How Do We Make Government Cool Again?

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This topic contains 14 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  K. Scott Derrick 12 years, 4 months ago.

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  • #76527

    Steve Ressler

    President Obama has tasked OPM to work to “Make Government Cool Again”

    A team is being formed to come up with ideas. I’d love to hear the GovLoopers ideas on what OPM can do.

    Here’s my 3 to start:

    1 – Public Service YouTube Content – Have a YouTube contest where federal employees can tell why they serve. Winner gets a bonus and trip to White House

    2 – Provide a prestigious mechanism to enter public service – Create a Teach for America. A simple, prestigious 2-year rotation program for undergards to apply. A better PMF. Or create the U.S. Public Service Academy

    3 – Connect jobs to mission. The procurement officer to the Fighter Jet they helped buy. The budget analyst to the railroad they helped build. Tell those stories. Send people on those trips. Show the value of work. Gov’t needs to be seen as the place you go if you want to have the biggest impact on the biggest problems facing the world today. That’s what our brand should be.

  • #76555

    K. Scott Derrick

    Hi Steve,

    These are great! FedPitch has generated similar ideas. I really like your #1…I think that the best ideas are ones that allow for the identification of OTHER ideas.

  • #76553

    Steve Ressler

    Good point Scott.

    Here’s one from the twitterverse from @medmike –
    @govloop make government cool with more public engagement using innovative tech such as texting, @regulationsGov #gov20

  • #76551

    Steve Ressler

    More from the Twitterverse –

    making cool: USAJobs = daunting, bug ridden & impersonal. Job descriptions & series don’t relate to real people or real language.

    need to talk more about what types of ppl & backgrounds looking for. Not just for policy wonks! State uses FB for recruitment

    no good way to transition from intern to FTE. We lose lots of good ppl this way. Process to hire to long & daunting.

    our retention bonus should be for ppl of all series who work to become experts in their fields

  • #76549


    When an agency is trying to promote either a yearly or changes in habits; their website should have a simple link to the promotion’s web page.
    The slide presentation that Jeff Levy posted on how they promoted Earth Day activities was a perfect example of how the government can engage the public.
    The Office of Women’s Health webpage for girls is also engaging and useful to the public.
    I am surprised the census website isn’t more engaging to the public

  • #76547


    Steve, your second idea is already in place in the Netherlands, for example. A lot of young people come into government, but half of them leave after the two years because there’s too little room for them to develop and grow.

    Another idea: get rid of the old software, e.g. MSIE 6. Empower civil servants with hardware and software to get most out of them and they will talk about it. Of course, they must be able to talk about it, on Fb and Twitter, so support that as well. Make civil servants visible and human, like here on Govloop.

  • #76545

    Charlene Sevier

    I hope this discussion can extend to the state and local level because together with the federal level, we are government. I think it would help to increase awareness of the breadth and types of careers available within government. I worked in the private sector previously and at that time my awareness of government was those I interacted with (motor vehicles, filing taxes, census, etc.) plus what I saw in the news. I really had no idea how many interesting career choices were available. Now, as a local government employee, I still find it exciting the variety of careers available in my organization alone – IT, GIS, engineering, forestry, water treatment, natural resource planning, lab chemists, customer service, to name but a few.

  • #76543


    As long as the wave of twitter/faceing/spacing kids are encouraged to be human and that they are doing a GOOD thing and some results come of it.

    The olde guard of seat warmers must be rattled in this sort of situation.

    Software changes are easier all the time. And yes, examples like this govLoop is a Great start. It produces a level of transparency.

  • #76541

    Craig Sellars

    I like connecting jobs to mission and the YouTube bit. Publicity is important, but young people will continue to leave until the culture changes.

    To change the public service culture we, as proud public servants, must accept our responsibility and work from the grassroots. Renewal is our job and leadership must come from all levels, because this is our public service and organizational culture change is always evolutionary. The easiest way for management to be “cool” is not try to be “cool”, but recognize and support “coolness” as it naturally develops. Organizational culture is partly the response of employees (heard and unheard) to management actions.

    “Public service here, as elsewhere, attracts the best and brightest, not because they love bureaucracy and rules, but because at an earlier age than in the private sector, they’ll get the chance to solve truly complex problems that matter, to use their wit not to sell more baked beans or insurance policies, but to better the lives of their fellow citizens.”-Dr. Geoff Mulgan, the 2008 Manion Lecture

  • #76539

    Barbara Blaskowsky

    Amen #1 – the job descriptions are all written in government-ese and I would assume that most college grads can’t even understand the KSAs, when the sentences start with things like, “The incumbent agrees to …”

    I just did a search on and found this entry for a Secretary/OA position, emphasis mine:

    “SUBSTITUTION OF EDUCATION FOR EXPERIENCE: The experience requirements for the GS-7 level may be met by completion of one (1) year of graduate level education (18 semester/27 quarter hours) with courses such as managerial economics, financial accounting, marketing, business administration, operations management, public administration, management information systems, quantitative analysis, and statistical methods. ”

    Really? Graduate school? This is for a position paying a maximum of $46,839.00 a year.

  • #76537

    Barbara Blaskowsky

    There definitely needs to be some evangelizing on how cool it is to impact one’s own country. I’m curious to know how many people – whether new grads or not – wanted to work for the government after 9/11.

    My own personal experience: husband and I were living on the West Coast working in private sector IT. We moved back to this area in 2002 so he could go back into government service because he wanted to ‘do something important’ and meaningful that would make our country better for our child.

