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Making the government cool again - seems so 2008 - Plus Your 7 Stories

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  • Your pay is up for debate, yet again. A new Congressional Research Service report, Selected Characteristics of Private and Public Sector Workers, continues the debate that came to the forefront during the 2010 election season over whether federal employees are overpaid, or in the view of some, underpaid. We get new insights on an old issue with BYU’s Rex Facer.

You can find all of our programs online: DorobekINSIDER.com and GovLoop Insights at http://insights.govloop.com.

But up front: Making the government cool again - seems so 2008

We all remember when then candidate Barack Obama said he saw it as part of his job as a president was to make government cool again.

It somehow feels so… 2008, doesn’t it.

Of course, what goes missing in those five words are the words that follow -- that one doesn’t just have to be a public servant for government to be cool again. Not only is it about government service, but that it is also about caring about communityfdf and holding people accountable… and being involved in other ways. Perhaps, given the growth in so-called civic technology, maybe President Obama deserves better marks in the category of ‘making government cool again’ then we give him credit for.

That being said, with shutdowns and furloughs and pay freezes -- OH MY! -- public service sure doesn’t feel cool these days. To the contrary. These days, it feels more like the beatings will continue until moral improves.

And we seem to be decimating the government workforce -- and feds are deciding to move on. Most government workers never took the jobs in anticipation of a pay windfall. It was about the mission as well as some stability… in terms of pay… in terms of benefits… but we have hacked away at even those areas. Even the reason most people join public service -- the mission -- these days, with it increasingly difficult to get anything done, many are left asking themselves what they are doing.

Things seems to have calmed a bit. There is a longer term budget deal that enables agencies to actually make plans and manage.

Yet the image of public services is hardly cool. Instead it remains in tatters -- fairly or unfairly -- with visible flops like the HealthCare.gov Web site.

All of this is one of the reasons why we have been focusing on the important recommendations coming from the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton on civil service reforms, Building the Enterprise; the New Civil Service Framework. Hear GovLoop’s DorobekINSIDER interview with Ron Sanders, Vice President and Fellow with Booz Allen Hamilton, is one of the report’s authors. Sanders also previously served as the intelligence community’s Associate Director of National Intelligence and the first Chief Human Capital Officer. There is also more here… and here.

Two quotes still resonate with me.

One is from Bryan Sivak, currently the chief technology officer for the Department of Health and Human Services back when he was the chief innovation officer for the state of Maryland:

Bryan Sivak: There are two problems with government and if you fix them than you basically fix all the problems. Those are procurement and HR. Neither issue is sexy and no politician will ever get elected because they solved the procurement issue. The issue with procurement is the RFP process.

The other is from Scott Gould, the former deputy secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said that he senses a growing rift between public servants and the people they serve -- a rift he compared to the one faced by veterans returning home from the Vietnam War.

I want to ask everyone to do something that may seem counterintuitive, you have all seen the military from time to time suffer from a separation from the people they serve. Well motivated, mission oriented people can be pushed away by the people they serve. I would ask you to reach out and take the time to talk to that person that thinks you have two horns and a tail. Reach out to them and communicate. Make the case for why government matters, because we here in government, we already know that the mission matters. We know the work you do on a day to day basis matters. But they don't and they are acting like it. If we want to move forward that has to change," said Gould.

As difficult and challenging as civil service reform would be, it somehow feels like an important step to making government cool again.

More to come...

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. NextGov: 80,000 Employees of Federal Contractors Compromised in Cyberattack - “Personal information of about 80,000 employees of federal contractors was compromised in a cyberattack last month, including credit card details of as many as 25,000.”

  2. Stars and Stripes: VA’s response to congressional inquiries on patient deaths called ‘ridiculous’ - “A House of Representatives committee blasted the Department of Veterans Affairs on Wednesday over a lack of progress and accountability in the aftermath of at least 23 preventable veteran deaths that were the result of delays in treatment at VA medical centers across the country.”

  3. GovExec: No Pay Raise for Congress in 2015 - “The Appropriations Committee on voice vote advanced its fiscal 2015 legislative branch spending bill, which includes a provision preventing lawmakers from receiving a pay increase next year. ”

  4. New York Times: Senate Republicans Block Bill on Equal Pay - “Supporters of the bill, called the Paycheck Fairness Act, say it would bring transparency to worker pay by making it illegal for employers to penalize employees who discuss their salaries and by requiring the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to collect pay information from employers.”

  5. Politico: Barack Obama Pushes Voting Rights in Texas - “Democrats say they’re starting in Texas and Ohio because of the intensity of the voting rights battles in those states, but are planning hires in more states. Georgia, Nevada and Colorado are also states the DNC points to as places where it considers the voting laws especially bad.”

  6. Federal News Radio: Federal Student Aid Shifting Towards a Customer-Centric Approach to IT - “Jerry Williams, the chief information officer for the Office of Federal Student Aid in the Education Department, said he's trying to change the culture of the IT office by aligning more closely with the business and mission side of the agency.

  7. GovExec: Obese Feds Will Now Have Their Diet Pills Covered - “Several anti-obesity medications are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and OPM said in 2015 providers on the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program cannot exclude coverage of them.”

DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder... yes, we’re trying to help you make your water-cooler time better too...

  • Why everyone wants to work at Google [The Wall Street Journal]: Google is the ideal employer for undergraduates pursuing degrees in business or computer science and IT, according to a survey of 46,554 undergrads. No surprises there, but the tech giant was also seen by humanities and liberal arts students as their second top workplace of choice. Engineers ranked Google third after Boeing Co. and NASA. Survey host Universum tells the WSJ that Google’s brand and its recruiting effort contribute to its star power.
    • Related: How to Get a Job at Google by The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman on Feb. 22.2014: To sum up Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google, approach to hiring: Talent can come in so many different forms and be built in so many nontraditional ways today, hiring officers have to be alive to every one — besides brand-name colleges. Because “when you look at people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world, those are exceptional human beings. And we should do everything we can to find those people.” Too many colleges, he added, “don’t deliver on what they promise. You generate a ton of debt, you don’t learn the most useful things for your life. It’s [just] an extended adolescence.”
  • Venture Beat: U.S. Air Force is testing Google Glass & building apps for battlefield use

  • Change leader, change thyself: Anyone who pulls the organization in new directions must look inward as well as outward [McKinsey Quarterly]: Many companies move quickly from setting their performance objectives to implementing a suite of change initiatives. Be it a new growth strategy or business-unit structure, the integration of a recent acquisition or the rollout of a new operational-improvement effort, such organizations focus on altering systems and structures and on creating new policies and processes. To achieve collective change over time, actions like these are necessary but seldom sufficient. A new strategy will fall short of its potential if it fails to address the underlying mind-sets and capabilities of the people who will execute it. McKinsey research and client experience suggest that half of all efforts to transform organizational performance fail either because senior managers don’t act as role models for change or because people in the organization defend the status quo.

  • Defense One: Could Big Data Have Prevented the Fort Hood Shooting?

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