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  • #106220

    Henry Brown

    Title: A Call to Action: Improving First-Level Supervision of Federal Employees. a study from Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB)

    Executive Summary

    Federal supervisors are the nexus between Government policy and action and the link between management and employees. They ensure that the decisions made by the President and Congress are implemented through the information and services provided by employees to the American public. Organizational research consistently demonstrates that supervisory proficiency is a major determinant of individual and organizational performance and employee motivation, engagement, and retention. However, numerous studies conducted over the past three decades by both Federal agencies and nonprofit organizations have concluded that there is a strong need to improve the effectiveness of Federal first-level supervisors. Although there has been some overall improvement in employees’ perceptions of their supervisors’ performance in recent years, our research shows that many supervisors continue to demonstrate levels of supervisory skill substantially lower than what is needed to effectively engage employees and manage their performance.

    In this report by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), we identify and discuss specific needs for improvement in the selection, development, guidance, and management of Federal first-level supervisors. Our analysis is based on the results of the 2007 Merit Principles Survey, past studies of first-level supervisors by MSPB and others, and additional research we have conducted. Following our findings, we offer our recommendations to address each area identified for improvement. Some of those recommendations are new; others have appeared in previous MSPB reports or been made previously by other organizations. Not all of our recommendations will work for all agencies. We call upon each agency to select those recommendations that can be aligned with their goals, business strategies, and organizational cultures and act to meet the challenge of equipping its supervisory workforce to engage employees and achieve high performance. Because first-level supervisors play a vital role in the success of every Federal agency, investments in the improvement of supervision could yield enormous positive returns through improved workforce productivity and performance.

  • #106222

    Henry Brown

    Press Release from MSPB


    In a newly released report, “A Call to Action: Improving First-Level Supervision of Federal Employees,” MSPB examines the how the Federal Government selects, develops, and manages its first-level supervisors. The report is based on survey data from Federal supervisors and employees, review of supervisory job announcements, and analysis of statistical data.

    The need for effective first-level supervisors has long been recognized. However, MSPB found that Federal agency practices in four critical areas—selection, training and development, guidance and support, and accountability—may be contributing to less-than-optimal supervision. For example, when filling supervisory positions, Federal agencies often provide minimal or no information about supervisory responsibilities in job advertisements; give insufficient weight to “people management” skills; or use ineffective assessment methods to gauge those skills and refer candidates. In addition, many Federal supervisors reported that their training and development has been inadequate, and that they do not receive the information, support, or feedback they need to discharge their day-to-day responsibilities effectively.

    As Chairman Grundmann stated, “First-level supervisors, as the link between leadership and front-line employees, are the nexus between Government policy and agency action. First-level supervisors are also indispensable to employee engagement and workplace fairness. Therefore, Federal agencies cannot afford to leave the success of their first-level supervisors to chance. Fortunately, there are specific measures that every agency can take to improve the effectiveness of first-level supervisors. But the first and most important step is for agency leaders to recognize that first-level supervisors are, first and foremost, supervisors—and that they should pay special attention to how they select and develop employees for this role.”

    The report outlines measures to strengthen the management of Federal supervisors, from initial hiring to accountability. Recommendations are directed to the full range of organizations and individuals who play a role in first-level supervision, including Federal agencies, Federal supervisors, and applicants and employees considering supervision in the Federal Government as a career option.

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