenters were suggesting. I think we all need to be “working” to keep this country of ours running.

Dennis McDonald

Wow. It will be interesting to see how traditional organizational and departmental boundaries respond to this. Does this mean that the admonishment “Get out of my way I have a job to do!” will actually have some teeth?

Dennis McDonald
Alexandria Virginia USA
web: http://www.ddmcd.com
twitter: @ddmcd

Avatar photo Bill Brantley

I’m skeptical because for ROWE to happen, government is going to have to drastically change how it handles workplace technology and network access for the new ROWE workers. And that means more than just giving everybody a Blackberry.

Henry Brown

Bill: Couldn’t agree more and IMO that is going to be the 2nd biggest obstacle and suspect that it probably is somewhat directly related to the largest: getting management buy-in. In MY OPINION the reason they are related they both are about the loss of power by the current power brokers.

Henry Brown

Dennis: Suspect as the Director and the President see the implementation(and I realize the danger of trying to understand the motivation of ANYONE during the implementation of any new program) that in this brave new world there will be no need or at least minimal need to to remove any impediments from Job Performance.

Henry Brown

I agree with you that it is going to be a challenge to define meaningful metrics, Am guessing that IF the pilot/program fails that this is where it will fail. IMO This is where those who have some power and feel threatened by the perceived loss of same will probably expend MOST of their effort to insure that the pilot, thus the program will fail. The other area that I PERCEIVE is going to have some rough sledding, especially if the pilot succeeds, is which jobs are compatible with ROWE ideas.

The other area of concern that, I think, I share with you is the “selling” of this paradigm shift in thinking about what the ????? (put customers, public, politicians, and perhaps several “groups” here) believe about what they are getting from the public service sector in return for the BILLIONS of dollars invested.

Henry Brown

Who knows what the correct approach MIGHT be to this PARADIGM shift in government employment but here is an article from the Chicago Tribune which stresses the work force flexibility for women in the workforce…

Michael Novak

Yes, but …. There’s always that pesky little “BUT” in every good idea.

And the “BUT” here is: But what are the results? How do you define results of a federal employees’ work? Are results measured only in terms of tangible “output” (the traditional measures — e.g., number of cases closed, amount of $$ collected, number of reports written)?

Or must we transcend the “rear-view-mirror” view of looking only at lagging indicators? How about, in addition to quantitative product/service outcomes, we also look at customer-focused outcomes, financial and market outcomes, workforce-focused outcomes, process effectiveness outcomes, and leadership outcomes? See Baldrige National Quality Award Criteria for Performance Excellence, 2009-2010 Business/Not-for-profit Criteria, pages 23-26, http://www.baldrige.nist.gov.

Amanda Blount

WOW — this is fantastic! Keep us unformed on how it goes. What do you see as the drawbacks? What is going wrong to make the program work? How can we make it work in the future? Oh my goodness… where do I sign up? 🙂 This is super exciting!

Henry Brown

WAY EARLY in the process but suspect after listening to several hours of announcements at OPM headquarters and the White House last Wednesday that it is MY OPINION that there will be inclusion of the traditional measurements, AND others, but way early in the process. AGAIN MY OPINION, if the process is limited to only the traditional measurements, that “we” will probably fail in any kind of enterprise implementation, at will probably fail even at the SMALL (my understanding is that the test group is going to be ~400 people at OPM headquarters, which is less than 10 percent of OPM’s work force, although it is probably over 30 percent of the workforce at Headquarters) test pilot at OPM.

Henry Brown

Have stood up a “NEW” group ROWE and the Federal Government For those who want to follow the progress of this pilot, at least as much information that will be universally available, or provide comments/suggestions which MIGHT get where they could be considered

Mark Hammer

A great deal of what I have seen and read and heard about “employee engagement”, from the big consulting firm reports I’ve read that are regularly worshipped by ill-informed executives following airport lounge epiphanies, to the org surveys I have been drafted to analyse within my own organization, would not know engagement if it jumped up and bit them on the….um, haunches….and drew blood.

To whit. A simple question: if everyone at the middle and senior management level in your organization was parachuted in from somewhere outside your organization, and you rarely ever saw anyone actually rise within the ranks, how strong would your motivation be to acquire deep rich organizational knowledge to prepare yourself for greater roles? If everything that was mission-critical on Friday was back-burner on Monday after a new senior manager came on board, how likely would you be to deeply invest yourself in your long-term projects? The answer to both is “Not much”.

The immediate aspects of job performance, providing people with the resources and authorities they need to get it done, is certainly important, but it is not sufficient. Employees always need a full answer to the question they ask themselves every day that will ultimately determine what they do: “Why bother?”. It is these broader time-frame and career-span issues that I find so utterly lacking in all these energetic engagement initiatives.

Workplace flexibility is also a tricky one. About a decade back we had a visit and presentation from the then-head of OPM, Janice Lachance. She, too, was touting flexibility and family-friendly policies, but she was also touting pay-for-performance. I reminded her that “performance” and “family-friendly” did not always comfortably co-exist under the same roof. Indeed, that very morning I had read a large British study of women in their public service which noted that the “flexibility” to dash off and pick up the kids from daycare, or bring them to lessons on Saturday morning, all too often meant that these same women could not be available for 5:30 or Saturday meetings, undermining the perception of them as high performers or management material. Their glass ceiling was pretty much handed to them in the form of flexibility. Mrs. Lachance acknowledged this conundrum, and stated that it was going to have to mean a different definition of “performance” in order to work. Has that change in the widespread conception of performance happened yet? Maybe in small pockets here or there, but not in the broad sense.

Mark Hammer