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The Future of Federal Workforce Reskilling, Automation, & Hiring Practices: Part I

Posted by on Jan 3, 2019 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 0 comments

The Future of Federal Workforce Reskilling, Automation, & Hiring Practices: Part I

The past two decades have seen an exponential rise in technological advances. The technology boom that’s given us the internet, smartphones, and tools such as video conferencing, and instant messaging has revolutionized the way people work. We’ve also seen advancements in robotics and automation that have sped up manufacturing processes, improving efficiency, but sometimes to the detriment of workers, particularly blue-collar workers, whose jobs can be replaced by automation. These advancements have created new cultures in workplaces that are driven by technology and openness. With a new, technologically-savvy generation entering the workforce, workplace culture is changing. New adaptive strategies such as investment in professional development and agile workplaces have opened employers to new workplace practices, such as transparent workplace communication, career movement, and professional development. Employers are quickly finding that if they invest in their employees, it’s paid back in kind with increased efficiency, ability, and flexibility. On December 6, 2018, Government Executive, a Federal Government news outlet, hosted an event with several panels of Federal experts on these topics. The Federal Government often falls behind the curve on new technology and workplace practices. Administrative and budgetary constraints usually curb innovation, while politics dictate the pace and volatility of these changes. Throughout three panels, Federal executives in organizations ranging from the Small Business Administration to the Department of Agriculture to DoD to the Peace Corps shared their experiences, expectations, and hopes for the future of reskilling, automation, and hiring the future Federal workforce. PART I: Reskilling and Upskilling the Federal Workforce The conference started with a panel about reskilling and upskilling Federal workers. Consisting of Dr. Vicki Brown of DoD, Traci DiMartini of the Peace Corps, and Robyn Rees of the National Science Foundation (NSF), each panelist contributed their views on what Federal reskilling looks like now, and what it can look like in the future. Reskilling and upskilling is a practice that involves training employees to complete their job to the best of their ability. It can take many shapes and forms. In the manufacturing workplace, it could be training staff to use new computers to improve manufacturing efficiency and standards. In an office setting, it could be sending employees to conferences and classes to learn new skills. The term “professional development” is used frequently to describe reskilling and upskilling. The essential goal is to invest resources into your employees so they can give companies greater returns than before. DiMartini expressed strong approval of professional development in conjunction with agile workplaces, stating reskilling her staff and creating an open work environment is her ideal workplace. To her, if you invest in individuals, they will pay you back with increased performance, not only with new skills but renewed dedication. It’s not a matter of career. It’s a matter of skills. Why not give your staff the best tools for the job? She also countered a common argument against reskilling: what if an employee leaves? To her, it doesn’t matter if they stay in her staff or not. Many Federal workers often make career moves within the Federal Government, so their skills aren’t necessarily going to waste; their professional development still benefits the government. If managers give their employees opportunity, those employees will give loyalty, better output, and foster a better work environment. DiMartini’s problem is her agency doesn’t provide a...

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National Academy of Public Administration: “No Time To Wait Part II”

Posted by on Sep 27, 2018 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 1 comment

National Academy of Public Administration: “No Time To Wait Part II”

On September 25, 2018, Management Concepts sponsored the National Academy of Public Administration’s (NAPA) “No Time To Wait” report release event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. NAPA is a congressionally chartered non-partisan non-profit that helps government leaders solve our nation’s most pressing challenges. In the “No Time To Wait” report series, NAPA proposed a fundamental shift in the operations of the Federal Government. In Part I of the series, NAPA introduced the severity of the challenges and stressed that the time for deliberation is over and the time for action is upon us. The report proposed an overhaul of the human capital system because of its habitual tendency to hinder “the ability of Federal agencies to recruit, develop, and retain top talent; hold administrators and employees accountable for results; and strike the right balance between civil servants and contractors.” This year in the “No Time To Wait, Part II” report, NAPA transitions the conversation from problem to solution – providing a plan of action for transforming the current stand-alone personnel operations that agencies are currently accustomed to human capital planning focused on performance and learning that is natively integrated into the agency’s leadership framework. Part II of the report outlines the following action points for building a better government: Rebalance the Federal Workforce in Support of Mission: Focus on reskilling and upskilling current and future talent Preserve the Merit System Principles: Recruit and retain a talented workforce fairly from all segments of the workforce Enhance Accountability: Emphasize results with enterprise-wide strategic workforce planning and develop strategies for advanced collection of metrics and data analytics Increase Mission-Based Achievement: Position efforts at the managerial-level versus compliance-level Launch 90-day task force led by Chief Human Capital Officers to recommend policy changes that can be implemented immediately The “No Time To Wait, Part II” panelists made it clear – our Federal Government can no longer expect to solve new world problems with old world thinking. Physical and traditional skills in the workforce are giving way to soft-skills like creativity, critical thinking, and communications. The need for talent to have a growth mindset and the comfort to navigate uncertain waters is becoming more important day-by-day and the Federal Government must begin to support these developments on all fronts. For over 45 years Management Concepts has provided training and consulting solutions to empower the Federal workforce in the successful achievement of their missions, roles, and responsibilities to not only further their careers but to help build a better government. We have tracked the developments of the workforce and have built the leading catalog of in-classroom and virtual training solutions to help our government meet the demands outlined in the NAPA “No Time to Wait” series. Stay tuned for further collaborations between NAPA and Management Concepts. Further coverage of the event can be found below — Federal News Radio: https://federalnewsradio.com/your-job/2018/09/fed-community-stop-tinkering-around-the-edges-of-civil-service-reform/ FedScoop: https://www.fedscoop.com/federal-workforce-napa-report-don-kettl/ Federal Computer Week: https://fcw.com/articles/2018/09/25/napa-workforce-report-gunter.aspx GovExec:...

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HR: Use Resources, Not People

Posted by on Sep 24, 2018 in Human Resources, Uncategorized, Workforce Management | 0 comments

HR: Use Resources, Not People

Human Resource departments have it rough. There are many who believe that HR departments are only extensions of corporate power largely created to protect companies from lawsuits, scandals, and to quash employee grievances. These same companies often regard HR as somewhat of a nuisance: a department that, with all its administrative policies and demands for compliance, can interfere with day-to-day operations and increase the cost of doing business. In this sense, HR departments are perpetually stuck in the middle, acting as a temperamental buffer between top-level executives and the workforce base. And even though strategic human resource management and planning is key to ensuring the success and longevity of any organization, HR continues to be portrayed in a negative light. To better understand why this is the case, it’s important to look at some of the underlying issues with how HR is run within organizations today and culturally viewed by employees. First, let’s start off with the title, “Human Resource Department.” Doesn’t sound too accommodating, does it? Instead of calling it a “Human Resource Department,” how about we opt for something that’s easier to endorse like, “Employee Engagement Division?” It’s not perfect, but this would be more appropriate given that HR is responsible for engaging, supporting, and informing employees while staying aligned with the organization’s vision and mission. Perhaps I’m just against the phrase “Human Resources” because the very idea of labeling someone as a “resource” lends itself to the commodification of human beings, an unfortunate reality we must face in our profit-centered world. Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way. By focusing more on employee relations and placing the inherent value on actual people, as opposed to only the labor or services they provide, HR departments can have a more significant impact on employee development and further contribute in meeting their own organizational objectives. This is especially true of HR’s function in the hiring process. Don’t just think of your employees as someone needed to fill an immediate role, but rather treat them as individuals capable of doing more than what the job purely entails. Try to gauge how employees can benefit the organization long-term. Of course, this isn’t always feasible for HR due to short-scope projects that involve a great deal of tactical work and aren’t based on achieving further strategic alignment. Another part of the problem lies in how the recruiting/hiring system itself is structured, reinforcing a “check-the-box” mentality with the long list of essential duties and unrelenting jargon that makes up most job descriptions. With the hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants who throw their resumes at every vacant position, it can sometimes be hard to see them as anything but a number. These shortcomings in HR are the result of a fundamental shift in the application process from advertising jobs through local sources to posting them exclusively online. Sites like Monster, Indeed, and LinkedIn are convenient for recruiting purposes and large-scale talent pooling; however, for applicants they can be dehumanizing. A recent article in The Guardian speaks to this unsettling trend in automated hires, noting: It makes us [jobseekers] less confident, and feel that we’re not worthwhile, as the company couldn’t even assign a person for a few minutes. The whole thing is becoming less human, which is concerning. What’s the limit for...

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Competition and Collaboration in the Workplace

Posted by on Aug 7, 2018 in Human Resources, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Competition and Collaboration in the Workplace

Competition is a natural component of all economies at some level whether it involve markets, companies, or job-seekers. The workplace can make for an equally competitive environment with employees working longer hours to secure promotions with fancier job titles and bigger paychecks. Now that more and more organizations are starting to adopt a distinctly collaborative approach to achieve success and build high-performing teams, it’s time to re-evaluate the oft-perceived dichotomy between competition and collaboration. In “Competition At Work: Positive Or Positively Awful?,” Kristi Hedges refers to “coopetition” as the act of cooperation between competing companies and applies this same principle to the workplace. She argues that by introducing competition to the workplace, team members will often push one another to become more productive, ensuring the quality of work. Think of it as a form of scaling competition. It’s the surest means in which team members can constantly challenge each other to grow while continuing to raise the proverbial bar set by the newly established workplace standards. While this might increase productivity to some degree, there will inevitably come a point where these benefits plateau. This is where the unspoken danger lies: in allowing the workplace to devolve into a culture that is overly results-driven, encouraging incessant one-upping or, in some extreme cases, fraudulent behavior to occur, all while punishing those who strive to take innovative risks and adhere to their morals. What happens when competition negatively impacts the workplace? The Harvard Business Review featured an article about this exact issue describing how competition can be either positive or negative based on how employees emotionally interpret it. Specifically, they used the Wells Fargo debacle to show how subjecting employees to such high-pressure demands to open new credit card and bank accounts only reinforced negative competition, which ultimately was a detriment to Wells Fargo’s success (and wallet). The significance here is that the competition waged by a quota-obsessed upper management is what led Wells Fargo employees to inflate their sales numbers by “secretly creating millions of unauthorized bank and credit card accounts — an unethical path toward results that has very high long-term costs.” In conducting such unethical business practices (out of fear of losing their jobs or being otherwise penalized for their lack of performance), consumers began to distrust their banks, which in turn, brought about organizational failure. According to the article, this is the major difference between negative and positive competition. Negative competition is a short-term strategy with long-term consequences. Positive competition aims to further team sustainability and organizational longevity. In summation, compromising team integrity for quick results is not effective. Here are 3 ways to leverage competition to drive workplace collaboration: 1. Find out what motivates your individual team members and capitalize on those intrinsic/extrinsic motivators. One aspect of “coopetition” that Kristi Hedges doesn’t cover in her article is how crucial it is to understand what motivates your team members. Before you can even begin to arrange for there to be workplace “coopetition,” you need to first determine what intrinsic/extrinsic motivators most strongly affect each team member. This will better enable you to predict what forms of competition are most effective. For example, someone who is just starting in a new position might be more inclined to want to prove themselves to the group and develop their own self-worth (an intrinsic motivator) as opposed to someone who has been working at the...

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Federal HR Skills Tested in 2017

Posted by on Jan 24, 2018 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal HR Skills Tested in 2017

The Year 2017, is now in our rear-view mirror and for Federal Human Resource practitioners, it was a year of highs and lows. At the end of 2017 HR practitioners were still trying to create innovative ways to deal with leadership turnover, technology upgrades, the streamlining administrative systems, labor and management concerns, and employee demographics shifts, employee retention/engagement, to highlight a few. In the Management Concepts Human Resources classrooms, the 2017 buzz centered around “2” critical themes that impacted day-to-day operations: Plans to Reform the Federal Government and Reduce the Federal Civilian Workforce Overhaul of Federal Human Capital Practices Classroom participants also pondered what would be needed in the way of skills to support implementation of the work ahead.  Below are highlights of these “2” themes. Theme 1 –Reform or not to Reform the Federal Government It all started with a 1 -page Presidential Memorandum Regarding a Hiring Freeze , dated 1-23-2017.  That was followed up by the 14-page memo “Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce” from the OMB director.  It was issued on April 12, 2017, and laid out the foundational blueprint on how government executives can create, within their agencies, long-term plans to reduce overlap and outdated programs, rules, and processes that are not working in support of government.  The memo was also full of critical milestones that supported the implementation of the plan. Federal Human Resource (HR) practitioners in their role as agency business partners provided key support in the development of the downsizing proposals in four categories: eliminate activities, restructure or merge, improve organizational efficiency and effectiveness, and workforce management.  But HR practitioners expressed initial concern about their readiness to complete the tasks ahead.  Many identified the following skill areas as essential to their ability to support this ongoing transition:  job analysis, position classification, position management, and workforce planning. Theme 2 – Overhaul of Federal Human Capital Practices After a couple of years of waiting, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued the long-awaited HR Policy Final Ruling on the revamping of the Federal human capital practices.  The new Human Capital Framework (HCF) replaces the Human Capital Assessment and Accountability Framework (HCAAF) and offers comprehensive guidance on strategic human capital management in the Federal Government. The framework provides direction on human capital planning, implementation, and evaluation in the Federal environment.  It also gave agencies with much needed relief by reducing and clarifying the HR reporting procedures that agencies are required to implement.  It also lays out how to utilize the data-driven review process (HRStat) and describes the required workforce planning methodologies to be followed.  Again, practitioners identified several key learning areas that would support their ability to implement this new requirement:  analytics and evaluation. Click here for additional information on The Structure of the Human Capital Framework (HCF) As the Year 2017 came to an end, it did not eliminate the need for HR practitioners to obtain key knowledge, skills, and abilities, but instead heightened the awareness of that need. As you move forward in 2018 and beyond, know Management Concepts strives continuously to provide a diverse offering of HR courses that can support HR practitioners in the implementation of current and future skill-based needs.  Learn more about the sampling of courses below or visit our website. Position...

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Getting the Most Out of Your Training

Posted by on Oct 3, 2017 in Human Resources | 0 comments

Getting the Most Out of Your Training

As an organization that focuses on unleashing the potential of individuals, teams, and organizations, Management Concepts is continually striving to help students and client organizations get the most out its training courses, coaching engagements, leadership development programs, and other workforce initiatives. In past blogs, we’ve shared information about how to evaluate training, dispelling myths, and how to make training stick. Thinking about how to make training “stick,” there are things you can do before, during, and after training to get the most out of a learning opportunity. In fact, on some of our course evaluations, we ask students to tell us if they met with their supervisor prior to training and if they are going to meet with their supervisor after training. These items provide us with insights into how organizations are preparing and supporting the employees they send for professional development. So, what does our data tell us? Based on over 2,000 evaluations from this quarter, here are the average ratings for these on-the-job support items. Note the scale: 1=Strongly Disagree, 2=Disagree, 3=Neither Agree nor Disagree, 4=Agree, 5=Strongly Agree.   Evaluation Item Average Rating on a 5 point scale My supervisor and I set expectations for this learning prior to attending this training. 3.7 After training, my supervisor and I will discuss how I will use the learning on my job. 3.7 I will be provided adequate resources (time, money, equipment) to successfully apply this training on my job. 4.0 Overall on the Job Support Score 3.8   The numbers indicate that some students are talking to their supervisor and others are not, so there is room for improvement when it comes to providing students with on-the-job support. How can organizations help improve these averages, and more importantly, how can organizations reinforce, encourage, and reward performance of critical behaviors on the job? Reinforce the Training One of the easiest ways to reinforce the training starts before the employee steps foot inside the classroom – the employee/supervisor discussion. An employee and supervisor should meet to set expectations for the training. This discussion could even take place when the employee is seeking approval for taking a class. Taking a few minutes to review the learning objectives together and identify the knowledge and skills the employee is trying to advance will help to ensure the employee knows what he/she should focus on during the training. Then, after training, the employee and supervisor should meet again to find out what was learned and how the employee can apply it to his/her work. As you may expect, our data also tells us that if you met with your supervisor before training, you are likely to follow up with them after training. Another follow-up activity to reinforce the training is for the employee to conduct a “lunch and learn” or “teach back” session with their coworkers. This is an opportunity to share some highlights or key takeaways from training. Finally, after training, there may be opportunities for employees to engage with others who took the same class on Management Concepts Student Central portal. They can communicate and share how they are applying what was learned, hold each other accountable for using their new skills, and even keep in touch about other skills they want to develop. It’s a great way to network with others!...

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Time to Thrive: Empowering Millennials in the Workforce

Posted by on Sep 15, 2017 in Human Resources, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Time to Thrive: Empowering Millennials in the Workforce

Every day there are countless articles and studies casting aspersions on millennials. This cohort of young adults has been blamed for the declining viability of chain restaurants, gyms, diamonds, and even the National Football League. Millennials are frequently stereotyped as selfish, entitled, and disloyal to their organizations. For this reason, HR specialists, leadership, and managers alike may find it difficult to cater to this growing segment of the global workforce. Let’s face it, Millennials have been in the workforce for over a decade now—many of them are now in the prime of their careers. Though I may not be able to reverse prevalent generational stereotypes in a single blog post, I do want to offer a few strategies for cultivating a workplace environment in which millennials (and all generations) can thrive. Provide inclusive professional development opportunities. Millennials, like members of any other generation, want to feel that they are continually growing and advancing with their careers. Engage employees in frequent conversations about their preferred career path and collaborate on ways to achieve long- and short-term goals. Embrace potential challenges with ongoing dialogue. Diversity of preferences, values, and experiences can create real workplace challenges. These challenges should not be ignored, and can lead to valuable, creative opportunities. Engaging in meaningful conversations with employees about difficult situations shows respect for individual differences and promotes a workplace culture where all perspectives are valued. Emphasize a common purpose. Sometimes when differences consume our mental energy, it is helpful to appeal to common goals and values. Focusing on the collective mission and vision for your team, department, or organization highlights the ties that bind us together, rather than inherent differences. It is important to remember that generational affiliation is just one element of our identities. Just as we would not want to be judged solely by our race, gender, or educational background, it is unfair to pigeon-hole a group of people based on their birth year. Asking, “What do millennials want?” only reinforces this narrative. The more poignant question for HR professionals and organizational leaders is, “How can I create an inclusive workplace environment that values and celebrates individual strengths?” Managing Beyond Generational Differences is just one of the many new topics covered in the updated Professional Government Supervisor Program. Stay tuned for more information on this cutting-edge training program, and in the meantime, check out our upcoming classes Human Resources, Talent Development, and Workforce Development, and in Leadership and Management and Professional...

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Federal Spotlight: Kimberly Steide

Posted by on Sep 4, 2017 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 2 comments

Federal Spotlight: Kimberly Steide

Kimberly Steide serves as Human Capital Planning and HR Stat Program Manager at the U.S. Department of Treasury. Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? Kimberly Steide: I have over 20 years of Federal Service, eight in the Armed Forces, and 13 as a civilian employee. My current responsibilities include managing the human capital planning for the Department of Treasury. This role involves ensuring the inclusion of workforce considerations as decisions are made, as related to the direction of the organization through the use of data, identifying the appropriate workforce strategies to assist the organization in meeting its goals and objectives, tracking the progress on those strategies, and managing adjustments as necessary. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? KS: I come from a family committed to service, specifically military. That service spans all of the services except the U.S. Coast Guard. I believe in this country and the responsibility we all have to shape how this country is perceived. Human capital is often the face of an organization, and is typically the entry point for interactions with the broader community. I am passionate about this work because it supports a broader objective and is a critical piece in moving my agency and the Federal government forward, and it allows us to serve the public in the best way possible. Knowing that I have the ability to shape how organizations provide the “care and feeding” to the workforce, that motivates me on a daily basis. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? KS: One of my greatest accomplishments is helping to shape the implementation of the new regulation on human capital management in the Federal government. This section of the regulation has been newly revised and provides a more detailed explanation of the expected outcomes associated with the human capital life cycle. Being afforded the opportunity to work on an interagency team charged with developing guidance to assist with the implementation of various aspects of this section of the regulation is a long-lasting accomplishment that will shape the effectiveness of human capital for years to come. Being recognized as a Federal expert in this area is incredibly fulfilling. MC: What advice would you share with young people on entering government? KS: I would tell young people to not shy away from pursuing a career in public service due to the rumors and misperceptions they hear. There are opportunities to gain experience and exposure that you cannot experience anyplace else. There are so many diverse career fields available in the Federal government that it should seriously be considered. Anyone interested in serving their community can make an impact in Federal service. You do not always have to be a big fish in the pond to effect change; all positive change is worthwhile. — Read more Federal Spotlight interviews by clicking here. And subscribe to this blog using the form at the top-right of this...

