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MSPB Study regarding Supervisors
November 19, 2009 at 8:09 pm #85822
Title: As Supervisors Retire: An Opportunity to Reshape Organizations
There has been much discussion of the coming retirement wave, including the need for agencies to prepare for a corresponding wave of hiring. However, not all types of positions in the Federal Government will be hit equally by this predicted mass exodus of skilled employees. The supervisory and managerial cadre are likely to experience the most losses, as individuals in those positions tend to be older and have more years of service than their non-supervisory counterparts, making more of them eligible to retire. While this means that agencies should now consider how to hire their future supervisors, it also means that they should be asking some very serious questions about how the agencies’ workforces should be structured 5 or 10 years from now. The predicted retirement wave and subsequent hiring effort presents not just an opportunity to change who works for an agency, but also an opportunity to change how the organization functions for the better.
November 21, 2009 at 1:15 pm #85825
News Story on the Study… (Comments posted to Govexec.com are ALMOST as interesting as the story)
Impending federal retirements could spur agencies to reassess needs
By Alyssa Rosenberg
November 19, 2009
As more federal supervisors retire, agencies have a unique opportunity to recruit replacements who are better equipped to handle the challenges of managing a new generation of employees, oversee teleworkers and implement performance management, according to a new report from the Merit Systems Protection Board.
“The federal government as a whole doesn’t have a very strong or systematic process” for improving its supervisory corps, said James Tsugawa, an MSPB project analyst who worked on the report. “We want them to get ahead of this.”
The Office of Personnel Management estimated last year that 53 percent of the federal workforce would be eligible to retire by 2014, and of those eligible workers, 57 percent actually would retire. Of the people who retire, a larger number are likely to be supervisors, said MSPB’s report, simply because they are older and have longer tenure in government. Since 2005, the average age of federal supervisors and managers has remained fairly constant, at 50, according to the report. Between 2007 and 2008, the average age of nonsupervisors fell slightly, from 46.5 closer to 46.
When those supervisors retire, the effect on the agency will be more significant. The ratio of nonsupervisors to supervisors has changed from 8.11 to 1 in 1998, to 7.54 to 1 in 2008, as management responsibilities have increased.
“There is often a presumption that when an individual retires, the agency will simply hire someone new to perform the exact same duties,” the report’s authors wrote. “However, the world changes — quickly. When a supervisor leaves at an agency, managers should not automatically assume that what was required of that position will still be needed.”
The primary change agencies need to make, said J. Peter Leeds, a research psychologist who was one of the project managers on the report, is “the paradigm that supervisors need to be selected based on technical ability.” Frequently, Tsugawa said, federal employees become supervisors not because they are drawn to management positions or because they are particularly good at them, but because accepting a supervisory position is the only way to keep moving up the pay and promotions scale. Instead, Leeds said agencies need candidates with “pure supervisory ability” in areas like communication and motivation.
Among the challenges that supervisors face is motivating employees who are driven more by opportunities to innovate, lead and prove themselves on the job than by monetary rewards. Such “knowledge workers” might be strong performers, MSPB said, but they require managers who can work with them and give them challenges, and who are prepared to operate more like team leaders than traditional bosses.
Telework is another challenge, the report said, as managers must focus more on performance than on direct observation.
And performance management systems, particularly those that tie pay for achievers, require supervisors to “devote increased time to employee communication…and follow the often substantial approval process for assigning and justifying performance appraisal ratings,” MSPB wrote. The report noted that while the change cannot be attributed directly to the National Security Personnel System, the ratio of nonsupervisors to supervisors fell at the same time the system was implemented, as managers took on more responsibilities.
Leeds said MSPB’s main goal with the report was to encourage agencies to start thinking seriously about the qualities they need in their managers before it is too late.
“We don’t want to be only the diagnosticians, but the physicians, too,” he said.
(C) 2009 BY NATIONAL JOURNAL GROUP, INC.
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