It’s the ultimate catch-22. With limited time in the work day and an ever-growing stack of projects and assignments, how much time do government agencies really have to put into energizing their employees. Considering the gap between worker satisfaction in the private sector versus the public sector has nearly tripled since 2010, it is a reality that public sector morale has dropped. There is no excuse for government agencies to refuse to invest time in management, if they are interested in workmaintaining efficiency.
Tom Fox, Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service, sat down with with Christopher Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER and shared his thoughts on management and government efficiency - even in the last presidential quarter.
Tips for successful management practices
There’s no time like the present to get folks energized and focused on the work that needs to be done. Even with the potential government shutdown serving as a point of distraction, there is no excuse to addressing issues that might affect employee morale proactively. In order to do that, however, Fox recommends a few different methods that will cut through the red tape.
- Recruit and hire quality employees: “It all starts with recruiting and hiring quality employees, individuals that are passionate about the work and opportunities your agency is dealing with,” Fox said. Instead of hiring quantity over quality, make the decision to slow hiring down - and focus instead on bringing in employees that will stick around for the long run - and give their all to the job.
- Incorporate employee training and development: “Empower your employees through training and development, and the work will be stronger and more developed.” Although agencies are tight on training transportation budgets, doing skill-shares within the office or tapping into free resources available on platforms like GovLoop are a great way to keep employees feeling challenged and enriched.
- Have informal conversations: Outside of formal processes, the best way to build trust with employees is to connect informally. Fox shares, “A senior government official told me that the best time of his day was when he bought coffee after he got to work. He timed a 30-40 minute walk, and made it a point to connect informally with his employees, which build trust and a high performing team.”
- Give meaningful recognition: “We get caught up on financial recognition, but the most meaningful recognition comes from supervisors, peers or customers. I recently read General Stanley McChrystal's latest book, “Team of Teams,” that talks about their success on the terrorism task force. Surprisingly, the success wasn’t as a result of breakthrough information analysis, but mundane team management,” Fox said. Recognition can come in the form of a handwritten note, cup of coffee or a lunch out. Time and attention is all that’s needed at times.
Attracting young people to government
Given that the young people do not comprise a large chunk of the government workforce at this point, it’s integral to think about what can be done to attract them to government. “By opening up your workspace figuratively, not literally, it allows people to communicate across previously-present silos. That’s the kind of workplace young people want - and it’s also the kind of workplace all people want: an agency with open communications,” Fox divulged.
Looking to the future of management
Ultimately, implementing management best practices will only ensure positive results. “Optimal management gets folks focused and energized on the work that needs to be done,” Fox said, “and there’s no time like the present to focus on optimizing government efficiency.” Without direct action from agency managers and supervisors, employees will be unable to reach peak workflow and impact - and in a world where government employee retention is lacking, the decision to focus on employee management is a strategic one.