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Workforce Planning Turns Uncertainty into Stability and Mission Success

Posted by on Aug 16, 2017 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Workforce Planning Turns Uncertainty into Stability and Mission Success

We can’t say this enough: People are an organization’s greatest asset. Period. Full stop. Always and evermore relevant, this axiom is frequently emphasized in the HR realm as a guiding principle of talent acquisition and management. Research shows that focusing on employee engagement has many tangible benefits, including lower rates of turnover, increased productivity, and improved customer ratings. With uncertainty about budgets and staffing in the Federal government – as well as the churn of ongoing leadership changes – effectively managing talent is an urgent need. HR professionals may feel they have few options when it comes to cultivating an engaging workplace culture. How can I impact positive change with hiring restrictions and budget cuts on the horizon? Now is the time for Federal HR to find (or create) opportunities. There are numerous ways HR specialists (and especially those growing into more of an HR business partner role) can promote a people-centered environment with readily available resources. Use strategic thinking and planning to anticipate the future needs of each employee and the organization. Position management is critical in communicating the expectations of each role and identifying possible career paths for internal employees. Clearly communicate information about the strategic mission of the organization and each employee’s role in achieving it. Employees are more engaged when they understand how their work fits into a broader organizational context. Celebrate the benefits of diversity. Promoting an inclusive atmosphere emphasizes the value of employees’ unique perspectives and experiences. A commitment to diversity also helps with future recruitment efforts. Building an effective workplace culture will not happen overnight. It takes intentional planning by passionate people with a commitment to hiring and supporting the best talent. The benefits of employee engagement are too significant to be ignored. As HR professionals, the goal should always be to find ways of empowering your personnel. Register for our upcoming classes on Federal Workforce Planning, and help lead the people at your organization to higher engagement and mission-focused success. When employees feel they have control over their careers and can impact organizational success, anything is...

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Keep a Proactive HR Approach in the Face of Reform

Posted by on Jul 22, 2017 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Keep a Proactive HR Approach in the Face of Reform

It is a busy time to be a Federal HR professional. Budgets and staffs are shaking up—it’s an uncertain feeling throughout the workforce, but not one without opportunities. On April 12, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memorandum requiring agencies to submit, by the end of June, high-level Agency Reform Plans and identify ways to maximize employee performance. With this deadline in the rearview mirror, agencies face tough choices about how best to accomplish strategic initiatives while supporting the administration’s goals of improving efficiency, eliminating redundant programs, and reducing the size of the Federal workforce. For Federal HR professionals, the challenge is to assess and acquire talent, retain and develop top talent already on staff, and support professional growth for all, while recognizing that an overall reduction in the talent pool is on the horizon. Though the OMB is still reviewing draft reform plans, agencies cannot afford to wait around for further direction. There are plenty of options available to HR professionals to take ownership of the situation, and play the role of Federal HR business partner like never before: Review vacant positions. In addition to keeping job descriptions current, a thorough review of openings ensures that the positions targeted are in alignment with current and future mission-critical needs. Assess the proficiency levels of the current workforce. By creating or reviewing competency models for the organization, HR professionals can identify gaps in skills and experience needed for mission-critical programs. This also helps with intervention plans for developing proficiency with current employees. Communicate with agency stakeholders about Performance Improvement Plans (PIP). With increased demands for accountability and transparency with employee performance, HR professionals need to ensure PIP data is up-to-date and communicated to agency leadership. Regardless of what guidance comes from OMB this fall, agencies stand to benefit from taking a refreshed, proactive approach to workforce planning. With workforce reductions (aka reduction in workforce, or RIF) on the way, it becomes even more critical to retain and develop talented employees, and developing personnel from within ensures strategic initiatives are kept on track. Subscribe to this blog using the form at the top right of this page, and leave comments below if you’re currently engaging in the challenges and opportunities described above. Our experts will continue writing on this subject, and are always at work on implementing talent development and human capital...

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Hiring Freeze? Time to Thaw the Organization’s Human Capital Plan

Posted by on Feb 24, 2017 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Hiring Freeze? Time to Thaw the Organization’s Human Capital Plan

Despite the uncertainty and anxiety that comes with it, the Federal hiring freeze may be a forcing mechanism to invest in what the GAO has been asking the Federal government to do for almost two decades now—get better at human capital planning. HR staff and leadership at all levels can benefit from viewing this freeze as an opportunity to take an internal assessment of the programs that present the greatest human capital need. This will further prepare organizations to manage through the workforce reduction plan requested by the January 23 Presidential Memorandum (which, according to the PM, is due from OMB within 90 days of January 23). The reductions will be through attrition, but that leaves a lot to be defined. What will it look like to reduce the workforce through attrition? Will all agencies be equally subject to reduction? Will agencies use incentives to encourage attrition in specific jobs? Will mission-critical areas be prioritized for growth and exempted from reduction? Aside from the exceptions covered in the initial Hiring Freeze Guidance announcement from OMB, we do not have answers to these questions yet. In practice, the PM and reduction plan will require leadership to examine where resources are allocated and which skills are most needed. Since 2001, GAO has identified strategic human capital management as a high risk area in the Federal government, emphasizing that the government’s ability to provide essential services to the public is impeded by skills gaps. In 2017, that same area is again identified as a high risk area, indicating that there’s still room to improve in identifying and closing skills gaps in agency workforces. Leadership and human resources departments have the opportunity to use this time to sharpen their organization’s focus. In addition to the strategic human capital risk area, GAO’s 2017 High Risk Report indicates that skills gaps—a function of human capital management—contribute to high risks in the Federal government in 15 out of the 34 other areas of high risk. Our recent survey reflects how this is felt—71% of respondents from 30 civilian and defense agencies (3/4 of which were GS/GM-12 and above) state that their organization faces critical skills gaps. And the gaps spread across a variety of functions—from IT, to financial management, chemical control, public health, property management, and more. Apart from the short-term squeeze, Federal HR business partners and liaisons can play a role in helping affected organizations get better at human capital planning for all segments of the workforce—including those exempted from the freeze. To start, having a plan for where resources give the most support to the organization’s services is a good best practice for workforce planning. It will also come in handy when OMB’s plan for reducing the workforce is released. Lean on your internal resources and begin gathering data to inform your human capital conversations: Know your risks. In what area are services strained or at risk due to workforce gaps—either vacancies or skills gaps? Identify high priority needs. If you were to have to reduce spending, what would be the programs you would most want to protect? Where could you gain efficiencies? Maintain continuity of service. If leadership needs to reduce the workforce, what roles, functions, or programs provide the greatest amount of support to serving the constituents and mission? Although workforce reduction...

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The Presidential Transition and Beyond: HR Skills for an Even Stronger Federal Workforce

Posted by on Dec 15, 2016 in Human Resources | 0 comments

The Presidential Transition and Beyond: HR Skills for an Even Stronger Federal Workforce

With the Presidential transition approaching, change is around the corner for over 4 million civilian and military employees in the Federal government. As in any organization, HR’s function is to support transitions in a way that maintains a ready and productive workforce. The Presidential transition, like other leadership transitions, presents both opportunity and uncertainty. Here are 5 challenges and opportunities for leadership and HR to take on in the coming months. Unsettled Employees amid Change Some people are uncomfortable with change—actually, most of us are. Change brings uncertainty, and it’s easy to overestimate the negative emotions we might experience as a result of change we think we do not want. It’s important for employees to have an opportunity to openly ask questions and voice concerns. Equally important is for managers and the transition teams to build trust, honesty, and address immediate concerns. Engagement and Motivation Data from the Merit Systems Protection Board research indicates that public sector employees are, on average, highly motivated by public service. Civil service work is in theory nonpartisan—it serves the public. Although change and uncertainty can feed into anxiety about the future and uncertainty about the direction of one’s organization, the ultimate goal of serving the public remains in place. Remind your team that that aspect of the work is not changing, and all civil servants have a responsibility to serve their stakeholder groups to the best of their ability. Workload Management If you’re part of a transition team, be aware of that rising workloads pose for increased stress and decreased engagement. In Management Concepts’ recent study on change management in the public sector, one of the most frequent challenges organizations face is the need to do more with less and balance larger workloads. As employees invest in learning about new initiatives or changes in their organization with the Transition, they’ll need to maintain continuity of operations. Prioritize the things that have a direct impact on the constituents your organization serves. This not only bolsters the organization’s results, but also provides something employees can remember to be proud of. Training and Development Investing in targeted learning opportunities among the existing workforce is one of the most effective ways to manage increased workload. Cross-train so that employees build their skills in different areas. Scale the workforce’s strengths in new subjects, so they’re equipped to be more knowledgeable, efficient, and adaptable in their roles. Career Planning This fall, I volunteered at the ACT-IAC Presidential Transition HR Forum, where one of the speakers (Ventris Gibson, Director of the District of Columbia’s Department of Human Resources) shared some useful advice—always have a plan B for your career. Be open to new opportunities that change may create—whether learning a new task, role, or department in your organization—observe as the change unfolds what additional opportunities you could be successful in. Slow-to-hire organizations or those undergoing a moratorium on hiring experience transition in an amplified way—workforce planning will need to be revisited regardless of who’s appointed where, who’s coming, and who’s going. Post-election and the first several months of a new administration are dynamic times in the Federal government. Yet, when the transition challenges are effectively surmounted, teams band together, bright new leaders emerge, employees gain new experiences and perspectives, and everyone realizes new strengths.   Here’s to 2017, and a...

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3 Keys to Applying for a Federal Job

Posted by on Sep 14, 2016 in Human Resources | 1 comment

3 Keys to Applying for a Federal Job

With more than 2 million jobs, the Federal government is the largest US employer with many thousands of vacancies at any time. The average annual Federal workers compensation, including pay plus benefits, exceeds $124,000, but the competition for those jobs is considerable, and finding the right Federal government job for you can be a daunting journey. It is not for the faint of heart and can be somewhat frustrating. The biggest turn-off for many would-be applicants is the hiring process, which requires patience and persistence. But if you lay the foundation by completing the following three simple tasks, prior to applying, you can significantly improve your chances for success. 1st Key: Dust Off Your Resume This is not the time to use the old cookie-cutter resume. Remember, the competition for Federal jobs is high. You have to be a standout, and it starts with the resume. The typical two page resume will not cut it.  Federal resumes require more detail and are therefore a bit longer than traditional resumes. A Federal resume uses the same information from a typical resume, but goes into more depth about your skills, past duties, and accomplishments. Entry level positions often require resumes between three and five pages in length. While conducting a review of your resume, here are a few things to focus on: When did you last update your resume? Does your resume highlight your skills and abilities? Does it reflect where you are now and where you want to go in the future? Can you see your passion in it? Your resume should set a clear vision of what type of job you want to get, and what you bring to the table if you are hired.  Identifying the most suitable jobs for you will only help you better navigate through the complicated job search process. As an applicant, you need to be able to articulate what you want most in an employer so that you find an agency and a position that you are excited about. Key help for federal resume building: http://gogovernment.org/how_to_apply/write_your_federal_resume/writing_tips.php http://www.federaljobs.net/resources.htm The Book of U.S. Government Jobs: Where They Are, What’s Available, & How to Complete a Federal Resume (available in your public library or for purchase online) 2nd Key: Take an Agency Tour You have dressed up your resume, assessed your skill sets, and have a clear idea of what types of jobs you are interested in and suited for.  However, the Federal government is large and may have opportunities that you have not considered.  It is time for the agency tour. Searching for employment in the Federal government is not just about the job. It is also about the agency where the job resides. Not all agencies may have a need for your demonstrated skill sets. And even if they do, they may only have a few positions in that area. Your goal is to research and find those agencies that not only have a need for your skills, based on their organizational mission and direction, but also can offer you the opportunity for personal and professional growth. Think about it!  232,812 individuals were hired in the Federal sector (nationwide and overseas) in 2015. This means that here are always thousands of vacancies to choose from, making it even more critical for you to narrow...

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Federal Spotlight Recap: OPM’s Rebecca Ayers and Your Next Career Decision

Posted by on Aug 26, 2016 in Human Resources | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight Recap: OPM’s Rebecca Ayers and Your Next Career Decision

In her Federal Spotlight interview in November, OPM’s Rebecca Ayers shared her insights on a rewarding career and building a satisfying career in the Federal government. My take-aways from her interview: find something rewarding and work with people who share your passions. With September upon us—a time when job search activity increases, job market activity spikes, and our Federal government approaches a new fiscal year in October—Ms. Ayers’s words are relevant for employers and employees alike. If you’re data-driven (like I usually am), it’s great to remember that hosts of studies—many well-documented—reinforce the idea that employees and employers alike benefit when we find our work rewarding. Recent Merit Systems Protection Board data backs up the principle that employees are more engaged, and therefore more productive, when they find their work rewarding. Employees who feel productive report higher rates of job satisfaction—one of the biggest factors that shapes whether we stay or leave. Positive coworker relationships also contribute to job satisfaction, and a workshop I recently attended by Shane Yount drove home the point that rather than focusing on differences between employees, strong coworker relationships and team bonds can be forged by focusing on the one thing everyone has in common—the organization’s mission. Ms. Ayers mentioned that she finds it rewarding to work with people who share her “motivation and passion for public service.” If employees are all genuinely motivated by the organization’s mission, this also contributes to a positive, engaging work environment where employees are likely to stay. If you’re on the recruiting or hiring side of the job market, it’s good to remember that we need to seek employees who will find the work rewarding and be part of a team that’s invested in the work. If you’re on the job seeking side, it’s good to remember that title, compensation, or other “convenience” factors (commute, workload, working conditions) aren’t everything—your potential to be motivated by the work and build good working relationships with coworkers matters for whether you’ll like the job and want to stay. If you missed Rebecca Ayers’s interview, check it out here. It provides a refreshing perspective for employers and employees—private or public...

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Performance Review Season

Posted by on Aug 18, 2016 in Human Resources | 0 comments

The national conventions have wrapped up but campaign season is far from over. Everywhere you turn you are inundated with the latest breaking political news…. And maybe a few resurfaced stories. As bogged down as I have become with the flood of politics on the news, in my social media thread, and creeping in to dinner conversations, I have to admit – I like the attention that the “plans” are getting. It may be campaign season for some Feds, but for most of us it is performance review season and the perfect time of year to take stock of your professional development and makes plan for next year. As we all know planning, in the work setting, is often the thing that suffers in our fast-paced, results-driven environment. When push comes to shove, and I’m under tight deadlines, the last thing I want to do is stop and document a plan. The presidential candidates’ plans remind me that planning is incredibly important; it’s the backbone for everything that comes after. I take my professional development very seriously (I’ve even built a career around it!) but my individual development planning could use more attention. I spend the majority of my time supporting other individuals, teams, and organizations in leadership development but I have to remind myself to take the time to plan my own professional development and career path. If there is one thing I have learned from the work I do to design leadership programs for others, it is to take a systematic approach to career planning. Career planning is the process of matching an organization’s business needs with the career goals of individuals. This process includes: Understanding the mission and goals of the organization Determining career goals Exploring career options Assessing personal and professional interests Identifying opportunities for development Understanding one’s own goals is fairly simple – communicating that, working it in to team and organizational goals is a little more complicated. But it’s in the alignment of those multi-faceted goals where the real magic happens! Managers, HR professionals, and those charged with supporting professional growth within organizations must be equipped to assist the organization’s employees through the intertwined process of career development. Consider this time of year a reminder to take stock of how professional development can better both individuals and organizations. It starts with an Individual Development Plan (IDP) where goals, interests, strengths, and areas for skill building are identified. That planning phase is what sets the stage for identifying gaps with current and future states of an organizations’ workforce and finding effective solutions to address those gaps. It requires a strategic view of the organization’s mission, vision, and goals to turn individual development plans in to a career progression. Career planning is not as simple as having employees fill out IDPs and posting the organization’s mission statement in the break room, it requires careful planning and a strategic approach to workforce planning and goal alignment....

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FLSA Update: Overtime Pay

Posted by on Jun 6, 2016 in Human Resources | 0 comments

FLSA Update: Overtime Pay

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) governs minimum wage and overtime pay for full and part-time employees in the public and private sector. On May 17, 2016, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) released a final rule that will go into effect on December 1, 2016, increasing the salary threshold for overtime pay. It is important for employers and employees to be aware of the new regulations as they pertain to executive, administrative, and professional workers in order to be fully compliant. It is estimated that 4.2 million more salaried workers in the United States will now be eligible for overtime pay on December 1, 2016. When the new rule goes into place, the salary threshold for the white-collar exemption from overtime pay will adjust to $47,476. This means that salaried workers who earn up to this amount are eligible for overtime when their workweek exceeds forty hours. The ruling also requires that the threshold for overtime pay be evaluated every three years. The first review date will take place on January 1, 2020, so this is something employers will need to continually monitor. One interesting amendment to the current regulations is that employers are allowed to use nondiscretionary bonuses, incentives, and commissions to satisfy up to 10% of the new salary threshold provided the amounts are paid quarterly (or more frequently). Since many employers now use incentive compensation to drive performance, the Department of Labor appears to recognize this growing trend in employees’ compensation. As a reminder, job titles do not make an employee exempt from overtime nor does their salary. The DOL made no changes to the current job duties tests. The exemption comes from the specific job duties performed by the employee. Employers should also note that when the FLSA and state law apply, an employee should receive the most favorable provision offered. If you still have questions about the upcoming changes, there is a lot of helpful information on the DOL’s website including a comparison video which outlines the old regulations and the new...

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Do You Have What You Need for Succession Planning?

Posted by on May 23, 2016 in Human Resources | 0 comments

Do You Have What You Need for Succession Planning?

31 percent of Federal employees will be eligible to retire by 2017. Succession planning is complex, though, and retirement is only part of the picture. Attrition comes from turnover, retirement, promotions, lateral movement, and any number of triggers that shape your workforce. To approach succession planning, here are some tools you need at hand in your organization: Workforce Plan A good workforce plan works in concert with your organization’s strategic plan. The strategic plan outlines the organization’s plan for growth, and the workforce plan outlines new capabilities needed and decline in demand for other capabilities. It’s critical to look on the horizon at pending legislation that can influence your workforce plan. The Senate recently passed a bill that would require new positions and functions in program management and performance standards. This could affect agencies’ staffing and skills gaps in addition to their work processes. Individual Development Plan Data Succession planning is critical for leadership positions, but it’s important to succession plan for technical positions, too. Too much transition out of technical roles—whether laterally into a different technical capacity or into a management or leadership capacity—can leave technical skill gaps that are costly and inefficient. Know where employees are tracking for their next role and plan for succession at every level in the organization. Retirement Data Know how much of your staff is eligible, and make the data as granular as you need it: some teams and organizations will have higher retirement eligibility than others, so know what’s specific to your team so you’re approaching succession management informed. Note that retirement-eligible does not necessarily mean that employees are guaranteed to retire—depending on their classification and status. Policy changes that incentivize or disincentivize retirement create shifts in how your workforce plans for retirement. If the Law Enforcement Officers Equity Act passes, agencies with GS-0083 employees may see higher retirement rates earlier than planned. Similarly, economic conditions may influence retirement-eligible employees’ decisions to stay if retirement is not required. Training Needs Data Use your organization’s competency map to highlight the top training needs for your team or organization. Management and HR should collaborate so that managers have input on their functional area’s needs, and HR can support needs strategically across the organization. For some agencies, training needs are critical at a technical level if you have a large workforce; others may want to focus on training needs that support an integrated leadership development approach. Whether in response to increased retirement rates or as part of consistent turnover, succession planning is an important process for HR and management to invest in. An effective succession planning process enables efficient hiring and employee development—making human capital management more cost-effective for the organization—and should be on every agency’s process improvement list....

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Hiring Excellence: Using Four Hiring Authorities to Attract Top Talent

Posted by on Apr 19, 2016 in Human Resources | 0 comments

Hiring Excellence: Using Four Hiring Authorities to Attract Top Talent

Finding and taking a prospective applicant through an organization’s hiring process is no easy task. So, in what ways can human resource professionals and managers more effectively use the tools at their disposal to attract top talent? Beginning in 2016, OPM’s Hiring Excellence Campaign looks to provide those involved in the hiring process the ability to do just that. One of the major goals of the Hiring Excellence Campaign is to work collaboratively with hiring managers and human resources professionals to ensure that agencies are using all the tools at their disposal to hire efficiently and competitively. Through the campaign, OPM is looking to improve the use of key recruitment websites, provide information on hiring flexibilities, and use assessments to help identify top talent. In addition to putting agencies in contact with OPM’s subject matter experts, the Federal government’s HR University provided a Hiring Toolkit, and the USAJobs website will be undergoing various iterations of improvement through 2017. Two specific areas of need are cybersecurity and IT management, with the former projected to increase in worth to $170 billion by 2020. Regardless of the field or skillset, it is increasingly important for Federal agencies to imaginatively attract and retain top talent in the face of increasing pressure on agency budgets. In addition, agencies need to be more creative in considering what incentives they can offer, particularly for candidates that might otherwise gravitate toward the private sector. The Hiring Excellence campaign shines a light on a plethora of tools and strategies you can use; when brainstorming don’t forget about these four underused hiring authorities to help fill key positions: Direct-Hire Authority permits an agency to hire, after public notice is given, any qualified applicant. It takes out the competitive ranking and rating that tend to slow down the hiring process. Students and Recent Graduates can enjoy streamlined programs that increase their employment opportunities. This authority can help obtain talent that can be developed over time, and provide a clearer career path for those interested in public service. Intergovernmental Personnel Act allows the temporary assigning of personnel between the Federal government and state/local governments, and can be used as a cost-effective way to fill the needs of high-demand positions. Part-Time & Job Sharing is a strategy to more effectively recruit employees who are not looking for a full-time commitment. It can be used as a way to fill an agency’s need with two part-time employees rather than one full-time employee. Through OPM’s Hiring Excellence Campaign, managers and hiring specialists can more effectively work together to ensure they recruit highly qualified and interested candidates. Using hiring authorities strategically expedites the hiring process for prospective applicants and hiring managers alike, and helps agencies make the most of their budgets while also meeting staffing goals....

