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Posted by on Mar 1, 2022

Cultivating Commitment in the Government Workforce

Cultivating Commitment in the Government Workforce

Shot of a group of colleagues brainstorming together on a glass wall in an office

For many Americans, the phrase “mission-driven organization” evokes thoughts of nonprofit groups working toward social change and development. They may not realize that the federal government is also a mission-based enterprise dedicated to advancing the interests of its people. Per the 2020 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, engagement among government employees has been on the rise for several years but continues to lag behind engagement in the private sector.

The keys to closing this gap include the following:

  • Supporting and empowering employees
  • Providing employees opportunities for learning and growth
  • Ensuring employees have an influential voice in the workplace

Employee Engagement, Support, and Empowerment
Employee engagement is critical for agency mission success, and one of the first steps to increase engagement is taking a critical look at employee compensation. The Pew Charitable Trusts reported that private-sector pay growth has exceeded that of the government since 2010 and that this gap in pay growth hit a record high of 2.3% in Q4 2021.

Adequate compensation and benefits are critical to attracting and retaining highly qualified employees, reducing turnover, and improving retention. The issues of workplace diversity and pay equity have also risen to the forefront of the American consciousness in this era of social reckoning, and the government workplace is not immune to shift. Ensuring a government workplace represents the people it serves will form a hub for developing innovations and improve its ability to provide better quality services to the public.

Opportunities for Learning and Growth
Government employees walk through the door committed to public service — but more importantly, they walk through the door as individuals committed to learning and growing as humans. Providing employees ample opportunity for personal growth and professional development reduces turnover. It improves retention and creates a pipeline of qualified leaders to sustain employee engagement and performance while advancing agency missions.

Because it relates to the impact of a government workforce on innovation and service provision, diversity is essential for growth and opportunity. Diverse workplaces introduce employees to differing perspectives, ideas, and solutions, providing invaluable opportunities to learn and grow alongside like-minded peers. Embracing diversity is about representing the people served by each federal organization ― it creates a sense of belonging and an environment of psychological safety.

Effective Voice in the Workplace through Unionization
Commitment and engagement in the federal workforce are highest when employers create a culture of respect and belonging for their employees while allowing their voices to hold influence. One of the most impactful facilitators is the ability to organize or join a union and freely communicate with union representatives.

The current administration openly endorses the unionization of government workers as an effective and worthwhile workplace practice that emphasizes the importance of supervisory neutrality regarding all efforts to organize. Fair and equitable labor-management partnerships allow government employees to thrive throughout their careers, enhancing government performance.

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1 Comment

  1. I support the many issues raised in this article. Adequate pay is very important to support effective recruitment and retention of employees. Pay is a key element of employee engagement. But I think there’s something that is far more important. Employees leave an organization for poor pay much less often than they leave for a bad manager or leader, which can include a someone who lacks empathy, who is tyrannical, unable to give tangible feedback, failure to hold employees accountable with performance or conduct problems, and who doesn’t delegate appropriately. This is just my short list.

    I would like to see an effort to get more employees in leadership awareness classes to help them face these issues, perhaps even groom them before becoming a leader. Where I work, front line leaders are assessed in their strengths in achieving these and other things through written assessments and interviews before being minimally eligible for leadership positions. People who are good with assessments and with taking tests and who know how to interview well will assuredly be assessed highly even if they don’t have good leadership skills. So, I advocate for stronger leadership development in concert with better pay to recruit and retain employees. Great leadership is equally as important as pay when it comes to employee engagement.

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