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The Landscape of Government HR

This blog post is an excerpt from our recent resource, “The New Path Forward for HR Transformation.” To download the full resource for free, head here.

Government workforces perform some of society’s most important functions, from law enforcement and health services to building our nation’s critical infrastructure and managing policies, and are full of employees dedicated to agency missions.

Unfortunately, government HR practices don’t always recognize government employees for the important work they do toward public betterment. Because of poorly constructed performance evaluations, many HR departments use antiquated evaluation processes that fail to truly account for the value of employees.

“The public sector doesn’t treat its workers as its biggest asset,” Steve Dobberowsky, Senior Principal for Talent Management Thought Leadership at Cornerstone, said. “That’s a big differentiator between the public and private sectors.”

Furthermore, some agencies fail to communicate the value of human capital, as the goals and expectations of managers and employees could critically differ from those of the government as a whole.

For government to truly succeed in its mission, it’s imperative that the public sector workforce reflects the population makeup of America. And yet, while diversity has been a focus for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) – currently the HR arm of the federal government – progress, particularly at executive levels, has been only incremental in recent years.

Friction between employees, managers and HR has truncated the progress of important initiatives. But it’s not the fault of any one party. Policies fail to provide the proper guidance for HR teams and office managers, and the federal workforce can suffer as a result.

Large enterprises can also be resistant to change – even when change is positive. That challenge exists in the federal workforce, where large-scale initiatives can be difficult to implement in smaller offices. Nonetheless, HR is responsible for implementing policies throughout, and these policies should be proactive when possible.

Employees in government expect the same professional benefits they hear about from the private sector: professional development, transparency, work-life balance, continuous education and clear opportunities to receive bonuses and pay raises. While mission drives the federal government, workers can be expected to tolerate only so much of a gap in pay and benefits before they bolt for the private sector.

“It’s just wildly important to have great people,” Craig Orgeron, Chief Information Officer of Mississippi, said in a January 2019 interview with GovLoop.

Lastly, the government needs a rebrand. How can HR departments work symbiotically with managers and be viewed as resources instead of enforcers? Also, how can the federal government redefine itself as a place to work and grow in the years going forward? Answering these questions will be critical if the government is to excel in its missions and break free from overly bureaucratic processes in the 21st century.

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