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Talent Analytics: 2016 Hot Spots

Posted by on Apr 15, 2016 in Human Resources | 1 comment

Talent Analytics: 2016 Hot Spots

While each HR or human capital department must focus on the needs of their specific agency, in 2016 several factors point to the need for quality data analytics in HR, including the GAO’s 2016 Annual Report on improving efficiency and financial health. Talent Analytics affects HR and human capital strategy and operations in virtually every area, but key ones for the current fiscal year include: Workforce planning. Workforce and competency data are indispensable to the workforce planning process. Ensure the data you use in your workforce planning process is both relevant to real-time and applicable to future goals. Succession planning. Like workforce planning, succession planning relies on quality data to inform the steps your agency needs to take today to ensure the agency can meet its goals in the next 1-5 years—and beyond. Recruiting and staffing. Use application data, vacancy data, applicant competency data, and time-to-hire data to understand where your recruiting practices are effective and where there’s room for improvement and increased efficiency. The data alone won’t tell you what the solution is, but it’s a necessary step in identifying any problems. Diversity and inclusion. To help translate the President’s mandate into action-steps for your agency, take advantage of HR analytics to identify areas for the most efficient improvements. Recruitment data may reveal where you have blind spots or underutilized channels for improving diversity and inclusion in the workforce. Employee Engagement. While the FEVS data is a tool for transparency and performance measurement, it is also a vast pool of data agencies can draw on to inform their strategy and day-to-day operations. Don’t waste your FEVS data—drill deep to extract insights to identify your top areas to achieve some quick wins and improvements, and use other data to plan longer term. In addition to GPRAMA’s integration of the human capital plan with the strategic plan documentation, GAO’s annual report is one of those accountability mechanisms that reminds us of the importance of planning and making decisions that are informed by informed and honest, careful data analysis. Quality data in these areas ensures that agencies can make effective decisions. It facilitates monitoring, which supports ongoing operational decisions. If well organized and tracked, it also makes demonstrating how the agency’s human capital plan and budget are adapting annually to support the agency’s performance. More important than the tool that you use for HR analytics are the metrics and measures you use to drive your talent analytics. Ensure that your agency uses the metrics you need to assess, plan, monitor, and evaluate the key HR factors in your agency. If you’re in HR, work with management to identify these factors and effective measures. If you’re in management, collaborate with HR to ensure they have the necessary information to help manage the workforce...

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What Would It Take for HR to Be a Role Model for Culture Alignment in Your Agency?

Posted by on Mar 11, 2016 in Human Resources | 0 comments

What Would It Take for HR to Be a Role Model for Culture Alignment in Your Agency?

Undoubtedly, you have heard the expression “HR is a critical strategic partner to the success of a Federal organization.” Yet, in reality, you find many HR policies and practices create barriers and cause extra work for Federal managers and employees each and every day. A recent example is the inability of agencies looking to hire an individual that another agency has already assessed without “starting from scratch.” This situation could change if the House bill sent to President Obama is approved. But in the end, it still may not reduce any workload for managers without a formal and structured process to share assessments between agencies. To be that critical strategic partner in any Federal agency, the HR function must be designed to work together with other functions smoothly and efficiently so that when a change is introduced, steps can be taken to achieve the desired organizational alignment in an outcome-focused way. This means, at its core, the HR function is designed with the agencies’ culture and goals in mind. It is also the culture and goals-driven design that can lead to the HR function becoming a role model for culture alignment in an agency.  As you read on, you will learn more about the focus HR will need to become this role model. Seven essential steps are described that HR can take to start on the path to becoming a role model for culture alignment at the agency level. Step 1. Starting with a clear understanding of the mission and vision of their agency, HR professionals should know the strategic goals of the agency and more specifically, the objectives and activities of the HR function, all the way down to the individual level. It does not stop there for HR professionals – this need for knowledge around objectives and activities extends to all parts of the organization to be the essential strategic resource for the agency. Step 2. Creating culture alignment begins with building a strong foundational understanding of culture. This means giving time to learn the fundamentals of culture, how cultures are created through shared learning and mutual experience, and learning the “what” and “how” to align human performance across the HR function. Culture alignment often gets overlooked and consequently getting work done feels hard, particularly if it is something new or different. And when you run into your culture every day, it wears you down rather than encourages you. Why is that? The collective values that guide people to carry out the mission and vision, the collective practices that reflect those values, and collective behaviors exhibited by its people are often out of alignment. For example, HR functions where managers set objectives without input of those responsible for accomplishing them are not as effective in promoting constructive norms as HR functions that give priority to managers and employees jointly setting clear, specific and challenging, yet realistic objectives. Step 3. Ensure everyone that is part of the HR function is clear on its agency espoused values and their focus with respect to customers. This could mean you will need to give some time to reaching a collective understanding of your values, and what each value specifically means in terms of expected behaviors. Step 4. Identify the behaviors that are being encouraged and reinforced by individuals who are currently...

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How to Recruit and Retain the Best Talent with the 3Rs

Posted by on Jan 29, 2016 in Human Resources | 0 comments

How to Recruit and Retain the Best Talent with the 3Rs

For Federal HR professionals and managers planning their staffing, there is good news to help you ensure that highly-qualified employees fill key government positions. As of this month, the 2011 spending cap that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) placed on the 3Rs—recruitment, relocation, and retention incentives—has been lifted. Previously, agencies were required to ensure that any 3R spending did not exceed calendar year 2010 levels. This guidance expired at the end of 2015. An announcement came out on January 15, when acting OPM Director Beth Cobert issued a memo on the use of the 3Rs during the 2016 calendar year. OPM will now allow exceptions for certain employees to receive incentives based on “a critical agency need.” This is a good sign, since agencies facing serious staffing challenges would otherwise have to turn to more expensive solutions, such as use of contractors, or else deal with the consequences of losing or lacking qualified staff who play key roles in helping the agency achieve its mission. Use of the 3Rs in Federal Hiring For a better understanding of the role of the 3Rs in Federal hiring, let’s take a quick look back at how the incentives have been used by various agencies in the past. Consider whether any of these situations apply to your staffing concerns today. This data is available because in February 2010, OPM issued a memorandum to Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs) requesting that agencies submit their 2009 calendar year reports describing how each of the 3Rs was used and how this improved recruitment and retention. The subsequent report to Congress, in which 96 agencies provided data on their use of the 3Rs, highlighted the main reasons agencies used these incentives: Target jobs that were hard to fill due to competing jobs in the private sector. Agencies found that Federal government positions in IT, economics, engineering, and cybersecurity cannot always compete with the private sector, where starting salaries for these fields in recent years have exceeded the GS-12 range and even several steps in the GS-13 range. Resolve hiring and retention problems in regions with a high cost of living, overseas, or remote regions. The Department of Energy used relocation incentives to motivate senior managers to change positions and to entice well-qualified technical and scientific employees to accept positions in locations that were isolated, had an expensive cost of living, or had economic barriers. Ease the difficulty of securing specialized talent in crucial professions. The emphasis on strengthening government cybersecurity, which is not possible without a very particular skillset, has led some agencies to leverage use of the 3Rs to hire specialized talent. Ensure agencies have the right workforce necessary to accomplish agency missions. The 3Rs are often used for employees in healthcare occupations who treat our nation’s military members and veterans. Retain key personnel who plan to retire from the Federal service. The Department of Justice used retention incentives for succession planning so that highly knowledgeable employees could engage in knowledge transfer through developing and positioning less experienced staff to move into leadership roles. Retention incentives for employees likely to leave for a different Federal position were on the rise, increasing from one incentive (for $1,602) in 2008 to 30 incentives (worth $127,244) in 2009. Don’t Forget...

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Can Federal Agencies Get Ready for HR Tech?

Posted by on Jan 11, 2016 in Human Resources | 0 comments

Can Federal Agencies Get Ready for HR Tech?

The beginning of the New Year is a chance to kick off fresh initiatives that benefit the Federal HR workforce. Emerging HR technologies are focused on supporting individual career development and the Federal government will need to utilize these technologies to remain an attractive option for employment. The following HR technology trends will be important in 2016 and beyond. Focus on at least one option and work towards implementation at your agency to stay ahead of the curve: Predictive Analytics Software, or programs that assist in predicting the future probabilities and trends of the Federal workforce, can assist agencies in talent acquisition, resource management, training and performance, and decreasing attrition rates. However, getting to these end results can be a challenge. Data must be compiled, managed, and analyzed, and with the sheer magnitude of how much data is available, this may be easier said than done. Luckily, the options for vendors and software have never been greater. Performance Management Programs that go beyond the typical yearly plan and review have been on the rise for several years, and now many provide solutions to assist with this more robust approach. Performance management programs encourage effective employee goal setting, assist managers in coaching employees, provide continuous and timely feedback on job performance, and drive engagement through collaborative goal planning. Employee Engagement Applications are targeted at increasing the unimpressive 32% U.S. employee engagement rate. According to Deloitte’s 2015 Global Human Capital Trends survey, employee engagement and culture issues have surfaced as the primary challenge companies face around the world. When employees are more engaged, it increases their productivity. Programs like Glint, CultureAmp, TinyPulse, Impraise, Engagedly and Hppy offer many solutions, but be forewarned: incorporating these programs can be daunting. You may want to start by defining the larger engagement issues at your agency, then focusing on just one or two smaller aspects during 2016. Most importantly, include your stakeholders (especially the employees who will be using the applications) in the decision-making process. Let them voice what aspects of engagement they think are most important, or most lacking, at your organization and take their feedback seriously. The need to incorporate technological solutions to HR issues in the Federal government is greater than ever. A survey by the Partnership for Public Service shows that the number of employees under age 30 is at its lowest level since 2005. Use of HR technology that supports career development and engagement is key to recruiting and retaining this demographic for government service....

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Strengthen Your Nontraditional HR Skills

Posted by on Dec 16, 2015 in Human Resources | 0 comments

Strengthen Your Nontraditional HR Skills

HR is changing, and organizations are discovering new needs, new functions, and new responsibilities in this field—not that anyone rightly thought it was a field of lessening relevance (though it is sometimes notably and popularly decried). The data revolution, HR’s increased role as strategic business partner, and a fresh emphasis on improving workplace culture have amounted to new opportunities, new responsibilities, and new career arcs for HR professionals. Leaders in Federal agencies and non-Federal organizations alike, in endeavoring to build the workforce of the future, see HR skills as instrumental. But what new or “outside” skills, in additional to traditional HR functions, must professionals seek to acquire or strengthen? In ways new and old, today’s savvy HR professional is: Indispensable to strategic decision-making Well-versed in data analytics Skilled in employee coaching, mentoring, and retention Rededicated to customer engagement And that short list just scratches the surface. HR is a field that, because the emphasis on human in human resources will never diminish, cannot be overexplored in the classroom, no matter how rigorous the training. Facing New Challenges, Working Inside Your Sphere of Influence Potentially fundamental to new or re-envisioned careers in HR is the notion of sphere of influence, a concept that’s crucial to leaders and non-leaders, managers and non-managers, who might seize (or invent) opportunities amid today’s private and public sector challenges. Understanding your sphere of influence means knowing when, how, where, and with whom you can affect change. When helping organizations drive or navigate change, the self-aware, scrupulous, and ambitious HR professional functions in an expanded sphere of actionability. By practicing accountability, adaptability, and resilience, they take a people-centric point of view with overall organizational mindfulness, creating or applying their influence wherever needed. Millennials: HR’s Future Biggest Fans One of HR’s biggest challenges rests in how it will attract, adapt to, and support a workforce that, in 2020, is expected to be a majority millennial population. In step with research, myriad (mis)conceptions, and general fearmongering surrounding millennials, it’s clear that HR must be ready and willing to incorporate a new focus on traditional as well as non-traditional HR functions. Empathetic, socially mindful, two-way communication is imperative to integrating new technological practices amid changing industries and work environments—an entire generation of workers won’t fail, and HR is instrumental to their success. Business Impact: The Next Generation of HR, Today It’s increasingly clear, as younger generations fill out the workforce with new and innovative ideas (and the wisdom of older generations needs to be captured and supported), effective, influential, and multi-talented HR teams are critical to business. Dave Ulrich, in his 2012 book, HR from the Outside In: Six Competencies for the Future of Human Resources, calls for accountable, resilient, strategic, innovative (and integrative) HR professionals who embrace technology and endear themselves to employee, customer, and business development. Writing for Personnel Today, Ulrich pumps his fist in support of the field: “It is a great time to be in HR because the future holds not only a promise, but a pathway to business impact.” Ulrich’s writing and research is not cutting edge, and yet his enthusiasm still resonates. The HR personnel of the future workforce experience a rare climate of sustained relevance—the career potential is refreshed and expanded, the new opportunities are good (and depending on your role, so...

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Ask the CHCO: SSA’s Dr. Reginald F. Wells

Posted by on Sep 2, 2015 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Ask the CHCO: SSA’s Dr. Reginald F. Wells

The latest “Ask the CHCO” interview with Dr. Reginald F. Wells, the Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Human Resources of the Social Security Administration (SSA), highlighted Federal workforce management in action. Dr. Wells is the last remaining original member of the Chief Human Capital Officers Council that has championed Federal human capital management efforts such as wellness in the workplace, efficient hiring, and career development. The Council’s mission is to provide a forum for senior management to exchange best practices and support Federal agencies in the effort to build and maintain an outstanding workforce. “We share those best practices on a regular basis. We talk about them openly. I think through those conversations…all ships rise; all Federal agencies are a little better off because we come together as a body.” I think it’s obvious that Wells has brought over some of the best practices he learned from his involvement with the CHCO Council. Wells attributes SSA’s success to its infrastructure, diverse workforce, and internet optimization efforts. I’d add that his global approach to internal agency development has gone a long way in developing an informed workforce that takes pride in its service to the public. Aligning a workforce around an agency’s strategic goals is no simple task, but Wells exemplifies a dedication to the basics that produces real results. He notes strong Federal workforce planning can provide the foundation on which CHCOs can build. “People closest to the issues typically have a perspective worth listening to.” Saving social security for current and future generations is no easy feat. Developing a plan around that aim has proven very difficult. Wells humbly admits that employees on the front line are closer to the issues and have insight to solutions that senior management struggles with. Vision 2025 is the SSA’s plan to serve their customers in the future. They have gone to great efforts to elicit input from multiple groups with varying visions. They used software tools, focus groups, labor management partnerships, and advisory councils to gain insight from stakeholders inside and outside the organization to contribute to building Vision 2025. “The work of this agency continues to expand, the needs of the public continue to grow; our workforce has not grown in proportion.” Vision 2025 focuses on customer service, talent management, and updating technology capabilities, but you cannot ignore the looming probability of closure of service locations. An overburdened workforce, with growing business needs is not a problem unique to the SSA or even the Federal environment. Wells explains that SSA is taking a strategic approach and leveraging technology in many ways. They have moved work online and automated it where possible in order to manage the burden of increasingly larger workloads. Only exacerbating the problem, SSA anticipates a large number of its workforce will retire in the coming years. In preparing to meet that challenge they have turned to mentor programs, efficient hiring tactics, and training to keep the agency running efficiently. Retirement planning is daunting, but the more information employees have, the smoother the transition will be. “It is incumbent on all of us in leadership positions to try to set a different tone that would let employees know they’re our most valuable resource. Without them there is no federal government… or service to the public.” An effective...

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How HR Can Support Better IDPs

Posted by on Jul 7, 2015 in Human Resources | 0 comments

How HR Can Support Better IDPs

Although Individual Development Plans (IDPs) are used throughout the Federal government, their usefulness varies greatly based not only on how they are used in the agency but also on the quality of the IDP itself. HR can help managers to change IDPs from an administrative process to an opportunity to improve both individual performance and engagement. HR plays a critical role to evangelizing the IDP process itself and making sure managers see the value. According to the Journal of Personnel Psychology, employees “who develop and implement strategies to pursue career-specific goals achieve greater career success as measured by salary, promotions, and level of responsibility.” This individual success results from higher levels of job performance, which drives team and organization success – and always reflects well on the individual’s manager. When counseling managers on assisting their direct reports with IDPs, HR should encourage managers to view the IDP as a call to action rather than just a plan. This is a call to action for both the employee and the manager. The employee is creating a roadmap for success in her current role and for whatever she would like to accomplish next. The manager is committing to supporting the employee in accomplishing the tasks in the plan from the commencement of the plan through success on the job. For example, if training is part of an employee’s IDP, the manager must ensure the employee has both the time to attend the training and an opportunity to practice and demonstrate what he learned back on the job. Finally, the manager should commit to working with the employee throughout the year to track progress and make certain that goals are met. Before starting the IDP process, HR can empower managers by making sure that the competency model and proficiency levels are both clear and clearly understood. As managers assess employees on competencies to inform plans, HR has a role to play in keeping everyone on the IDP and not drifting into the realm of performance assessment. The IDP is far more effective when viewed as empowering for the employee rather than as an opportunity for the manager to address performance issues that would be better suited as part of the performance management process. HR should be on the look out for IDP that are set up as Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) and also for IDPs with unrealistic goals. IDPs are part of the organization’s strategic plan, albeit indirectly, and contribute to addressing organizational needs. HR should be able to trace strategic goals to human capital goals, of course, but HR can also support achievement of the strategic plan by monitoring the alignment of individuals’ goals to those in the strategic and human capital plans. For example, if achievement of a strategic goal requires data-driven decisions and HR is aware that this will require up-skilling within the organization, HR can identify the roles most likely to benefit from development in that area and help managers encourage their employees to include the appropriate developmental tasks on their plans. HR can also provide counsel on the types of development activity must likely to be effective, such as mentoring, coaching, stretch assignments, cross-functional team assignments, job shadowing, job rotations, and training. Of course, the organization’s needs aren’t the only needs to be addressed by an IDP....

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Ask the CHCO: GSA’s Antonia Harris

Posted by on Jun 30, 2015 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Ask the CHCO: GSA’s Antonia Harris

Federal News Radio recently interviewed Antonia T. Harris, Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) for General Services Administration (GSA), as part of our Ask the CHCO series. Ms. Harris provides not only a clear roadmap for the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) at GSA, but also for the HR profession in the Federal government. Ms. Harris’s HR philosophy focuses on “understanding the value you add as an individual to the success of the organization.” This is sound advice in any function, but particularly important to HR as HR seeks a seat at the executive table in a more meaningful way. Specifically, HR professionals need to understand the organization they support, not just the HR function. HR professionals are called upon to anticipate the organization’s human capital needs rather than react to the needs. Ms. Harris highlighted three key areas of focus in GSA’s HR organization: Use of predictive analytics: A key area of concern for managers at GSA was the hiring process. To address this, OHRM worked with hiring managers to set up Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. They also developed metrics of interest for the hiring managers as well as metrics for OHRM. This allowed HR to clearly distinguish the metrics that matter to the line from those that matter to HR, identify where interests align, and also to anticipate where trade-offs had to be made. This allows OHRM to predict results and adjust processes and effort as needed to improve the outcome. Strategic workforce planning: As an organization, GSA has many employees at GS-12 and above, but not enough hiring at lower levels to establish the desired balance. Ms. Harris’s team worked with the line leadership to address staffing needs by quarter and grade level. This enabled OHRM to look at where they need to be as an agency and develop a plan to address the staffing needs, particularly at levels below GS-12. By using a data-driven workforce planning process, OHRM improved the quality of candidates through the Pathways Programs. Focus on Customer Service: HR professionals have to balance HR program needs with the needs of their customers. In the past at GSA, this role was played by the HR Liaisons. Ms. Harris’s team redesigned that, creating two distinct roles (i.e., national account manager and regional account manager). This new structure supports the services and staff offices in ensuring that national strategies are being identified and managed by the OHRM, while still maintaining the priorities of OHRM that may take precedence over regional managers’ priorities. All of this, however, is still focused on the customer. Each HR professional is now part of OHRM and tasked with understanding how what each individual supports the organization and their role in the overall agency success. What I find most interesting about these three areas is the necessary integration of each to improve the other. Workforce planning requires good data and metrics but even with those, workforce planning simply cannot be done without your customer’s involvement and buy-in. At its core, however, all of it comes down to understanding how your agency will meet its mission objectives. What metrics best predict your organization’s ability to meet mission objectives either directly or indirectly? What are the current talent needs and those expected in the future? Finally, as...