    Does this generation of 20-somethings have that sense of patriotism that was much more prevalent in earlier eras? Or can OPM leverage the cynicism that people have toward government to encourage people to make a difference (ala, put your money where your mouth is?)

  • #76535

    Prestige is good. The ability to affect change is good. But I think government should embrace its quirkiness. Get Tina Fey to help recruit. We might not (all) be James Bond, but we are diverse and passionate about what we do (which is sometimes as odd as we are).

    I also second USAJobs being improved. Adding more mentor/advisor relationships would also help new government employees from getting caught in red tape. Its cool to be able to see and help things happen!

  • #76533

    Tracy Kerchkof

    @craig Sellars: I couldn’t agree more. The best managers aren’t the ones who try to be my friend, they are the ones that listen and support their staff, like my boss’s boss.

    I’ve worked for 3 gov’t organizations, 8 mo as an intern for USACE, 2 summers (a total of sixmonths) as an intern at an NRCS field office, and I’m coming up on a year of non-intern employment with EPA. There are several reasons why I keep going for that gov’t job, I like the benefits, I like the feeling that I am serving my the people of this country to make it great.

    However, there are several reasons why I should want to leave the gov’t:

    1. Stifling of innovation: I work on a wiki for watershed professionals. It has been one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. Not because wikis are hard, but because of the IT policies, and resistance from my coworkers. The most successful and innovative companies today are using this software, and that is still not enough to appease these people. Then there are the backwards policies that slow everything down. We can’t have the wiki viewable by the public without a login, because then “crazy teenagers are going to see it and post inappropriate material” We wanted to have an RSS feed for our static page, but we can’t because we have to wait A WEEK for an update to go on our public facing site. We have to tell our “web contact” who tells the “web person” for the office, who then contacts the people down in NC who house our servers, who will then update the page when they get to it. It takes 1000 times the amount of time and most likely 5X the amount of money. We are finally moving to a CMS to get around this but it has been taking a long time due to contractor issues and old fashion slowness, and burning out the young, bright employee who has been the spearheading this effort. No one should be surprised if he leaves and it would be a shame.

    2. Politics: part of the reason for the inertia, it seems, is political appointees. People don’t want to go for something different, because next year, or 2 years, there will be another person running the show with their own priorities and screw what you have been doing before. At times, I feel like I am serving my political appointee more than I am serving the american people…even though these things should be the same, theoretically. The Obama white house has not been bad (not perfect either), but I have heard some nasty things from people who served under the bush white house…what happens when someone gets elected whom I really disagree with? I’m expected to go along with whatever they believe, regardless of my own personal beliefs. It’s disheartening at best. Especially for science based organizations, there needs to be some kind of protection against this.

    3. Poor attitude by other employees: you can only hear “well, thats the gov’t for you” so many times before you either start to believe it or you can’t stand it anymore. This is the excuse I hear for my wiki issues, for employees who don’t show up to work, for employees who don’t do their work, for employees that do their work, but do it poorly. There have to be better rewards for good performance than “bronze medals”, and there has to be a better way of distributing these awards than “oh, well so and so hasn’t gotten one in a while so we have to give them something”

    4. Idealism: I think you come into gov’t jobs with a different perspective. You want to make a difference, make this country better. When that doesn’t happen, people get frustrated, and unlike previous generations, who might have stayed at their job despite this, younger folks just leave.

    5. Contracting: I’ve heard it time and time again, from engineers & scientists, they come to EPA thinking they can use the skills they learn in college, but end up being contract managers. Every single one of them, even when sometimes, they could just do the work themselves (see the web management problem). The contractor gets to do the fun stuff, while we are forced to just make sure they get paid. In addition, these people have no idea how to handle contracts, resulting in poor products. These people usually end up working for the contractors or a more grassroots agency so they can actually do the things they like. And for this group, perhaps gov’t service isn’t for them. Perhaps the gov’t needs to be more honest about the work thats available. I’m technically an engineer, and was hired for my engineering background, but I don’t do engineering. I do policy analysis, and budgeting. Which is fine for me, I found I like this better than engineering anyway. But for many other people, when they get hired for their skills, they expect to use them, and when they don’t, they leave.

    Now, the thing is, all of these things can appear in the private sector, I’m beginning to think the difference is that people put up with it there because they get paid more. Now, I’m sticking with public service because I still think I can make a difference, but I can totally understand why so many people go elsewhere. What I don’t understand are the people who uphold these policies and procedures and then act surprised when they can’t retain people.

  • #76531

    Marissa Levin

    “Cool” will happen when there is trust. The administration is moving in that direction. “Cool” will happen when there is a demonstrated willingess to embrace new ways of thinking. Again, the administration is moving in that direction. “Cool” will happen when the people of his country believe that their government has their backs, and has their best interests at heart. Again, moving in that direction. But it’s all a work in progres. People forget that it took 8 long years to get us into our disrespected, unenviable situation. You can’t move a mountain overnight.

  • #76529

    Sid Burgess

    For me, it comes down to two issues.

    1) Make staff positions destination and launchpad positions for thousands of graduating students. If you are seeking a degree in Urban Planning, governments should coordinate with school to ensure that student can get a job right away. This will inject young innovation and fresh ideas into the system… enough of them and you just might change things. So segregate a ton of the gov jobs out there as intern style jobs. Most gov jobs could qualify.

    2) Tie the money to the ideas. I see tons of ideas come up. Most govs even ask for them, but there is rarely true funding opportunities to make them come true… the tend to end up being planning meetings or “dream sessions” to make everyone feel good. Govs need to sponsor these kinds of activities but they need to be willing to dedicate as significant portion of their budget to R&D.

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