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The New Meaning of Jobs and Careers

Posted by on Jun 23, 2015 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 0 comments

The New Meaning of Jobs and Careers

I grew up in a small town in central Florida with an economy driven, in large part, by agriculture – cattle ranching, farming, and citrus growers were the economic backbone of the community. Throughout much of my childhood, the adults I encountered either worked in family businesses where they’d stay for their entire working career, or changed jobs only a few times, staying with organizations for multiple decades. My dad’s work life included only three employers over the span of nearly five decades. I often think about how the impressions of career stability have shaped the way I have approached my career. Since finishing my undergraduate degree in the late 1990’s, I have only worked for two organizations. I doubt this pattern will continue for my kids because of the changing nature of work. According to numerous sources, the trend toward long-term employment with a single organization is rapidly shifting. A recent survey published in the Atlantic suggests that nearly one-half of Millennials say they expect to move from company to company throughout their career, and Randstadt’s 2015 Talent Trends Report predicts that the number of independent and project-based workers will have an average annual growth rate of more than 6% over the next four years. The trend toward contingent work, in response both to the need for more flexible management of costs and the desire of younger workers to have more job mobility and flexibility, is creating a need for agility in strategic human capital and human resources management in organizations. Commercial organizations, including Walmart and Unilever have begun adopting agile people practices to respond to the shifts in attitudes towards jobs and careers, but the Federal government is only in the early stages of figuring out how to create systems and processes that will take advantage of the benefits, while minimizing the risks associated with a highly mobile and transitory workforce. As agencies begin to develop strategies for managing human capital in the emerging “gig economy” a few key steps should be taken to help create a more permeable boundary between public and private sector employment: Build strong relationships between HR and procurement staff – With a growing number of individual proprietorships and independent contractors, meeting future Federal staffing needs will require the use of a larger number of smaller contracts to acquire the services of individuals, rather than business (either large or small). As such, HR and acquisition professionals will both need an increased understanding of the overall strategic human capital requirements of the organization and the available methods for sourcing and acquiring the core skills needed to meet human capital demands. Create mechanisms for providing feedback to perspective employees – According to a recent study by LinkedIn, individuals are 4x more likely to consider your organization for future employment when you offer constructive feedback on their interview performance, but only 41% report receiving interview feedback. In a competitive talent market, with increased frequency of recruitment and project-based placement, taking steps to distinguish your organization from others competing for a similar candidate pool will be a valuable way to build a pipeline of talent to meet the demand for short-term work requirements. Providing constructive feedback to candidates is one easy way to improve your employer brand and attract more talent. Align job descriptions and qualifications with...

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From QUIET to LOUD: Military Personnel Reform

Posted by on Jun 22, 2015 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 0 comments

From QUIET to LOUD: Military Personnel Reform

A Military Times article published last month reported that the Pentagon is quietly pushing for military personnel reform. While this is an exciting development, I think the push should actually be loud and swift to create the energy and momentum needed to fully rethink and modernize the DoD’s approach to managing military talent. That being said, Acting Undersecretary for Defense for Personnel and Readiness Brad Carson’s quiet call for revolutionary change in the human resources practices at DoD is a perfect example of what it means to step up to leadership and seize an opportunity to rethink the operating assumptions about managing military talent. 14 years ago, I retired from the Air Force. While I had amazing opportunities to grow and contribute in new ways throughout my years as a military officer, I, like many of my colleagues in uniform, felt it took far too long to meet the time-in-grade requirement for promotion to the next level. Despite my readiness to take on new and more challenging roles, I can recall more than one instance where I had to wait for time to pass. For me, it was a key reason I decided to trade in my uniform for a business suit after 20 years. To know this rule is still in place, along with other recruiting, career paths, and rotation assignments rules, is a disconcerting situation. Opportunities present themselves every day for anyone, both inside DoD and out, to step up to a leadership situation. How you choose to react is unique to you and the situation. DoD, especially because of its critically important function and unique mission, should be focused on retaining the best talent. While it may not be as loud as I’d like, through his leadership and communication, Brad Carson is quietly and deliberately setting the stage for change by sharing some of his initial thoughts as a way to begin getting others involved and energized about the hard work ahead to modernize DOD’s military personnel system. A change effort of this magnitude will take many others to think and act differently to create this new reality. What will it mean for DoD to think and act differently when it comes to managing military talent? For starters, it calls for new grounding principles and practices to form a clear and big picture view of a modernized military talent system among key stakeholders. Below are some ideas to consider when you are at this stage of forming a big picture view of a new talent management system. Grounding Principles Be clear about the service value propostion – Why does a person choose military service? Be clear about the culture you need to support diverse talents required to meet many important missions Create strategic dialogue about connecting talent with opportunity Managing performance mean up, down, across, and around Think of change as a system and creativity as a way of connecting things  Grounding Practices Learn from the private sector’s flexible and technology-driven promising practices Make data analytics central to all decisions and measuring success, but ensure you use the right data and understand its context Think demo, trial, proof-of-concept or pilot to identify possibilities such as career & talent mobility Identify and develop change role models at all levels Think ongoing learning – for current performance, growth or...

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Ask the CHCO: FLRA’s Vicki Barber

Posted by on Apr 20, 2015 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Ask the CHCO: FLRA’s Vicki Barber

On this week’s edition of Federal News Radio’s Ask the CHCO series, reporter Lauren Larson interviewed Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA)’s Chief Human Resources Officer Vicki Barber. Ms. Barber took her post at FLRA in 2010 at the same time the agency was undergoing a major overhaul of its human capital strategy. In the interview, she discussed some major lessons learned and best practices that have taken FLRA from the bottom of the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings to fifth among small agencies. She credits the agency’s success to collaborative decision-making, transparent internal communications, and employee engagement. In 2010, FLRA’s leadership decided to bring HR in house specifically to improve internal communications and accessibility to HR staff for employees. Employees wanted to speak to people in person and be able to have those organic unplanned hallway conversations that are often so critical to getting to the root of problems. The move to an internal HR operation set the stage for a shift towards collaborative and inclusive decision-making and open communication at the organization that has been an integral part in improving employee engagement at the agency. With an increasing focus on employee engagement across the Federal government, FLRA provides some key best practices in enhancing engagement: Increase the number of choices employees can make: Studies have shown that when employees feel they exercise some control over their work lives, engagement is likely to increase. At FLRA, the organization became intentional about providing opportunities for employees to feel more in control of their work situations. Allowing employees to participate in key workplace decisions – ranging from the computers they use, to the design of the workspace – helped build the sense of ownership and control, a key element in increasing both organizational identity and engagement. Demonstrate that the individual matters: Sometimes increasing engagement can be as simple as demonstrating that each employee matters. The culture at FLRA places a priority on making sure each individual knows that they count. Through intentional focus on the intrinsic value of each employee to the organization, FLRA has built a culture of inclusion and appreciation which contributes to openness, fosters sharing, and encourages connection to the organization. Use data to drive engagement-related decision making: A best practice shared by both Ms. Barber and John Gill, the HHS CHCO, is the use of frequent “pulse checks” to collect immediate feedback on key factors that may affect engagement. While yearly engagement surveys, like the FEVS, provide good data on agency level engagement, measuring engagement and engagement-related variables more frequently provides enhanced diagnostic power and helps build predictive models that can be used to create targeted initiatives to improve engagement. After more than a decade of struggles with employee engagement, agencies across the Federal government are focusing on building participatory environments where employees are empowered to make decisions, challenged to own their success, and accountable for their results. With encouraging results in places like FLRA, the goal in improving engagement may finally be within...

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The Future Generation Workplace

Posted by on Apr 17, 2015 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 1 comment

The Future Generation Workplace

Last Friday, I attended the session, The Future Generation Workplace, led by Mika Cross, Director of Work/Life and Flexible Workplace Strategy at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, at the Federal Workplace Expo & Training event in Washington, DC. Ms. Cross led a diverse cross-section of Federal HR leaders in an interactive session on what forces are shaping the future of work. The participants shared insights on the workforce trends that are driving change at their organizations. Considering how much change in technology, demographics, and culture, is affecting the Federal workplace, there was much to discuss. Here are a few of the common challenges and trends that emerged, as well as questions for further discussion: Mobility and Telework Federal HR leaders are managing the impact of increased mobility on their workforces. Telework creates opportunities to recruit and retain talent, but also exposes new management challenges. The participants agreed that the underlying issue with telework was not getting the technology to work – it’s the trust (or lack thereof) between remote employees and those in the office. How can HR foster trust and prepare managers to support trust between remote and onsite employees? Mobility has also created a shift to a performance-based culture because work is measured on outputs and deliverables rather than where the work is being done. Technology allows work to be done anywhere, anytime, and on a flexible schedule, which enables employees and managers to focus on results. Have you seen a shift in focus to results over process at your organization? Social Media and Recruitment Social media has caused HR and leadership to lose some control in defining the organization’s employer brand and recruitment strategy. What employees say on social media about their experiences working at that organization will be seen by prospective employees. Job candidates may contact non-HR personnel on LinkedIn to ask for an interview. Everyone is increasingly accessible to everyone and all employees are now brand ambassadors. While that may scare you, it’s great for HR managers who are hoping to recruit non-traditional candidates. What do HR practitioners need to consider when utilizing social media as a recruitment channel? Adopting New Tech The most pressing technology challenge most in the room were facing was how to train more seasoned employees on constantly changing technologies. Some employees don’t want to learn something new when they believe it’s only going to change again, or that the way they were doing it was just fine. Managers are also observing a gap in enthusiasm between the different generations in the workforce on that issue. How can HR provide appropriate support for employees with various technical skill levels? Should employees be given choice in what new technologies they adopt? Millennial Power Shift There is already a power shift towards the millennial generation in the workforce. Many of them are now managers, and are even managing baby boomers. In general, they value understanding how what they do directly impacts the mission. Has your organization struggled to adapt to millennial employees? And, what are some ways to that HR can help employees from different generations work well together? One thing was abundantly clear in this session: a lot is changing in the Federal workforce and we cannot continue to rely on old assumptions about how work gets done. What trends or...

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Analytics.usa.gov and Federal Human Capital

Posted by on Mar 23, 2015 in Analytics, Human Resources | 0 comments

As part of Sunshine Week, the General Services Administration’s 18F Team unveiled a new real-time analytics dashboard at https://analytics.usa.gov/ that, according to the site “provides a window into how people are interacting with the government online.” Already, experts are gathering insights from the data that will both inform improvements to Federal customer service and shape the next generation of open data initiatives and dashboards to support data-driven decisions across the Federal government. By now, you might be wondering, why someone with an interest in human capital, leadership development, and organization development is blogging about a web traffic analytics platform. And, when I first stumbled on the site, while I found it interesting in the “I’m a data nerd sort of way,” it wasn’t until I read the blog on how the site was built that I connected the dots. The dashboard is completely open source, uses publically-available data (that can be downloaded directly from the page) on commercial platforms (Google Analytics, Amazon S3, and Amazon CloudFront), and was built in 2-3 weeks. In an environment that is, at times, criticized for inefficiency, unnecessary bureaucracy, and being behind the times, the 18F Team and their partners in the Digital Analytics Program demonstrate how unique approaches to organizing and managing work can foster innovation, even in large Federal Agencies like GSA. Here are a few characteristics of the 18F Team that could be adopted in other agencies to help drive innovation: Leverage diverse skill sets and backgrounds – the 18F team is a group of “doers recruited from the most innovative corners of industry and the public sector.” Having multiple perspectives and backgrounds on the team contributes to creativity, helps solve difficult problems, and builds a sense of inclusion that fosters sharing. Find people who are passionate about the mission – Along with multiple perspectives, the 18F Team is united around a shared passion for driving efficiency, transparency, and savings for government agencies. Passion builds commitment and energy that can increase engagement, discretionary effort, and encourage productive risk taking. Look for quick wins and build on them later – The team acknowledges that analytics.usa.gov is just the first step and that the lessons they learn and feedback they get as the public interacts with the data will improve future dashboard products. Finding ways to rapidly introduce change that include a plan for gathering and exploiting lessons learned can be a strong springboard for larger innovation and change efforts. Build from areas of strength – The analytics platform uses existing technologies, initiatives, and capabilities within GSA to provide a new way of interacting with the public and improving agency decisions. Every agency has pockets of excellence and strengths that can serve as a platform for experimentation and evolutionary (rather than revolutionary) change. Building from strength increases the likelihood of success while at the same time celebrating what’s going well within the agency. The success of the 18F Team and analytics.usa.gov (which is only one of the team’s projects) provides a great model for innovation in Federal agencies. What other lessons learned do you see in the roll out of this new...

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Considerations for Building a Strong Coaching Culture

Posted by on Mar 12, 2015 in Coaching & Mentoring, Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

So you’re thinking about bringing coaching into your organization, but not sure where to start. How do you know what kind of coaching is right? What are you willing to do to make it work? Three coaching modalities are most prominent within organizations, including: External coaches Internal coaches Managers/leaders using coaching skills According to a recent joint report by the International Coach Federation and the Human Capital Institute, Building a Coaching Culture, organizations with strong coaching cultures seek to develop a combination of all three of these modalities that uniquely suit the context of their organization. When combined in the right proportion to fit the culture, engagement and performance improve compared to non-coaching cultures. Why the distinctions matter. The more training you have in coaching skills, the easier it becomes to work with someone in a way that seeks their input (not just give your own directives) for bringing out the best in themselves. I can’t count the number of seasoned professionals I’ve known who, after going through an Accredited Coach Training Program, have said to me “All this time I thought what I was doing was coaching. Now I know what coaching really is, and that’s not what I’ve been doing!” Each modality below has a different level of coaching expertise typically associated with it. If you want to build a strong coaching culture, you’ll begin to invest in building both external and internal coaching capacities. Let’s begin to explore what each modality involves, as well as their benefits and challenges, in order to generate a conversation about how you could introduce coaching into your organization using the right mix. We’ll start with the most common modalities: External Coaching: External coaches are independent professionals who are typically hired on a contract basis to work on a specific coaching program. Ask about their coaching school or level of credentialing from the International Coach Federation; they should have hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of experience. They provide an opportunity for employees to work with a well-trained, yet uninvolved third-party who supports the growth and development of the employee, in whatever direction the employee chooses to pursue. They’re not the one telling you what to work on. These coaches help you look at what is most important in any professional and personal domain, get excited about possibilities, come up with your own answers and take action. When organizations seek external coaches, individuals often question how well the external coaches understand their company culture. For the same reason, some coachees may be less trusting of external coaches, even though they are probably the most likely to maintain true client confidentiality. Internal Coaching: Internal coaches are employees of the organization, often called on to fulfill a range of HR roles and may or may not have a professional coach credential. Their position within the company provides important advantages and disadvantages. Being knowledgeable about company culture, they can provide a sense of empathy and understanding to their coachee, while also being able to spot organizational trends through working across departments and leadership levels. However, their position within the organization often raises doubts about their ability to maintain client confidentiality. They can be less expensive than external coaches though, and might be a viable way for organizations to provide coaching while building a stronger...

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Individual Talent Acquisition Skills Key to Solving the Government’s Recruiting Woes

Posted by on Mar 11, 2015 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Individual Talent Acquisition Skills Key to Solving the Government’s Recruiting Woes

On Monday, The Office of Personnel Management Director, Katherine Archuleta, revealed an ambitious, data-driven approach to “untie the knots” in Federal hiring and recruiting new employees. According to the Washington Post, “Among the problems: Hiring managers often are blocked by rigid rules from hiring talented candidates, Archuleta said. Job seekers send résumés to apply for open jobs, only to hear nothing for months, if at all. Human resources staff members, who do the bulk of hiring, are poorly trained.” As an HR professional, when I hear that HR staff members are “poorly trained,” quite a few things come to mind. First, I consider the number of management analysts (aka “343”s) in the Federal government who perform HR tasks. They often not only have no prior HR experience, but also have widely varying degrees of interest in developing deep expertise in HR. Second, I think about the HR tasks that have been transitioned to line personnel, such as hiring managers or supervisors, even though the line personnel may not yet have adequate supervisory skills for these tasks. Third, I think about the number of hiring managers and supervisors a single HR professional may be supporting. Given Director Archuleta’s remarks about “poor training,” and all of these factors, I propose that evaluation of the HR professional requires changing the professional development of HR to focus more on strategic consulting skills and less on unnecessarily rigid compliance. HR Professionals Are “Poorly Trained” Because Their Training Has Focused on Compliance Rather Than Strategy Effective training, and the HR Certification program in development at OPM, are positive steps toward to ensuring the technical competence of HR professionals and also helping non-HR Feds appreciate the great degree of technical competence HR professionals must have.  HR is not exclusively a career for friendly extroverts, as some outside the field too often see us. HR is also no longer just a field of rules, regulation, and compliance. The value HR provides now is as a strategic partner, acting as an internal consultant, supporting line personnel in meeting the talent needs. As we look at Federal staffing specialists in particular, perhaps they are “poorly trained” because the bulk of their training focuses solely on the compliance aspect of the role and not on overall talent acquisition strategy. Traditional Federal recruiting training is not developing internal staffing consulting skills and is instead too often training for a myopic compliance checkers. Shrinking Need for Tactical Skills This is not to say that compliance is not important. The reality, however, is that so much of the tactical, compliance-oriented processes within HR have been automated or passed onto hiring managers so that HR’s tactical role is ever shrinking while the need for strategies to compete in the war for talent is skyrocketing. Take for example position classification, an early step in the hiring process for a new role, as described by Jeff Neal: “The number of HR people doing job classification has dropped significantly as agencies have delegated classification authority, used standardized position descriptions and turned to automated classification systems. Those automated systems often allow a manager or HR specialist to classify a position by starting with a desired grade level and having the system produce duties statements that match the grade. This backwards approach, combined with grade level increases driven by...

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Managing the Diverse Needs of Expecting and New Parents in the Workplace

Posted by on Feb 3, 2015 in Human Resources, Leadership, Workforce Management | 1 comment

Managing the Diverse Needs of Expecting and New Parents in the Workplace

A few weeks ago, the President issued a memorandum “Modernizing Federal Leave Policies for Childbirth, Adoption and Foster Care to Recruit and Retain Talent and Improve Productivity.”  These policy changes provide greater flexibility for and support of new parents – both mothers and fathers. Such policies alone, however, cannot create a family-friendly workplace. Leaders and supervisors must take action to imbed a family-friendly culture, especially for expecting and new parents. I was visibly pregnant with my first and then second child when I interviewed for my last two jobs. I remember feeling anxious and apprehensive going in; part of me was certain that I’d be seen not as a valuable potential asset, but as an absentee manager with a steady stream of family-related reasons to be out of the office for months to come.  What I experienced is what I believe all must do.  The leaders in both organizations each had built an inclusive environment that values and supports every member of the team, including new parents and parents-to-be, so that every team member was able to contribute fully to achieving the organization’s mission. It is well known the first few years with young children can be exceedingly challenging for parents and may lead to lower productivity levels if they don’t have the organizational support to help them balance the demands of the job and their expanding family.  So what can leaders do to leverage the value of their employees who are starting or adding to their families? Here are a few tips from my leadership toolbox (and personal experience with great bosses): Be Actively and Visibly Supportive. Show enthusiasm when your team member shares the good news. Ask that person what he or she will need from you and the organization to support his or her needs. One former colleague reported that when she informed her boss, the response was, “Are you sure this is what you want?  I thought you were interested in having a career.”  She left the organization shortly thereafter. Remember It’s Family/Medical Leave, not Vacation. Recognize that new parents are recovering physically from childbirth, perhaps even major surgery.  However, many parents-to-be feel pressured to take less than the allotted 12 weeks FMLA and return to work before they or the newborn are physically or mentally ready.  Be sure to encourage your employees to take the time they need.  Prepare for work to be covered by other staff while they are on leave so they feel no anxiety or expectation to return before they are ready and able. Recognize That Men Need Time, Too. Last year we saw paternity leave hit the headlines when the starting second baseman for the NY Mets missed two games to be with his wife and newborn son – only to be criticized by local sportscasters. Although FMLA covers paternity leave, all too often our organizational cultures expect new dads to return to work a few days after the child is born – if they miss any work time at all. Not only do new dads need time to bond with their babies, but they also need to be home because their partner needs several weeks (or even months) to physically recuperate from childbirth. Beyond compliance with FMLA, leaders should encourage time off and telework arrangements for fathers. And by...

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Keep Up the Work with Federal Telework

Posted by on Jan 26, 2015 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

This month’s GSA Inspector General Report on telework does hit GSA on a previously well-served program.  But, while GSA may not be able to report on exactly how many teleworkers it has, we should not discount what is still a viable and helpful program.  Keep in mind, the Telework Enhancement Act was only enacted in 2010, so this is still a new program.  We as a Federal workforce should view this as a learning experience, make necessary changes, and move forward.  Telework is still a beneficial program for agencies and their employees. Read more about telework and the role of HR with our previous blog post, “Not Just Phoning It In: HR’s Role in Supporting Agency Telework”...

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Career Resolutions for You and Your Staff

Posted by on Jan 22, 2015 in Acquisition, Coaching & Mentoring, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Career Resolutions for You and Your Staff

Each January, we all make resolutions with varying degrees of sincerity and dedication. As we get further and further from New Year celebrations, life has a way of creeping in. Achieving lifestyle changes is not solely about exercise or dieting; it should also be about improving your professional competence and positioning yourself and/or your staff for future success. This year, why not try a different resolution? Are you an individual trying to manage your career? Resolve to focus on your career. Ask for the stretch assignment. Explore mentorship opportunities. Challenge yourself to hone current skills or learn new ones. Go for that promotion. Ask for training and professional development. Be ambitious! Get out of whatever rut you may find yourself and commit to creating and fostering a personal path to career success and an environment of learning and advancement. Perhaps you are more seasoned, and at a more advanced place in your career development. Why not investigate a certificate program; successful completion can demonstrate your knowledge and dedication.  Another possibility is getting a leadership coach or mentor.  If you’re lucky, your organization may have a formal mentorship program, but you can do it informally too.  Ask for over-the-shoulder coaching, stretch assignments, or simply discussing your career aspirations with a trusted co-workers can also make a huge difference. Are you a supervisor?  Maybe your resolution is to bolster the skillset of your direct reports.  I’m sure someone took an interest in your development—pay it forward. As the President’s FY15 Budget noted, steps are in place to “restore cuts to Federal employee training to help train, retain, and recruit a skilled and effective Federal workforce, targeting investments in employee training to common, but high-impact areas such as customer service or information technology.” This statement announces a hopeful and positive change, a return to the time-proven practice of investing in people.  Feds are again able to focus on seeking the learning and development that keeps them – and their staffs – efficient, productive, up-to-date, and effective. Career development for your personnel will enhance productivity and morale.  Smart investments in quality learning solutions will help deter the loss of high-performing Federal employees to the private sector. Identify the stepping stones that will take you – and your staff – to the next level. Recognize and reward your dedicated employees and groom them for future success in positions of greater responsibility. Don’t wait for your staff to ask for training. Identify the development opportunities that will lead them to successful performance. As a professional development and performance improvement company, clearly we value formal training. It is important to remember, however, that remaining professionally competitive doesn’t necessarily entail only classroom training. Career development is a broad mix of mentorship, coaching, challenging work assignments, support, industry association, and professional certifications that together enhance the skillsets of Federal employees. Abraham Lincoln once said “I will prepare and someday my chance will come.” Don’t leave your career or the development of your staff to chance.  Positive developments result from intentional steps toward a goal. I love to hear stories about a team finishing a challenging project or a student getting promoted.  We succeed when you succeed because we are dedicated to unleashing the potential of people, teams, and organizations.  Now, what is your resolution? Tom Dungan,...

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What to Consider When Starting a Federal Workforce Plan

Posted by on Jan 16, 2015 in Human Resources, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

To the Federal Human Capital professional: Workforce planning is must-have skill in advancing your human resources career. Even if you aren’t driving creation of your agency-level workforce planning, understanding the process and how to effectively contribute to it is critical. Even at the division level, however, the workforce planning process can appear to be a huge undertaking. To make it both manageable and effective – as well as headache free – you need to plan out your individual process before you begin. The first step is to really understand the factors that affect your plan, ask the right questions, and gather the data you need. If you do this well, you can create a high-quality plan that will positively impact the future direction of your organization. Effective workforce planning is a complex process requiring both high-level strategic analysis and seemingly incredible attention to detail; here are some essential questions to ask when getting started: Accountability What individuals will be accountable throughout the process? Budget How much budget do you have to support the plan?  How is the workforce plan integrated with the budget formulation process? Commitment Do you have the commitment of HR staff, agency leaders, and the people who control resources critical to your plan’s success? Communications What is the overall communications plan for the workforce planning effort? How will you deliver communications to different stakeholders? Controls What tools will shape long-term strategic management of the workforce plan? What infrastructure and controls are needed to support agency transformation? Coordination How will you coordinate internal departments impacted by the plan, such as IT and finance? In large agencies, how will your plan be coordinated with sub-agency workforce plans? Infrastructure What systems and tools will be needed for implementation? What staff skills and training will you need to use them? Policies Will you need to create or update existing policies to support implementation of your plan? Process Improvement How does you workforce plan link to other efforts to improve business processes? Stakeholders Who will have an interest in the success of your workforce plan?  How will it impact individuals at every level of the organization? Timing It can take up to six months to complete all phases of a workforce plan. How will you integrate that process into the agency’s annual planning cycle? Share these insights with your team and download the guide Workforce Planning: Getting Started.  To be even better prepared, consider taking training in Federal Workforce...

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Career Pathing: The Magnificent Seven of Program Development

Posted by on Dec 22, 2014 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 0 comments

In the Federal Government, career pathing identifies the required competencies, proficiency levels, and General Schedule grades for roles so that employees, their supervisors, and human resource leaders alike can determine transferrable skills, developmental needs and solutions, and potential career movement opportunities including promotion readiness, lateral moves, and other opportunities.” Developing a career pathing program in Federal agencies is best done as simply as possible. In most cases, that means piloting the program with a few Mission Critical Occupations (MCOs) with overlapping competencies. Even when keeping it simple, however, developing the program requires a rather broad, diverse team. I like to think of these as the “Magnificent Seven of Career Pathing:” The Human Resources Executive Sponsor –the senior most HR person associated with the project. They act as the intra-HR champion corralling resources and intervening with the customer as necessary. The HR executive sponsor also ensures the goals of the project are clearly articulated and aligned with the agency’s human capital strategic goals. Without an HR executive sponsor, the development program will likely be perceived as low priority and will never gain traction as team members address higher priority tasks. The Client Sponsor – a senior member of the customer team who believes in the value of the program and is willing to act as the executive sponsor. At its core, a career pathing project is a change effort and requires an executive sponsor on the client side like every change effort. The Executive Sponsor must be able to explain the importance of the project and, like the human resources executive sponsor, link it to specific agency goals. Without a Client Sponsor, functional managers are unlikely to make time for the project nor to give their direct reports time to devote to it. Functional Managers – frontline or senior managers who manage the people performing the occupations included in the career pathing model. These managers help to select the competencies and to set the leveling. They also provide insight into the future requirements that those performing the work might not yet have visibility to. Without Functional Managers, the status quo will be defined as the desired future state instead of using this opportunity to shape the level of competency required to fully perform the work. Position Classification Specialists – who can confirm that the career pathing work does not have any unintended consequences on job classification. Without the position classification review, the career pathing model could create a perception of inconsistent grading of roles with all the resulting consequences for salary and labor agreement compliance. Employees in the Selected Occupations – who actually perform the work. Employees provide valuable insight into what they actually do, how frequently, and the downstream consequences if the work is performed poorly. There is frequently a disconnect between what the employee does and what the manager believes they do or should do. This requires diagnosis by the HR project team. Without the employees, the career pathing model would reflect the perception of the managers without any check against the realities of the work. Information Technology – who provide support for any systems needs for the project itself as well as for the customer-facing career pathing solution, if needed. Career pathing projects frequently rely on survey tools, knowledge management tools, and other IT solutions. Moreover, career...

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Optimizing the HR Function: How the HR Generalist Drives Efficiency

Posted by on Nov 24, 2014 in Human Resources | 0 comments

A few years ago, I was supporting a major defense contractor in restructuring their HR organization. A key component was developing a bright line between the Human Resources Business Partners (HRBP) and the Human Resources Generalists (HRG). Despite clear definitions of the roles, a leader in one of the divisions insisted that “all my HR staff are strategic business partners.” His principle was that everyone in HR is strategic and everyone partners with the business even if indirectly. On some levels I agree with him. Every HR professional can be strategic and we all contribute to mission results. My issue, however, is the underlying assumption that HRGs are by definition junior in both hierarchy and contribution to HRBPs. This thinking undermines the specialized skills and technical knowledge it takes to be an effective HRG. Being a senior HR Generalist should not be seen as merely a stepping stone to an HRBP role. Certainly being an HRBP and solving organizational problems with senior leaders from other functions is a logical career path for some, but Federal agencies also need more specialized HRGs to run the business of HR itself. HRGs drive efficiency and innovation across a wide variety of HR programs as well as within the HR organization itself. Many of the human capital management issues highlighted by the GAO will be solved within the HR organization and are best done by senior HRGs who understand the systems, processes, and regulations of Federal HR with a great deal of depth. To address the issues in the GAO report, HRGs should drive improvement in three key areas: Workforce planning: Build a culture of competencies: Develop a competency-based human performance culture as a foundation for the entire human capital lifecycle. HRGs drive the linkages of the competencies from recruitment through performance management, development, and succession. Close the gaps more efficiently. Administer systems to assess progress in closing gaps in the critical skills and competencies and analyze the systems themselves to identify opportunities to improve the process and the tools. Integrate succession planning. Work across the HR organization to assess and improve succession plans for leadership and other critical positions, as well as the succession planning process itself. Performance Management: Improve the performance of the performance management process. Use objective performance information to track progress toward achieving organizational priorities, and also to assess the return-on-investment (ROI) of performance improvement programs. Focus on critical roles. Monitor and analyze performance gaps critical to achieving organizational priorities and hold individuals responsible for making progress on their priorities. Ensure strategic alignment to the individual contributor level. Align individual performance to the agency’s strategic goals. Every individual’s goals should align with agency strategic goals and HRGs should run spot check senior leaders’ goals down to the individual contributor level goals (e.g., on IDPs) to identify areas of misalignment. Recruiting and Hiring: Create and integrate the employer brand. Define your employer brand. Every agency has its own employer brand whether intentional or accidental. Shape the brand as a tool for recruitment and hiring then ensure it is reinforced across the entire human capital lifecycle to retain and engage employees, especially highly specialized and hard-to-fill positions. Automate the process. Identify opportunities to automate hiring process to prescreen, rate, rank applicants, and drive efficiency through entrance on duty. Measure quality, not just...

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2014 NAPA Fall Meeting Focuses on the Future of Public Administration

Posted by on Nov 13, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Management Concepts will be participating in the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) 2014 Fall Meeting taking place November 13, 2014 in Crystal City, Va. Management Concepts is an Academy patron-level sponsor and the event’s focus is on “Public Administration 2025 – How will Government Adapt?” The event’s theme aligns with our view that the government in the next ten years will look drastically different than how it looks today. With technology, priorities, and the workforce changing considerably, the government must remain agile enough to seamlessly adapt to provide citizens with a high level of service and transparency. The Academy’s esteemed speaker faculty will bring an informative and innovative look to where government is going and how it will adapt to a rapidly changing environment. Management Concepts president, Stephen L. Maier, will join the Academy leadership in providing opening remarks to kick off the day’s events. Speakers will include: The Honorable Katherine Archuleta, Director, Office of Personnel Management Reginald F. Wells, Deputy Commissioner for Human Resources and Chief Human Capital Officer, Office of Human Resources, Social Security Administration The Honorable Beth Cobert, Deputy Director for Management, Office of Management and Budget The Honorable Dan Tangherlini, Administrator, General Services Administration The Honorable Robert F. Hale, Former Under Secretary (Comptroller) and Chief Financial Officer, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense We all know that organizations are better positioned to meet their missions when they have the support and dedication of an engaged, motivated, creative, innovative, and collaborative workforce that finds ways to exceed the demands of their job and organization. Transforming an organization to achieve this success requires proactive assessment and planning, consistent and holistic opportunities for workforce growth, and sustained support of people and programs. Change will be transformative, introducing new risks, but more importantly new opportunities and a chance for a restored public confidence in...

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Does Anyone Look at Those End-of-Course Evaluations Anyway?

Posted by on Nov 12, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 2 comments

When you complete an evaluation, do you ever wonder if anyone actually looks at your responses? Do companies take your feedback seriously and make changes based on what you have to say? If they are asking for your feedback, they should review it and take action when warranted. Anyone who has taken one of Management Concepts training courses knows there will be an end-of-course evaluation to complete. Why? It’s good practice to collect students’ feedback on courses they’ve just taken. We collect feedback about the learning experience including the quality and usefulness of the course materials, the instructor’s facilitation skills, and the extent to which the facilities were an appropriate learning environment. In addition to getting feedback on various aspects of their experience, the end-of-course evaluation serves another purpose. We can collect information such as: How confident students are that they can apply what they learned back on the job The degree to which the training will improve their job performance The degree to which the training was a worthwhile investment in their career development In case you’ve wondered if anyone at Management Concepts actually looks at your completed evaluations, the answer is yes. Actually, lots of people at Management Concepts read the evaluations and it drives much of the work we do to create professional development programs. Of course we love hearing about positive student experiences, but we also need to hear about the negative ones. How else can we improve? We use both the quantitative and qualitative feedback you provide to make informed decisions about possible improvements. Here is a sampling of how different stakeholder groups within our organization use your feedback to improve your learning experience: Instructional Designers who create the courses and are always looking for ways to improve the experience Instructors/Facilitators who look for ways to improve their delivery and teaching approach Resourcing Staff who schedule the instructors/facilitators and want to ensure the best delivery of each course Logistics Staff who coordinate the course delivery and  want to ensure the course materials are complete and where they need to be when they are needed Learning Technologists who produce online courses and materials and are looking for ways to improve the online learning experience Facilities Staff who want to ensure a clean and inviting environment Customer Service Staff who help students with registering for courses and want to ensure a positive experience Administrators who review the data to ensure we are in compliance with Continuing Education requirements Executives who oversee all these areas and use the information in short- and long-term planning and want to ensure we meet needs and exceed expectations All of these groups work together to ensure your learning experience is valuable and enjoyable. Your responses help us know when to update courses, what new courses are needed, which instructors are most effective, which technologies add the most value, and what types of learning environments are most effective. So, next time you are asked to complete an end-of-course evaluation, make sure you do. We want to hear from...

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Federal Workforce Trends Not So Scary When You Have a Plan

Posted by on Oct 31, 2014 in Coaching & Mentoring, Human Resources, Workforce Management | 0 comments

As GAO reported in its February 2013 High Risk update, agencies must integrate strategic human capital planning with broader organizational strategic planning  to develop the talent, skill, and experience mix required to cost- effectively execute mission and program goals. Most critical to the strategic human capital plan is the workforce planning that informs it. Workforce planning has become so increasingly complex in the Federal Government, however, that it’s scarier than Freddy Kruger reading you a bedtime story. Why is it complex? Invasion of the Boomer Snatchers: 31 percent of Feds will be eligible to retire by 2017, taking with them vast institutional knowledge, networks, and technical expertise. Experts have been expecting the retirement wave since 2012, but both a downgrade in economic circumstances and an upgrade in physical well-being have led to many Boomers working longer than they had initially planned. Once their boomerang children finally move out and their portfolios recover from The Great Recession, however, boomers are going to want to spend their time enjoying their retirement. A mass exodus is very difficult challenge in workforce planning. Including Phased Retirement programs as part of your workforce plan may be your secret weapon in combatting the brain drain. The Skills Changeling:  The skills needed in Government are changing. The GAO reports “an increase in employment from 2004 to 2012 occurred within occupational categories that require higher skill and educational levels.” This trend is expected to continue as demand for professional occupations (e.g., doctors and scientists) and administrative occupations (e.g., financial and program managers) increases. Add to that cyber and the face of the Federal workforce is changing more quickly than ever before. HR professionals must not only account for the change in the workforce plan, but also consider how recruiting and retention needs may change. Pennywise: The private sector has not been clowning around with salary increases and the Federal Government has not been keeping up, increasing the war for talent. According to Mercer’s 2014/2015 US Compensation Planning Survey, the average raise in base pay is expected to be 3.0% in 2015, up slightly from 2.9% in 2014, 2.8% in 2013 and 2.7% in 2012. According to the GAO, “Spending on total government-wide compensation for each full-time equivalent (FTE) position grew by an average of 1.2 percent per year…  In terms of employee pay per FTE, spending rose at an average annual rate of 1 percent per year.” Certainly, civil servants aren’t in it for the money, but total rewards matter. More than ever managers need to find non-monetary ways to motivate and reward employees. The Incredible Shrinking Government: Government has had to do more with less for some time now and that trend will continue. BLS projects that the size of the Federal workforce will drop by another 13 percent over the next nine years. The United States population, however, is expected to continue to increase at about 0.77% a year, which is about 9% over the next nine years. The Federal Government will have fewer employees servicing more customers. This makes it imperative that HR has a workforce plan that has the right skills and the right mix of employees to maximize efficiency. Child’s Play: The millennials aren’t children anymore and have their own unique generational identity. Millennials like Government work and value service, but they also...

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Effective Mentoring as Part of Phased Retirement: HR’s Role

Posted by on Oct 24, 2014 in Coaching & Mentoring, Human Resources, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Implementing OPM’s Phased Retirement program creates a powerful opportunity for HR to drive value and productivity through an agency mentoring program. Moreover, according to OPM, “the main purpose of Phased Retirement is to enhance the mentoring and training of the employees who will be filling the positions or taking on the duties of more experienced retiring employees.” Federal HR professionals can rise to the challenge through a structured process for implementing the mentoring program. Although OPM has yet to write implementation guidance for the mentoring component of the Phased Retirement program beyond that it must be 20% of the retirees’ time, agency HR leaders can step up to help their agencies realize the value that Congress intended of the program. HR leaders should: Make Phased Retirement Mentoring a Part of the Overall Human Capital Strategy In general, mentoring program design starts with defining the objectives of the program. In the case of Phased Retirements, however, decisions must first be made about how the agency implements Phased Retirement mentoring into the existing human capital strategy and aligns to any already developed mentoring programs. HR professionals should consider: How Phased Retirement will be integrated in existing plans such as succession plans; Whether there are efficiencies to be gained by aligning with other programs; and Whether the program be used to “pass the baton” to one person or prepare multiple people for new roles. Phased Retirement mentoring should not stand alone, but rather should be part of your overall strategy. Define the Objectives through the Lens of Phased Retirement I believe the key question is “What will the agency lose when the retirees leave”? Answer that and your primary objectives become clear. Traditional mentoring programs, such as the program at EPA, often focus on a broad range of topics such as building and retaining a well-rounded cadre of employees as well as improving communication and collaboration across organization lines. These programs are not designed to address the loss of employees. With a Phased Retirement program, the mentoring program may need to focus more on knowledge transfer more than the “softer” skills required to the job. A program focused on knowledge transfer will look very different from a traditional mentoring program such as those designed to enculturate new employees. Design the Program Using Multiple Mentoring Methods What is the universe of mentoring solutions available to meet the objectives? One-on-one mentoring is only one possible component of the mentoring program. Phased retirees, who work half-time, will spend 20% of their time – about a half day a week – on mentoring. This is a lot more time than participants in most mentoring programs allot for program activities. As such, HR has an opportunity to rethink mentoring based on the objectives. Some mentors may have multiple mentees. Group mentoring may also be beneficial. Consider using panel discussions, online discussion boards, and other methods to broaden the reach of the program beyond a one-on-one relationship. You may also want to consider having mentors work with mentees in entirely different departments or roles to help break down organizational silos or develop lateral career move opportunities for mentees. Design the Management for Success After you have a program design, you need to determine the level of effort required to support the program. How many hours of HR’s time...

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Help Your Federal Team Hit More Home Runs

Posted by on Oct 23, 2014 in Analytics, Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

According to a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), performance information’s effect on Federal managers’ decision-making has remained largely unchanged in six years. Despite the increase in the amount, variety, and availability of performance data and analytics tools to drive decisions, performance data’s promise in the Federal Government has not yet been realized. There are many theories as to why this is the case, but I would argue that the shift to data-driven decisions in the Federal Government requires disruption of the mental models most commonly used in making decisions. Despite the Nats’ absence from the World Series this year, Major League Baseball serves as a great example of how disrupting a mental model may enable a leader to improve decision-making and organizational performance. One recent revolution in the baseball world is the now-accepted practice of applying empiricism and analytics to performance data, to drive strategy and tactics. Analytics helps baseball executives find hidden value in player effectiveness and situational game tactics that lead to the ultimate criteria of success: wins on the field. The rise of this new field — Sabermetrics — pioneered by Bill James, has been well-documented in Michael Lewis’s 2003 book-turned-movie, Moneyball. Embracing this approach — gathering data and performing analysis to determine what skills and behaviors contribute to wins on the field — is one of the things that help teams from smaller markets bring greater competitive parity to the game. For over a century, baseball talent evaluators relied on conventional wisdom to assess players using generally accepted criteria regarding the “5-Tools” of baseball: running speed, arm strength, hitting for average, hitting for power, and fielding. During a player’s early career, scouts would assess all players on these traditional success criteria. Usually these assessments were made simply by watching the players perform. Little effort was made to systematically gather data in a way that permits players to be compared. Despite these haphazard attempts to measure raw skills, some players who excelled on the 5-Tools metrics were not able to perform under game conditions to produce wins. This indicates that while raw tools were important, they were inadequate as sole predictors of success. In addition, baseball’s conventional wisdom — informally referred to as “the Book” — around game tactics: when to bunt, steal a base, position the defense for certain hitters, and even make player substitutions has relied on time worn, but not necessarily rigorously tested presumptions about what actually produced wins. By asking the same questions for over a century, baseball scouts and executives relied on consistent criteria, analyzed in the same way, to make player assessments. Over the last 15 years, more focused measurement, the rise of behavioral economics, and the improved willingness and ability to perform statistical analysis are testing these assumptions and causing new wisdom to be applied to baseball. This approach is yielding greater insights into what skills, behaviors, and tactics lead to team wins. While 15 years ago very few teams would have been aware of or invested in this approach to discovering and benefitting from objective truths about baseball, now every team has staff dedicated to measurement and video and statistical analysis to identify and leverage a winning edge. By scouts and executives shifting their viewpoint, asking different questions, measuring performance differently, and then performing analysis on the data they measured, they...

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Hedgehogs, Foxes, and the Future of Federal Workforce Planning

Posted by on Oct 17, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

As reported by the GAO in July 2014, the Federal Government has a pronounced need to create more agile talent management capabilities to address inflexibilities in current systems. How can the Federal Government accomplish this? It’s not about the systems themselves, but rather about the approach to Federal workforce planning. Most agencies plan like a hedgehog, but they need to plan like a fox.  Not following the animal references? Greek poet Archilochus of Paros wrote: “The fox knows many things; the hedgehog one big thing.” He was describing: The fox – who knows many things, draws from an eclectic array of traditions, and is better able to adapt to changing events; and The hedgehog – who knows one big thing, locks in on one tradition and imposes rote solutions to even ill-defined problems. This concept – of depth versus breadth, of strength versus flexibility, of innovation versus efficiency – describes the trade-offs we make in a variety of settings from predicting election results (as described by statistician Nate Silver) to making business decisions (as described by Wharton professor Philip Tetlock). It also applies to two competing approaches to workforce planning: Building a staff primarily with individuals with deep expertise about your organization’s core offerings like the hedgehog; or Filling out your workforce with people who have moderate amounts of expertise in a wide variety of areas like the fox. So, who is better at workforce planning, the fox or the hedgehog? Like so many other choices, it depends on the environment. In an environment that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA), plan like a fox. In a recent HBR blog, John Boudreau asserts that in VUCA conditions, the best approach to workforce planning is to envision the many possible futures the organization must plan for and build a strategic workforce plan that provides the most flexibility to meet the broadest set of potential future scenarios. Boudreau suggests that the best workforce plan is likely to diversify your talent, building several different talent arrays that are each well-suited to a different future scenario, building a skillful mix of talent that provides flexibility, adaptability, and resilience to respond to a changing environment. But what if you have high certainty about the future environment? The hedgehog reigns when your agency has a singular, defined view of the workforce needed to execute their agency strategic plan. For example, in the event of a global pandemic, the CDC may develop a workforce plan neglecting other priorities and focusing on a workforce to address the pandemic. If a global pandemic occurs, that approach to planning would be logical given the scarcity of resources. Such scenarios may seem extreme – and they are because the only thing most Federal agencies can safely predict is uncertainty. Nonetheless, many Federal organizations take “hedgehog” approach through default rather than intent: building their workforce based solely on achieving the strategic plan under current conditions with no allowance for changes to the environment in which the strategic plan is to be executed. This has resulted in inflexible talent management practices and systems that cannot easily adapt to ever changing needs, as highlighted in GAO’s finding that the Federal Government’s“talent management tools lack two key ingredients for developing an agile workforce.” With continued volatility in the Federal labor market, rethinking the...

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Forget the Knowledge Management System: Mentoring as Knowledge Transfer

Posted by on Oct 14, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 1 comment

Forget the Knowledge Management System: Mentoring as Knowledge Transfer

Ah, the perpetual threat of the Federal retirement wave. First, experts predicted it would come down on us like a “tsunami” in 2012.  Then it didn’t for reasons described by other experts (including myself). Now it’s expected to “skyrocket” in 2017. The good news is that the Federal Government has time to prepare for the brain-drain of boomer retirements. Sounds like a great reason for a large technology project resulting in a shiny new knowledge management system, right? The simple answer is NO. Workers would rather get information from colleagues and often ignore databases, portals, and electronic repositories. So, does that mean we can rest easy and assume a haphazard process simply of individuals conversing with colleagues in the lunch room will preempt the problem? That’s also a negative. To prevent “brain drain” before it occurs, agencies should create mentoring programs specifically for knowledge transfer from potential retirees to individuals likely to do their roles or tasks in the future. These programs, however, must be distinct from traditional mentoring programs. Mentoring for knowledge transfer is essentially different from traditional mentoring in that there is a more emphasis on practical application with less emphasis on enculturation and building networks and the interpersonal relationship between mentor and mentee is far less critical. As agencies build differentiated mentoring programs, it’s important to understand how knowledge transfer programs are the same as and different from traditional mentoring programs. Let’s start with how they are the same. Both traditional and knowledge transfer mentoring programs require: Clear Objectives and Measurement: The more formal the program is, the more likely it is to meet program objectives. Both traditional and knowledge-transfer mentoring programs should have formal objectives at both the program and individual relationship and be measured as closely to real-time as possible. Moreover, both types of mentoring programs should have structured mentoring plans for each mentor/mentee relationship. Finally, both programs should be monitored to ensure the mentors and mentees are meeting program objectives. Visual Commitment of Leaders: Mentoring takes time out of the participants’ day. This time is only as important as the individual believes it is. The best way to ensure individuals believe mentoring is important is for leadership to demonstrate its importance. This means that leadership should be involved in sending communications about the program, reporting to the organization on the program’s success, and participating in the program itself. Training on How to be a Mentor and Mentee: According to a study by Clutterbuck Associates, “Without any training at all, less than one in three pairings will deliver significant results for either party. Training mentors alone raises the success rate to around 65%. Training and educating line managers about the program pushed the success rate above 90%, with both parties reporting substantial gains.” Regardless of whether your program is traditional or knowledge transfer, training both the mentor and the mentee is critical to getting a positive return on the agency’s investment. And here’s how knowledge transfer programs differ from traditional mentoring programs: Focus on the Job, Not the Individual: Knowledge transfer mentoring should focus on practical application of job skills – both technical skills and the relationships you need to get the job done. Whereas as traditional mentoring can focus on developing the mentee as a whole person and across competencies, knowledge transfer is...

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The Value of Project Management Skills and Roles in Federal IT Projects

Posted by on Oct 7, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Despite the technical improvements made in many Federal IT programs, the Federal IT workforce often still lacks the foundational project management skills necessary for project and program success. Time and again, we see large-scale projects fail. However, with the right project management training, skills, and tools, IT projects can yield effective results. Leadership, communication, understanding of contracts, and the balance of schedule and cost are necessary for project participants to move beyond their assigned tasks and work to solve project-level challenges and achieve overall project success. Skills That Are Fundamental to Success First and foremost, to increase the odds of success, Federal IT staff need a set of foundational project management skills that extend beyond each individual’s own technical proficiencies, including: Project Management: The ability to manage complex projects, lead project teams, develop strategic plans and identify, validate, and manage the business and system requirements of a project. Leadership: Being able to effectively motivate oneself and others to achieve optimal results to move the organization beyond the status quo and achieve goals. Communications: Thinking independently in strategic, systemic, conceptual, creative, and critical ways to offer innovative solutions and make more effective decisions. Financial Management: Understanding how to work more effectively across functional areas and improve accountability, transparency, and performance. Acquisition and Contracting: Learning relevant and practical content on government-wide acquisition and contracting regulations and best practices to improve project performance. These skills are not intrinsic to the technical competencies that Federal IT employees possess. Thus, additional training is often needed. A Case for Project Management Training A willingness to understand and work toward the strategic (not just operational) mission is important to achieving a project’s initiatives. This can be nurtured through comprehensive and effective training. In 2011, the Federal Government CIO Council surveyed the Federal IT workforce with over 12,000 employee respondents. A summary of that survey shows that current top skills of Federal IT employees don’t always align with the individual and organizational training topics needed to succeed. According to the survey, current skills included desktop applications, systems support and helpdesk, network operating systems, and information management. In contrast, network security, contracting/procurement, administrations management, and leadership were among the training needs that were lacking. The data showed that insufficient training in communications, analysis, and procurement (all part of a foundational IT project management curriculum) is detrimental to an IT project. It is the collective skillset of the project team that can ultimately determine the project’s success. Bringing It All Together: The Role of the Executive SponsorAnother significant key to success is the involvement of an executive sponsor, yet they are not always present on every government program. As Jordan Sims argued in a recent Federal Times article, programs fare better when there is an active and engaged executive sponsor who supports project and program managers in aligning objectives to the organization’s overall strategy. According to PMI, there are five critical actions of an executive sponsor: Remove roadblocks. Help the team understand the alignment of the project or program to the organization’s strategy. Champion the project or program. Add resources when appropriate. Act quickly to resolve issues. These actions ultimately result in the creation of an environment where project and program managers are empowered to manage and lead effectively and dynamically. One example of the power of an executive...

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It’s Time for Your Fiscal New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by on Sep 25, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions dates back more than 4,000 years to the ancient Babylonians who made promises to earn favor of the gods and start the new year off right. Today, most New Year’s resolutions represent a chance for individuals to set goals, establish their focus for the coming year, and chart a course to self-improvement and success for the next 365 days. With the end of the Federal Government’s Fiscal Year upon us, I thought it might be a great time to think about another set of New Year’s resolutions — resolutions focused on improving the performance of your Federal Agency in Fiscal Year 2015. Here are a few hints to help you focus your thinking around performance when crafting resolutions for the New Fiscal Year: Use available data to identify areas in need of improvement Most Federal agencies have a great deal of data that could inform decisions on investments for professional development. Whether it’s the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) or enrollment data from the agency’s learning management system, take a look at trends in satisfaction, engagement, or participation as indicators of areas in need of improvement. Align with your agency’s strategic plan Thanks to the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), all agencies have a set of identified strategic objectives and initiatives. Those things represent the priorities for the agency and provide a roadmap for any performance improvement investment. Review your agency goals and objectives for FY 2015 on your agency website or at performance.gov and think critically about how your resolution aligns with your agencies’ strategic plan and priorities. Examine the composition of the workforce Much has been written about the number of Federal employees who are, or will soon become retirement eligible. With a renewed focus on implementing phased retirement, now is a good time to take a look at the potential critical competency gaps your agency may face if individuals begin to retire. Use what you know about mission critical job functions to build a progressive succession planning and workforce development strategy that you can begin implementing in the coming FY. Review data on existing programs OPM requires organizations to collect participant evaluation data on training courses and programs. Review the feedback you are getting from agency personnel on the quality of the training they receive and how relevant the training is to their job requirements. Look for common themes and suggested areas of improvement that can be addressed by refreshing and expanding the development opportunities your agency offers. The close of the fiscal year is a busy time with the last minute push to obligate expiring funds, planning for the new fiscal year, and continuing to provide high quality services to constituents. But, don’t forget to make time to do something new and different in the next year.  So, what will you resolve to do in the new Fiscal Year to improve employee and organization...

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Motivation: Using the Right “Carrots” to Reaffirm Valuable Contributions

Posted by on Sep 19, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

A Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) study released in 2013 revealed that a mere 21% of Federal employees feel their job has the potential to be highly motivating. In other words, 79% of employees feel little-to-no reason to be motivated based on their jobs. To be clear — this is not about whether employees want to do their jobs, it’s whether employees think their jobs present particularly motivating factors: “Does my job come with good ‘carrots’?” Motivation is critical for engagement, but with limited budgets and a shrinking workforce, how can your agency drive motivation and increase productivity? What are the “carrots” that you can use to incentivize employees to give their best and know that it counts? This is an area where any management team can benefit from strong human resource analytics. Recent data tell us that money is not the only thing that employees care about. In fact, when it comes to our jobs, a number of non-monetary rewards can be powerful motivators. The same MSPB study revealed that Federal employees care more about nonmonetary rewards than monetary rewards. Factors such as being included in important agency decisions and being able to serve the public outranked bonuses and opportunity for advancement. Behavioral economist Dan Ariely (current professor at Duke University and cofounder of BEworks) has volumes of research that explain this. His research has demonstrated the fact that meaning is a powerful motivator and drives productivity in the workplace. (See this TED talk for a few examples.) Although Federal leaders may worry that the inability to give large monetary bonuses in Government diminishes Federal employees’ motivation, Ariely’s research also posits that we can rely on large monetary bonuses to drive activity — but not necessarily productivity. That is, bonuses let people know their employer expects more, but it doesn’t necessarily make them work smarter, contribute better ideas, or innovate agency processes. To drive performance with limited workforce and shrinking budgets, choose carefully the “carrots” you’ll put on the end of the employment stick. Creative non-monetary rewards can go a long way, so what are some ways you can ensure your rewards programs are optimally effective? Here are some tips to en sure your “carrots” can boost the motivation potential of working in your agency and drive performance: Link rewards to effort. Employees work best when they believe their effort is strongly correlated with the potential for a reward, something fewer than 30% of government employees currently believe. For example, an employee needs to know that additional effort that yields a strong product that aligns beautifully with agency goals will be acknowledged and received in a more positive light than a less amount of effort that “gets the job done” but just barely satisfies an agency goal. Communicate candidly about rewards. Whether monetary or non-monetary, make sure employees know what rewards are available and how one can receive them. OPM provides a list of awards for Federal employees. Be aware of what they are and how to nominate a deserving employee, teammate, or leader. Depending on the type of reward and the context, use a variety of channels. Flyers in the break room are appropriate for some; for others, you may want to distribute detailed summaries along with performance review packets. Target only high performance. Avoid having rewards...

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How to Make Training “Stick”

Posted by on Sep 10, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

As summer is ending and kids are going back to school, I was thinking about ways to get the most out of learning. While there are many reasons for attending a training class, most of us take training to meet a certification requirement, or because we need to improve/expand our skills. Just like we tell our kids to do in school, we know that during training, it’s important to take good notes, interact positively with our instructor and classmates, and pay attention to the lessons that are covered. Doing these things will get you through the course just fine. But, to make sure you get the most out of your learning opportunity, there are three easy things you can do before, during, and after training to make sure it “sticks.” Before – Take time to prepare. In addition to having your supervisor approve your training request, you should also spend a few minutes talking to your supervisor about why you need to attend the training. Specifically, review the course objectives with your supervisor and make plans for how you will apply the training once back on the job. If you have an Individual Development Plan (IDP), then the training you are planning to take should be linked directly to a topic or skill on your IDP.If there are specific questions you or supervisor have about the topic or skill, or areas you are struggling with, make a list to share with the instructor. Good instructors will start the class by asking you what you hope to get out of the training. Then, they’ll know which areas to emphasize and which areas will have most meaning for the students. Your instructor and fellow classmates have a wealth of knowledge and varied experiences, and most instructors welcome the opportunity for questions and debate during class! During – Create an action plan. We all know you either “use it or lose it.” Some training courses end with having students develop an action plan. The purpose of this, of course, is to document ways in which you will apply what you learned on the job. This is an important step in helping training “stick.”Mastering the skills you learned in training will take time and practice. Be sure to complete the action plan with things you want to remember and/or apply back on the job. Set goals for yourself and identify a strategy for achieving those goals. Even if you aren’t working on a current project that relates to the training, find a way to get involved with one. Maybe you can take on a small assignment or join a project team at work. Alternatively, maybe there’s a way to practice what you’ve learned in your personal life – plan a party to practice your project management skills, volunteer at your kids’ school, or get involved in a professional or community group to practice your leadership skills. After – Reinforce what you learned. Once you have completed your action plan and left the training facility, it can be easy to get caught up in other priorities, deadlines, and fire drills at work. But, this is the time to put what you learned into action. Here are a few easy tips: Keep your action plan in a place that you can see everyday Create job...

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Workforce Planning Is Key to a High-Performing Future Agency

Posted by on Aug 22, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

The Federal Government’s most valued resource is its people. At a time when the Government faces what the GAO describes as a “period of profound transition,” management of human resources within the Government has become a key driver of not only achieving mission today but also of positioning agencies to be ready to achieve missions in the future. Despite advances in human capital management in the Federal Government, strategic human capital management has been designated by the GAO as government-wide high-risk area since 2001. Last year the GAO added “Human resources specialist” to its list of “Mission Critical Occupations.”  Despite this, however, human capital management often begins after the organization-wide strategic planning takes place, which prevents using human capital information to inform the overall strategic plan. Moreover, it inhibits the organization’s most powerful tool in optimizing the workforce — and in optimizing the organization: workforce planning. Why is workforce planning HR’s most powerful tool? The GAO has identified two benefits of effective workforce planning: Aligning an organization’s human capital program with its current and emerging mission and programmatic goals; and Developing long-term strategies for acquiring, developing, and retaining staff to achieve programmatic goals. Workforce planning sets the direction and goals for the entire human capital lifecycle. From recruiting to employee development, workforce planning is the unifying keystone. Workforce planning is the bridge between the current state and the desired future state. It is nearly impossible to radically change your current workforce regardless of the radical changes in the environment. It is possible, however, to have a radically different workforce in the future without disrupting the efficacy of the current workforce. The critical element is understanding what the future need will be and aligning the need with what the workforce will be able to do at each point in time through workforce planning. A frequent frustration of workforce planning efforts is that organizational leaders often have little insight into what changes will need to take place for the workforce to meet their strategic goals. It’s very common to see the pace of change overestimated and the level of effort underestimated. The root cause for this problem is that HR is often brought to the table after the decision has been made rather than being part of the decision itself. GAO has also identified five key principles that strategic workforce planning should address irrespective of what is being done, which you can reference here. The GAO does emphasize that top management, employees, and other stakeholders should be involved in development and implementation of the workforce plan. The GAO does not call out, however, the importance of HR having a seat at the table when the organization sets its overall vision and goals instead of just setting the strategic direction of the workforce after the organizational strategy has already been determined. When involved in overall agency-wide strategic planning, HR can help line leaders to understand the amount of time and level of investment required for goals to be achieved. From gauging how long it will take to have a workforce with a new skill to understanding how long it takes to stand up a fully effective new function, HR can help the organization to set goals that are achievable within budget and within the necessary timeline. It’s wonderful to have the line...

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Feedback: Pay it Forward

Posted by on Aug 15, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

You’ve heard of the expression “pay it forward,” where instead of repaying a favor when a person helps you out, you pay the favor forward by helping someone else when they need it. Well, I couldn’t help but think of this idea as I was recently looking over survey data gathered by a team of my Management Concepts colleagues. Each year we work with many individuals who are either working towards or have recently moved into supervisory roles in their organization, and we were curious to see how prepared they felt to take on their new responsibilities. We asked them a variety of questions about how they: Understand their current supervisory abilities, including their natural leadership skills, personal strengths, and comfort with stepping up to new challenges Understand crucial supervisory skills, such as performance management and career development Can get the best work out of others Make good things happen — by being aware of their surroundings and situations, and taking steps to elicit the best outcome Are prepared to lead others when the organizational landscape is constantly changing Not surprisingly, after surveying more than 500 emerging leaders, some interesting observations jumped out of the results. Keeping it RealI was glad to see that the majority of those who took our supervisor readiness assessment are approaching their supervisory role with a sense of openness and a healthy dose of optimism. They are energized by the ability to help others, and ready to embrace the diversity of those they lead, knowing their teams are likely multi-generational and have varying viewpoints. They are eager to be flexible when challenges arise and willing to recognize when they need to develop new leadership skills to be a better supervisor. More importantly, in my opinion, I am encouraged by their overwhelming interest in asking others to share their observations and experiences and their willingness to take responsibility for mistakes — choosing rather to view them as opportunities for growth. Pay it ForwardYou must approach a supervisory role with a sense of optimism because the reality is being a supervisor is both rewarding and challenging. The good days feel great and put wind behind your sails, but it’s how you choose to navigate difficult situations that is crucial to your success and the success of those you supervise. I bring this up because our survey also showed that the vast majority of new supervisors were, let’s say, hesitant when it comes to bringing up negative or counterproductive behaviors, addressing sensitive topics like poor performance, or giving feedback in general. Understandable responses? No doubt. The good news is you can learn strategies and techniques that make those less-than-comfortable feedback conversations very positive experiences. And that’s where pay it forward comes into play. When supervisors take feedback seriously and provide it consistently and constructively, it is the greatest thing you can do to help those you supervise to perform to the best of their ability.  And as an added bonus, it positions them for future supervisory roles. The beautiful thing is that when employees receive the right support from a supervisor, they often are motivated and engaged to pay it forward by becoming supervisors that understand the value of feedback. Over time, that can go a long way towards building a feedback culture, which is priceless.  We’d love...

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Does It Make Any Difference?

Posted by on Aug 14, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

From time to time it is important to take stock of why we invest our energy in the things that occupy us.   Birthdays, job changes, and retirements are points where we as individuals commonly reflect and ask “does what I do make any difference?” In early August my colleague, Cleve Pillifant, retired from Management Concepts.  He joins the cadre of senior “‘tweens” who work on occasion a few days or weeks here and there, ‘tween work habits compacted over a career and a complete leisure retirement.   Cleve proudly and irreverently (as is his style) titles himself on his LinkedIn consulting LLC as “President and Grand Poobah.” I’ve known Cleve for less than a year, but we have common root in military careers, his in the Marine Corps, mine in the Army.  At the Management Concepts farewell luncheon, hosted on the outside terrace of our Tysons Corner office building, standing on a stepstool above the group of his friends and co-workers, Cleve made public his reflections on “does it make any difference?”  Typical of a colonel at a change-of-command, he diminished his own importance in favor of the Management Concepts team. He wanted to give us a final challenge and motivation.  He asked, “In the grand scheme of life, what’s the value that our company gives?”   He paused, giving time for us to consider our own individual efforts to develop and deliver quality training for our many customers.  I reflected that it’s easy to narrowly focus on “the metrics” like enrollment stats or student surveys.   To take satisfaction in a course revised with the latest law and policy changes.  To count the number of successful course deliveries and client “attaboys” and call that success.  Are these the right measures of the value we give? Cleve then answered:  The training we provide is important because it changes peoples’ lives for the better.  His point was that training statistics, contracts, and performance metrics are useful to measure progress along the journey, true.  But the significance of our training efforts is only achieved one person at a time: when our adult student gets that promotion, when he discovers an entire new field of work to pursue, when she decides to commit herself to mastery of her career field.  These are points of realization which elevate the trajectory of a person’s career, and we, the Management Concepts team, can take pride that our efforts have this positive impact. The genuine reason for our team of professionals who agree to the collective banner of “Management Concepts – Unleashing the Potential of Individuals, Teams, and Organizations” is the achievement of each person who betters their life by the knowledge we convey. Then, the old colonel didn’t say this, but I knew he was thinking it: “… that’s your mission, and don’t ever forget it.  Carry on!” Ooorah, Cleve.  And...

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Is Trustworthiness a Professional Competency?

Posted by on Aug 8, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 2 comments

Trust as Essential for Engagement According to the 2010 Deloitte Ethics & Workplace Survey, 48% of employees cite loss of trust in the organization as a driving factor in the decision to look for a new job. In a recent Federal News Radio survey, 90% of respondents answered “yes” to the question, “Does the government need to rebuild trust with its employees?” and almost 68% of survey respondents believe lack of trust is causing employees to leave government service. “Trust is a symptom of whether or not employee engagement exists. It’s not possible, I don’t believe, to have employee engagement without trust,” said Bob Tobias, director of public sector executive education at American University. With increased employee engagement, Tobias noted, comes increased organizational performance. Given the importance of maintaining trustworthiness among its employees, where should an organization start? Deloitte’s study pointed to executives. All factors considered, an organization’s leaders are the single most powerful influencing factor on whether employees trust an organization. Transparent Communication from Leaders What do employees look for in leaders? Executives and employees alike agree —transparent communication by leadership is one of the most effective ways to build and maintain trust at work. 92% of executives ranked this among their top three ways to build trust, and nearly one third of employees identified it as the most important thing an executive can do to promote trust in the company. A recent look into employee morale at General Motors is compelling evidence that straightforward communication contributes to employee trust. Marking the largest increase in employee morale ever observed by the third-party firm who conducted the survey, trust in organizational leadership at General Motors in 2014 is the highest observed in the history of the company — even amid a global company crisis. What improved trust at GM? In a word: candor. Plenty of face time and open conversation about the tough issues has boosted morale dramatically. GM executive Mark Reuss recently commented at an industry form, “Mary [Barra] and I…tell them what’s going on, where we’re at, where we’re going to be in a month, where we’re going to be in a week. We’re being really transparent.” In NASA’s history, observers around the time of the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia cited lack of trust as a key factor that shaped employees’ reluctance to speak up when they first suspected something could go wrong. NASA has since re-established trust in the organization and in 2013 earned the top ranking in Best Places to Work in the Federal Government, boasting top employee engagement numbers. How did NASA do it? NASA charged its leaders with developing and maintaining a culture of trust, including offering two different courses on trust as part of their leadership development. Trustworthiness as an Organizational Priority Trustworthiness is not just about having employees feel good about the organization or their work. When a leader’s trustworthiness instills trust in the organization and has a lasting impact on employee engagement and retention, trustworthiness stands clearly as a professional competency. More importantly for your organization, you can train leaders to see where promoting trust is critical. The adage “If you can’t count it, it doesn’t count” is relevant here. How does your organization use honesty or trustworthiness-related survey data to make positive changes to your organization? In...

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Levels, levels everywhere and not an ounce of clarity anywhere!

Posted by on Aug 4, 2014 in Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

About once or twice a year, I find myself sitting in a meeting with clients and colleagues, and I suddenly realize that confusion has ensued without people realizing it. I specifically remember one meeting where, despite that fact that we were all training and learning experts in our own right — we began to talk past each other. The discussion was on “levels.”  A few of us had confused looks on our faces. The discussion continued as each person tried to explain and re-explain the points they were trying to make. After several painful minutes, I realized that the confusion was due to a communication problem. One person was talking about Blooms Levels, but instead of saying Blooms Level she simply said Level. Another person heard Level and assumed that she meant Certification Level. Someone else heard Evaluation Level. And confusion ensued. Now, that I’ve learned the lesson of Level Confusion, I know to keep an eye out for it. I can more quickly recognize when it happens. I even try to head it off by using the specific term that I mean. Sometimes, I ask someone to clarify what they meant when they use Level. What are all these Levels? Let’s take a quick look at what the most common Levels are in the training and learning field. Of course, many other Levels exist. Blooms Levels refer to levels within Bloom’s Taxonomy of learning objectives. Typically, when people refer to it, they are talking about different objectives that a training course could have. The levels begin with Knowledge and then build on each other: Knowledge Comprehension Application Analysis Synthesis Evaluation For example, there are many ways to train employees to communicate better. The training could teach them to memorize different theories of communication or facts about effective communication (Knowledge). After teaching them basic knowledge, they could be taught to compare and contrast different communication theories (Comprehension). Next, the training could ask employees to solve a problem by applying one of the communication techniques in a role play (Application). It could have them identify different ways of effectively communicating in a new situation (Analysis) or require them to compile different elements of communication theories to come up with alternative ways of approaching a conversation (Synthesis). Finally, they could observe other students in a role play and judge their effectiveness at using communication techniques (Evaluation). Many agencies and fields have Certification Levels, which indicate that an individual can competently perform a job. A certification is typically attained by passing a certification exam (such as a Project Management Professional certification) or taking and passing a series of classes (such as the Federal Acquisition Certification for Contracting, or FAC-C). In some cases, experience and education requirements also must be met. Different certification levels represent increasing degrees of competence within the field or area. For example, both FAC-C and the newly refreshed FAC-C® has three levels—Levels I, II, and III—each of which requires progressively more years of experience doing contracting work as well as more training. Evaluation Levels refer to levels in a training evaluation model, such as the Kirkpatrick® Model or the Phillips Model. There are many different ways to determine whether a training event was effective. The Levels describe different ways to evaluate training and include: Level 1 is the students’...

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Windshield or Bug? — How to Thrive During Change

Posted by on Aug 1, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

As both Mary Chapin Carpenter and Dire Straits have pointed out, “Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.” This isn’t exactly the case with change in organizations because there are inevitably fewer people leading the change than there are people impacted by a change they don’t control. Change management practitioners would emphasize that every individual has influence over whether change is accepted in their organization. From change champions to passive accepters to active resistors, everyone can affect change. In many cases, however, you may neither want to bolster nor derail a change. You just want to find a way to navigate through it with as much benefit and as little disruption as possible. The question is how to do that. When a change is happening in your organization, here are a few tips on how not only to survive, but also to thrive: Un-Divide Your Attention: Thoroughly read all the communications about the change. Attend the all-hands meeting without your smartphone. View the webinars – and not while multi-tasking. If you’re relying on the water cooler conversations for information about what is happening, misinformation is a given. Actively listen to what your leaders have to say. Yes, this takes time away from your day-to-day responsibilities, but it’s worth it. Question Authority: Do not hesitate to ask questions of your supervisor and senior management about the change. Use your agency discussion boards and other communications forums to get answers. Of course, word your questions wisely. If that’s not possible, seek a safe forum in which to ask the question. If there isn’t a way to submit anonymous questions, reach out to HR to develop one. Just Me, Myself, and I: As much as we want to be “all business” at work, our emotions do play a role. Spend some time reflecting on both your practical and emotional reactions. Will the change results in less interaction with a favorite colleague? More interaction with your office’s Andy Bernard (or Mimi for Drew Carey fans, Copy Guy from SNL), and you just can’t take that? Will the change result in more or less interesting work for you? More or less power? Figure out how your feel about the change and WHY you feel that way. Know the lens through which you, as an individual, view the change. Think Globally, Act Locally: Communications from leaders often focus on the benefits at the agency level. It is critical you can view the change through that lens, too. If you’ve participated in the change communications and asked questions, you should understand the global situation. Where your efforts are most critical, however, is at the local level. Boots on the ground implications of changes are sometimes missed by senior leaders in change planning. Think through all the implications of the change for your role and team. What are the indirect consequences? Are there any potential issues that need to be addressed? Surfacing them – and addressing them – early prevents later problems for both you and your leadership. Expect the Unexpected: No change program goes according to plan. If you enter the change expecting to have to be flexible, you’re less likely to be annoyed when the unexpected happens. Have contingences in place if, for example, a software program is delayed. If you’re scheduling vacation around...

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Start With Goals: Optimizing Talent in the Federal Workforce

Posted by on Jul 31, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

With constantly changing technology to keep up with, demands for efficiency and a shortage of millenials entering their ranks, Federal leaders are under more pressure than ever to recruit and retain new talent, and get more from existing employees. The need to optimize talent in the workforce is evident. How do you begin to assess the critical skills gaps in your workforce, and align professional development and training to agency missions and goals? And once you have a vision of what your future workforce should look like, how can you make it happen?  My colleagues and I recommend a strategic approach in our upcoming book from Management Concepts Press, Optimizing Talent in the Federal Workforce. Here’s an excerpt: The first step is to analyze the agency’s strategic and performance goals and determine where training could enhance the achievement of those goals. A gap analysis will identify competency discrepancies that hamper achievement of the future desired state. Some key questions to ask are: To reach each goal, what competencies must the current or future workforce members possess? What benchmarks can be used to create innovative approaches to reaching this goal? Are there competency gaps that must be addressed to meet this goal? Could training help reduce other HR problems, such as high staff turnover? (OPM, 2000) The next step is to develop alternative strategies to close the identified gaps using both training and non-training solutions. If the conclusion of the analysis is that training solutions are necessary, then a cost-benefit analysis will be required for justification of a training program. Key questions to ask are as follows: Could training address the competency gaps? Are non-training strategies needed to support the training intervention? What types of training should be provided (e.g., classroom, distance learning, electronic performance support, on-the-job training)? Do the anticipated benefits from training outweigh the projected costs? (OPM, 2000a) Excerpted with permission from Optimizing Talent in the Federal Workforce by William J. Rothwell, Ph.D., SPHR, CPLP Fellow; Aileen G. Zaballero, M.S.,CPLP; Jong Gyu Park, MBA. © 2014 by Management Concepts Press. All rights reserved....

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Supervising a High-Potential Employee and a Lesson From Happy Gilmore

Posted by on Jul 30, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 1 comment

Leslie was a rock star on the rise . . . until she got fired. We’ve all seen someone with Superman or Superwoman potential, one with extraordinary talents. With eyes closed and one hand tied behind the back, this person can still, somehow, miraculously pull out great results. That’s what Leslie did in her promising career, going from strength to strength . . . until so many relationships internally were so damaged that her boss had to see her out the door. How do you supervise a high-potential employee? How do you help him or her avoid career “derailers?” And what does the Adam Sandler movie “Happy Gilmore” have to do with anything? (Keep reading to find out.) Let’s start with the assumption that the employee has the right stuff; there is no real question about technical capability. However his or her brain is wired, he or she is primed to perform. Technical proficiency is much more easily addressed than “soft skills.” To help the employee with this technical skill, a few things help. Let’s discuss those first before getting into the tough stuff. First, connect him or her with other, more experienced and high-performance people doing similar work. Whether you call them peers, mentors or comrades in arms, it can help for a high-potential employee to see a bit beyond his or her own immediate horizons. Sometimes, the employee may start to see his or her own brilliant way is actually not the only way. Second, help the employee get very specific on which specific aspects of the work tap their talents. Most knowledge work is a constellation of dozens of discrete, different tasks. The job may include research, problem-solving, critical thinking, customer service, scenario planning and teamwork. These, and even particular aspects of these, may be either manna from heaven or dreaded tasks. Things get more differentiated. Getting specific helps to isolate strengths, which is important for career planning. Having employees experience many different kinds of work (rotations) helps them further discern the range and type of their talents. Third, help the employee set real developmental goals. These will stretch their talent, and expose the employee to ever more information about the intersection of the talent and the work. Now, for the hard part, and why Leslie got fired, and what Adam Sandler learned. The potential trouble with high potential starts with the employee realization that he or she has got the goods. With a growing sense that he or she can run circles around others, a variety of counter-productive thoughts and behaviors can start to occur. The person may show up as aloof, a diva, dilettante, savage critic, condescending or arrogant. What’s underneath this is usually a two-word mantra that organizations need to pay attention to: “Talent walks.” Because it can when it doesn’t like what is happening. The calculation the employee makes “My (great) results justify my behavior.” The behaviors mentioned above are, of course, derailers, likely to invite resistance, anger and isolation. As it is very hard to get much done all by one’s self, most reasonable people can see the need to engage others in a way that creates commitment and collaboration, rather than hostility and distance. In Leslie’s case, she was brilliant with external stakeholders. Able to win agreement nine times out...

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Having an “HMU” Instead of an Attack

Posted by on Jul 25, 2014 in Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

A senior leader at a Federal agency I recently worked with was revered throughout the organization, known for his wisdom, excellent communication skills and approachability. When something went bad or wrong with anyone, he would sit down with the person and have an “HMU” conversation. Before explaining what an HMU is, it is important to remember how most conversations go in many organizations when something goes wrong. The conversation often goes badly, evokes negative emotions, defensiveness, hurt feelings, future avoidance and other damage. (This is why teaching people how to give feedback that works is a standard feature management and leadership development programs.) But an HMU conversation is different. It stands for “Help Me Understand.” First, it’s a conversation, not a diatribe or one-way monologue. Second, it leads with questions. Asking to help someone help you understand is a question itself. HMU starts with no real agenda or pre-conceived notions. It starts with a desire to understand. Since the “how” of the “what” always matters greatly in these things, it should be noted that the demeanor of the leader who uses this approach is calm, open and reasonable. The HMU gives the employee the responsibility of walking through his or her reasoning, and it goes from there. When there is information that was not known to the leader that changes the picture, he thanks the employee and everyone gets back to work. And when there was a lapse in logic or good thinking on the part of the employee, the leader helps the employee see that. Employees know an HMU could lead to constructive criticism, but it’s different than an attack. It helps them to think through their actions, surface their reasoning and actually learn something. The next time something happens that doesn’t make sense to you, start with “Help me understand . . .” If giving effective feedback and other leadership and management competencies are holding your team back, consider implementing a leadership development...

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Instructional Games in Government and Industry

Posted by on Jul 23, 2014 in Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

A growing trend in today’s business learning environments has been moving toward simultaneously teaching and experiencing important ideas through verbal, tactile, and surrogate methods.   In other words, we don’t just describe, display, and observe — we simulate.   Game-based business simulations provide a means for students to perform tasks, demonstrate skills, and also exhibit attitudes in order to create or experience effective approaches in dealing with real or potential situations. The concept and practice of simulations are not new; they’ve been part of human behavior for centuries.  Child’s play, drama, and scientific experimentation all facilitate knowledge acquisition and personal experience in ways that encompass formal, informal, and various combinations of learning.  However, in this technological world, the word simulation most likely conjures images of computer-, tablet-, smartphone- and other types of digital hardware and software-based approaches. Business learning and simulation games take several forms including in-person role play, computer simulations, and team-centered scenarios while connecting multiple players that are geographically near and far.    During business simulations, whether in-person or computer-based, the participants typically assume a specific persona and exhibit behavior within a business setting; are given tasks to perform or decisions to make; and receive feedback on the quality of their individual or team performance.   Through the development of realistic business scenarios, the participant is provided with a problem or situation requiring various physical, mental, emotional, kinesthetic, and combination responses.   In both in-person and via computer, the scenario events will branch based on the dynamic interactions of the participants, frequently yielding a multitude of solutions or outcomes. Meaningful simulations, especially in business and industry still require human interaction, the kind that cannot be fully satisfied through surrogate, two-dimensional, or even three-dimensional representations or natural language processing.  Computers, for the most part, have rebranded the definition of simulation.   There are still actions and tasks that computers cannot perform.   The benefits and uses of people-centric, interpersonal, and table-top simulations that have been widely used by the military and other tactical decision makers in government and industry is not dependent upon the graphics representation, but rather, human collaboration. There are two basic types of business simulations:  content and process. It is important to note that the line between process and content is often blurred because each simulation contains elements of both.  However, in most cases the type of simulation used skews the primary learning either towards learning the process or learning the specific content. For the most part, content simulations are hosted on computers to explore what actions are to be taken.  For example, if an individual makes a decision and implements that decision by pressing a button, what will happen? On the other hand, process simulations examine the how and why of actions taken. In other words, the focus of the simulation considers the outcome as it pertains to the level of agreement among the interpersonal processes and motives used, the how and why regarding a particular decision. Process simulations usually precede content simulations and are more interpersonal by nature. The reason is that human beings are a why-driven species. We like to know why we are doing something before we actually engage in the task and do it. Knowing the why helps us make sense of our actions, no matter how small or large they might...

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Affordable Care Act’s Butterfly Effect

Posted by on Jul 18, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

In conversation, a friend often mentions the “Law of Unintended Consequences,” which refers to chain-event related outcomes that may not have been foreseen when an initiating action occurred. It is an extension of Chaos theory’s “Butterfly Effect” that suggests unforeseen linkages such as, “When a butterfly in California flaps its wings, weeks later, a typhoon hits Asia.” From a management perspective, this is “Systems Thinking,” the art and science of making reliable inferences about behavior by developing an increasingly deep understanding of underlying structure, as described by Barry Richmond in 1987 and perfected by Peter Senge beginning in the 1990s. Systems thinking is using the butterfly’s flap to predict and prepare for the typhoon. I bring this up because the recently enacted Affordable Care Act (ACA) could be the “butterfly’s wing” that eventually causes a “typhoon” of workforce mobility. Before the ACA, employees typically obtained health insurance by holding a full-time job with an employer who negotiated a health insurance plan and subsidized it as a benefit of employment. Many employees stayed with their organizations out of fear of loss of access to health insurance or due to continuity of care issues. This was especially true in the Government sector, where good healthcare coverage is a key benefit. Prior to the ACA, a break in insurance coverage could cause an individual to be denied new coverage or face very high premiums based on preexisting medical conditions. Leaving a Government job for no or lessor insurance was, simply put, a bad bet. Now that ACA is experiencing greater acceptance as the law of the land and people are signing up for coverage through state or Federal exchanges, this potentially impacts the relationships between employers and employees. It may motivate Feds to move into the private sector or retire early with confidence that they will be able to obtain health coverage comparable to what they have now. How has your organization prepared for this change? Have you considered the possible indirect consequences of the ACA on your organization? More healthcare options may lead to higher turnover: If you had staff who didn’t want to change organizations under the previous health insurance environment, are they now feeling like they can make a move? Do you have a retention strategy for critical individuals? Is your recruitment capability ready to find people to replace them? Or will you have to recruit less experienced people and grow your own talent? Do you have  a robust enough succession plan to deal with these risks? Higher turnover may lead to loss of institutional knowledge: Are you at risk as employees’ knowledge base walks out the door? Are your knowledge management practices defined and documented? Should you implement a shadowing or mentoring program to help with knowledge transfer? Are your employees skilled at collaboration and knowledge sharing or is this a skill they will need to develop? Do you need a knowledge management tool such as software? Vacancies and the resultant loss of institutional knowledge may lead to suboptimal mission achievement: Is your organization ready to become a learning organization that embraces employee mobility while still driving high performance and achieving mission results? Organizations can capitalize on a more mobile workforce resulting from ACA by taking a systems approach to workforce planning, including succession planning, recruiting strategies, and...

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Be Prepared for IT Leaders Retiring: Start Training Your High Potential Staff Now

Posted by on Jul 17, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

The aging demographics of the Federal workforce has been apparent for years, and the latest set of data (March 2014) released by OPM show no improvement in the outlook.  In the short term, the government has the benefit of the long years of service and experience of a seasoned workforce. Almost half of the IT workforce is now age 50 and above. Most of these workers are retirement eligible at age 55 or 56, so within a few years, as older workers retire and leave Federal service, so leaves that experience. Funding in the Federal budget for training has been in short supply, and training needs will only increase as demand grows to replace the lost skills of the retirees. These younger workers who were born into the digital age also expect a much richer and dynamic learning experience. Training will have to be technically stimulating, professionally advancing, and personally entertaining.  Management Concepts is rapidly expanding its extensive courseware into e-Learning offerings, which provide the scale, economy, and rich learning experiences to coincide with this change in Federal IT workforce demographics.  Look at this as a part of the larger, varied curriculum designed specifically for Federal IT...

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Lesson from the VA: The Role of Culture in Optimizing Talent in the Federal Workforce

Posted by on Jul 17, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

Recently, failures of service at the Department of Veterans Affairs have been in the news.  Investigators have found that the problems at VA are not occasional occurrences but to quote the Washington Post, the VA suffers from “corrosive culture of employee discontent and management retaliation. “   Unfortunately, organizational culture and workforce development continue to be particularly challenging for many Federal agencies. Federal agencies have always faced unique challenges in workforce development including competition in attracting and retaining talented employees. To improve performance, the VA and other agencies facing similar challenges will need to develop and sustain high performance cultures.  To make this happen, Federal leaders must utilize benchmarked best practices.   Recently, Management Concepts Press and my team at Penn State University have collaborated on a ground breaking book, Optimizing Talent in the Federal Workforce that analyzes some of these practices and how they can be best be used in a Federal environment.  My colleagues and I especially emphasize the importance of organizational culture: Agencies are working to create a culture where employees want to be—and can be—as effective as possible in serving the public. A results-oriented performance culture system, as defined by OPM, is a system that “promotes a diverse, high-performing workforce by implementing and maintaining effective performance management systems and awards programs.” OPM identified six critical success factors for creating such a system (OPM, 2005): 1. Communication. Each agency should have a process for sharing information with all employees that allows employee feedback to involve employees in planning and executing the mission. 2. Performance appraisal. Each agency should have a process under which performance is reviewed and evaluated. 3. Awards. Each agency should recognize and reward individual or team accomplishment that contributes to meeting organizational goals or improves the efficiency, effectiveness, and economy of the government. 4. Pay for performance. Each agency should use pay-for-performance systems that link salary levels to an individual’s overall performance and contribution to the agency’s mission. 5. Diversity management. Each agency should maintain an environment characterized by inclusiveness of individual difference and responsiveness to the needs of diverse groups of employees. 6. Labor/management relations. Each agency should promote cooperation among employees, unions, and managers that enhances effectiveness and efficiency and improves working conditions. Excerpted with permission from Optimizing Talent in the Federal Workforce by William J. Rothwell, Ph.D., SPHR, CPLP Fellow; Aileen G. Zaballero, M.S.,CPLP; Jong Gyu Park, MBA. © 2014 by Management Concepts Press. All rights reserved....

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I’ll take Cognitive Analytics for $1000, Alex

Posted by on Jul 16, 2014 in Analytics, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

One of my fondest memories from my childhood is my family’s nightly ritual of gathering around the TV to watch Jeopardy! with Alex Trebek. I’m still a big fan of the show and when, in 2011, IBM”s Watson took on two Jeopardy champions I was captivated. Having worked on some early efforts to use Natural Language Parsing (NLP) and Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA), it was great to see how the technologies had advanced to allow querying of large sets of unstructured data using plain language queries. Watson is just one, impressive, example of the growing field of cognitive computing and cognitive analytics.  Cognitive analytics refers to process of bringing together machine learning, natural language processing, and artificial intelligence to analyze large quantities on unstructured data in ways similar to those used by the human brain. According to Deloitte’s Tech Trends 2014, “cognitive analytics relies on technology systems to generate hypotheses, drawing from a wide variety of potentially relevant information and connections,” and the emerging technology will be a growth area for many organizations in 2015. In honor my favorite game show, I thought I’d provide a Jeopardy style list of ways Federal managers may, in the not too distant future, be able to use cognitive analytics to improve organization performance. Answer: Natural language search agents. Question: What tools can government agencies use to improve customer service in a resource constrained environment? Apple’s Siri is arguably the most familiar version of an artificial intelligence-based natural language query engine, but corporations have been introducing more rudimentary versions of automated agents to support customer service for nearly a decade. With enhanced language understanding, the introduction of machine learning that can improve the recommendations coming from search agents, and more access to information storage and processing power, opportunities are increasing to automate customer service functions. Cognitive analytic techniques will enable systems to interpret and connect disparate pieces of information to provide better answers and more resources in response to customer inquiries. Automating elements of customer service processes (for both internal and external customers) helps support the agencies drive to maintain service levels with decreased resources. The key will be implementing the type of technology users are becoming accustomed to (e.g. Siri), while still allowing for easy access to customer service agents before users become frustrated with the technology experience. Answer: Social media monitoring and sentiment analysis. Question: How can a federal manager use cognitive analytics to understand trends in employee engagement and brand management? In an increasingly connected world it is important for organizations to maintain awareness of how they are perceived on social media. Using analytic tools, agencies can monitor, aggregate and analyze trends in messaging on internal and external social media networks to understand how employees and the public view the organization. And emerging technologies for sentiment analysis offer a glimpse into the positive or negative views being communicated about the organization. Answer: Better data aggregation, improved used of unstructured data, and faster data processing. Question: How can cognitive analytics enable data driven decision making at my organization. A recent survey by MarkLogic and GovLoop (here) suggests that many government agencies are struggling to realize the benefits of big data and advanced analytics for their organization. The merging of advanced technologies in the field of cognitive analytics will offer agencies a...

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Building Career Pathing Capabilities: A Federal HR Perspective

Posted by on Jul 11, 2014 in Human Resources | 0 comments

The private sector has latched on to Career Pathing like a teenage girl to a Taylor Swift song. McLean & Co defines Career Pathing as “the process of developing an enterprise-wide … competency-based model for possible employee progression within an organization which maps out the requirements for both vertical progression (promotions) as well as lateral moves (transfers)”. American Express’s Career Pathing Program is lauded in its Best Companies to Work For materials on an international scale. A growing number of consultancies offer to build Career Pathing capabilities for clients across the globe (for full disclosure, Management Concepts is one of them). In short, the Career Pathing concept and businesses that provide these services are booming in the commercial sector. The Federal Sector, however, may benefit more than the commercial sector because Career Pathing: Manages the uncertainty of the Retirement Wave by creating multiple points of entry to key positions and multiple promotion points for the same individual. Feds aren’t retiring as quickly as expected, but they are still retiring and may do so with little notice going forward. Having multiple options to fill the vacancy prevents gaps and reduces complexity. Retains GenXers when no vacancies exist for promotion. The delayed retirements of the Boomers leaves GenXers with nowhere to go but sideways. Career Pathing keeps GenXers engaged and learning while better preparing them for more senior positions than a straight upward ladder approach. Leverages the Millennials’ movements. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a study about how often Millennials change jobs. Their need for constant movement, task variation, and learning opportunities could result in high turnover for your organization. You can, however, use their need for change to rotate Millennials throughout your organization to improve mission performance and lower recruiting costs. The last benefit is that Career Pathing can make HR look like rock stars by simultaneously meeting the needs of the organization, leaders, and employees with few trade-offs for any of those stakeholders. Sounds great, right? There are, however, trade-offs. It’s just on the part of HR. Implementing Career Pathing programs can be a gargantuan task that easily spins out of control. Think about just a few components of a gold standard: Competency Maps for Each Job: We need to know all the competencies and the levels at which they are performed to know where to move. Individual Competency Assessments: Individuals need to know their level of competency for not only their role, but also the role into which they want to move. Seamless Integration into Individual Development Plans: Individuals need to know how to develop any skills they are lacking to move to a different role. I could go on, but I won’t because we all know achieving that isn’t realistic in most situations. Frankly, it may not even be desirable. And it certainly isn’t necessary: you can make progress with realistic goals and still be the HR Career Pathing Rock Star without a gazillion dollar budget and team of millions. Here are the keys to Career Pathing success in Federal organizations: Only set out to do what you can deliver: Start small and focus on the critical positions and skill sets (your HCAAF reporting is a great place to start). You don’t need a fancy web-based Career Pathing tool (although those are, admittedly, awesome). Identify...

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Don’t Forget the Sammies This 4th of July!

Posted by on Jul 3, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

I’m not referring to the “sammies” you may be planning for a July 4th picnic celebration, but you can get back to perusing tasty recipes for your holiday menu in just a minute. I’ll be brief. I’m talking about what are referred to as the “Oscars” of government service awards: The Service to America Medals awarded each year by the DC-based Partnership for Public Service. The Sammies recognize “outstanding Federal employees who are making high-impact contributions to the health, safety and welfare of countless Americans and others around the world.” Eight Federal leaders are awarded for their efforts across a handful of categories, including: Science and Environment Homeland Security and Law Enforcement National Security and International Affairs Citizen Services Management Excellence The 2014 Sammie nominations were released back in early May, and the results are announced at the annual Service to America Medals Gala in September. The Sammies are particularly important to note this year because all too often lately the lead story on the evening news is another “failure,” “mistake,” or “cover up” by a Federal organization run by a high profile government leader. The fact is that Federal organizations are no more or less immune to scandal or poor management decisions than private sector companies. We need (and we clearly have some) exceptional individuals that are dedicated to bringing the same drive and innovation to the organizations that exist to keep us safe and healthy as those that exist to grow our investments or develop the next life-altering tech gadget. From saving $4 billion in purchasing new rockets to using cutting-edge technology to detect crime to improving the way Government respond to natural disasters, this year’s nominees have shown innovation, agility, and hard-work are essential to outstanding public service. So, on the eve of this Independence Day, let’s celebrate those Federal leaders who are choosing to use their talents to serve our country with the same American spirit that helped us on that pivotal day in 1776. And, to those Federal leaders out there, we say thank...

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Rock Your Next Federal Job Interview

Posted by on Jun 27, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Rock Your Next Federal Job Interview

You’ve completed the self-assessment, submitted your resume via USAjobs.gov, and have been selected for an interview. Now what?  Interviewing can be quite nerve-wracking in general, but can be even more so for a Federal job, which is quite different from interviewing with a private firm. Successful planning and preparing in advance will be the key to success… and hopefully an offer for employment. Below are some tips on preparing for a Federal job interview. Before the interview… Prepare Using the Job Announcement: You applied and tailored your resume and assessment for a specific job announcement that lists the qualifications, skills and experience that the organization deems necessary to be successful in that role.  Prepare in advance specific examples that demonstrate your experience and accomplishments that align with those items mentioned in the job announcement. You want to be able to confidently talk through several of these examples to effectively illustrate why you are the ideal candidate for the job. If you’ve tailored your resume for the job, you can reference the section of your resume where it’s discussed. This gives the interviewer a visual as well as an auditory reference to help them remember your qualifications. Know the Organization: Do research on the organization. Each agency has a specific mission and it’s important to know what that is. Furthermore, agencies have a human capital plan that often explains skills the agency is most seeking.  Click here, to search for missions and human capital plans by agency.  Setting up Google news alerts is another easy way for you to stay on top of current events for a particular organization. For many government employees, it’s not about the money they make, but being a part of an organization that is working hard to do something specific for the public. Prepare thoughtful questions to ask and tailor it to the organization and role you’re interviewing for. This will show the hiring official that you take this interview and job opportunity seriously.  In addition, if you know who will be interviewing you, check their profile on LinkedIn. The Interview… Arrive Early: You never know what traffic will be like or what obstacles you may face while trying to get to an interview. If you have time prior to your interview, do a “dry run” so you know exactly where the building is, where to park, what metro stop to get off at, etc.  Another important thing to keep in mind is that many government agencies have strict security requirements, which may take some additional time when arriving and checking in at the building. Always be sure to bring a government ID with your photo such as a driver’s license or passport. You may also want to leave non-essential items, likely to set off metal detectors, such as a pocketful of change, at home. Many women feel more comfortable bringing in a portfolio with their ID and leaving their purse locked securely in the car. Feeling rushed right before an interview will only add to your stress. Ask the person setting up the meeting if there is anything extra you should know about traveling to their building. First Impressions: Hiring officials often make a judgment within 15 seconds of you walking through the door, making appearance a critical, although often subconscious, aspect of an...

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4 Generation Workforce: Instructional Challenges for Human Resources & Management Leaders

Posted by on Jun 25, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

“They’ve been called Generation Y. They’ve been called Echo Boomers. They may go by different names, but there’s no debate about their effect on business. They are the fastest growing segment of your employee population. They’ve been trained to use their heads more than their hands to solve problems.  It will take a new set of leadership skills to understand their perspective and motivate them to succeed.”  –  Donald D. Shandler, Ph.D., Assistant Vice President, Graduate and Adult Education, Marymount University, and author of Motivating the Millennial Knowledge Worker. Historically, this is the first time that there are four different generations concurrently in the workforce. The anchor years for these generations are: silents (b.1925-1942), boomers (b. 1943-1960), generation X (b. 1961-1981) and millennials (b.1982-2003). America’s new four generation workforce brings different values, needs, preferences, behaviors and experiences to the workplace. It’s critical for today’s senior leadership, line managers, and training professionals to realize that their multigenerational staff may require different learning styles and preferences. More specifically, there are critical instructional design considerations that must be addressed when designing and developing programs for the four generations that now work and learn together. For those professionals charged with the responsibility of engaging, training, and educating a high- performing multigenerational workforce they must plan and accommodate for the commonalities and differences that each population exhibits. In particular, it’s essential to focus on the learning preferences of the three largest cohorts presently in the workforce. Boomers have a preference for classroom-based and career-related programs; Generation X express enthusiasm for online programs and learning for both fun and enrichment; and, Millennials, as digital natives, have an intense interest in technology-enabled learning with little tolerance for boredom. To be an effective manager of these generational differences: Recognize the unique learning preferences of the four generational cohorts now driving America’s economy, and in particular the millennials. Identify inclusive learning strategies to design multigenerational learning experiences. Appreciate the importance of the millennial knowledge worker as a seminal force and centerpiece of a rapidly changing workforce. Incorporate technology-mediated learning methods to meet generational learning needs. Staff directly serving the training and professional development needs of the generations should: Expand their instructional design strategies to include generational learning preferences. Encourage the application of generational learning strategies to enhance an existing or proposed learning experience. Stay current on the growing body of generational research impacting workplace learning and performance. Reconcile the balance of classroom-based and technology-enabled learning. Stuart H. Weinstein, Ph.D is Practice Leader – Instructional Systems at Management Concepts.   Additionally, he was a contributing author to Motivating the Millennial Knowledge Worker (Axzo Press – Crisp Fifty-Minute Books, Paperback, 257 pages, December 2009).   In addition to his role at Management Concepts, Dr. Weinstein teaches Principles of Training and Development and Corporate Distance Training in the Instructional Systems Development graduate program at the University of Maryland Baltimore...

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Pop Quiz: How Do You Evaluate Training?

Posted by on Jun 24, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Recently, I’ve encountered several instances where agencies want to make sure they get what they pay for when training their employees. One method that I’ve observed is giving students a test at the beginning and end of a class. At first glance, this makes sense: Let’s make sure the employees are learning something when we spend our scarce training dollars. To understand the limitations of the before and after test, let’s look at Laura, a GS-9 analyst with ambitions to move up to deputy program manager and eventually to program manager. Laura signs up for a three-day class on effective briefing and presentation skills. The morning of the class, she feels nervous, wondering “Will I have to give a speech in front of the whole class?” Walking into the classroom on Monday morning, the instructor hands her a test. Laura finds a seat and looks over the test, which asks how she should analyze the audience when preparing a speech and to identify “bridge words.” She’s presented with four short lists of words to choose the right answer from; the words start to jumble together as she reads them. Memories of standardized tests in high school start to run through her head. Laura does her best to answer the questions and hands her test in. Other students filter in, starting their tests. While waiting, Laura strikes up a conversation with Sam. The instructor asks them to be quiet so that the other students can focus on their tests. Glancing at her iPhone®, Laura realizes that it is almost 10 a.m. A whole hour has gone by as they wait for everyone to finish the test! Finally, the instructor begins the class. Laura learns many tips and ideas for giving a great briefing. She even learns that “bridge words” are transition words, such as however, in addition, and for instance, that help the audience know that you are moving on to a new thought. On the afternoon of the last day, each student prepares a short talk. Laura feels confident and eager to try her new skills. Each student takes turns giving their talk. Laura receives a standing ovation for her talk. At the end of the class, the instructor hands out another test. Instead of leaving with a sense of exhilaration that she nailed her talk, she leaves a bit anxious that she didn’t remember all of the key characteristics of effective presentations. Laura wishes she could ask the instructor a few more questions, but there is no time; the class is done and students filter out of the room. This scenario highlights several drawbacks of pre- and post-tests, which are: They take away valuable instruction time They test students on material that they have not yet been taught They often measure test taking skills more than knowledge Further, pre- and post-tests are not good measures of a student’s skill or behavior. Laura could get a perfect score on her post-test, yet still not be able to give an effective presentation. But, wait! Isn’t it possible that, for whatever reason, Laura did NOT learn what a “bridge word” was? Don’t we need to know if the instructor did a poor job teaching? Or that the materials didn’t clearly explain certain concepts? Or that Laura just daydreamed during the class?...

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Elevate Employees to Improve Motivation

Posted by on Jun 20, 2014 in Human Resources | 0 comments

Federal managers know to reward employees who go above and beyond. But what should they do with underperformers—those who can, but won’t? Sometimes the best way to get them up and running is to find out what they need and give it to them. In my upcoming book, 98 Opportunities to Improve Management in Government, I recommend increasing involvement in activities to engage people who don’t give it their all: Some employees will do the bare minimum to get by, but nothing more. You know the type. They are cynics who will work within the outer edges of the performance appraisal system and do just enough to retain their jobs, get their step increases, and make it to retirement. That’s pretty much all they care about. Many of them seemingly rejoice in your inability to make them work any harder. What is really sad about these people is that in general they are very talented and can do quite a bit more. They simply choose not to, for reasons that may or may not be job related. Perhaps they have gone through a nasty divorce, which has made them angry and bitter. Or maybe they were treated badly by a prior supervisor and are now determined to give nothing more than the minimum. This may simply be who they are—they might be people who don’t really believe in anything other than themselves. Most likely the root of such behavior is a combination of all of these things, but who knows? In short, these individuals can be poisonous because they often try to get other people to see things through their cynical prism and persuade them to slow down, too. So as a manager, what can you do? To start with, I would try to elevate the employee, if doing so seems to make sense for that individual. Learn what makes him tick and why he feels the way he feels. For example, one of the most disengaged employees I ever worked with told me that he became that way because he had been denied a promotion he thought he deserved. Whether that was true or not was to some extent irrelevant, because his feelings were the underlying cause of his dissatisfaction. Knowing this allowed me to understand where he was coming from and to craft a strategy to bring him back into the fray. A good way to elevate an employee is to get him more involved in the organization. Give him some special projects or place him on a committee or two. When you do this, you take him out of his own narrow world and begin to connect him to one that is more dynamic and fulfilling. This can sometimes pull him out of his own misery and get him involved in a bigger and more vibrant world. Excerpted with permission from 98 Opportunities to Improve Management in Government by Stewart Liff. © 2014 by Stewart Liff & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved....

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Lost in Translation: Building Effective HR Partnerships with IT

Posted by on Jun 18, 2014 in Human Resources, Uncategorized | 0 comments

A few weeks back I was participating in a discussion on LinkedIn’s HR & Learning Technologies Forum where the question was raised about whether HR is ready for big data and if it is even relevant for the function. The question sparked an interesting and wide-ranging discussion about the role of “big data” in the HR space. Posts ran the gamut from pointing out organizational successes with HR analytics to assertions that HR isn’t ready to be data driven, and even that data isn’t all that important, since after all people are the main concern. Following the discussion, I began to wonder if some of the reason HR professionals might be struggling to realize the potential of data driven decision-making and predictive analytics is that too much gets lost in translation. I suspect that many HR analytics efforts struggle to launch because of ineffective partnerships between HR professionals and other functional areas, like engineering and information technology. Having worked as an I/O psychologist in the world of computer simulation and design engineering for more than a decade, I have first-hand experience with the challenges of cross-functional partnerships between the “soft” and “hard” science communities and have learned a few lessons that can help smooth out the partnership. Here are a few tips that can help your HR analytics efforts succeed by improving partnerships with other stakeholders: Take time upfront to establish a common vocabulary A few years ago I worked on project that included a group of academics doing research in human performance and a group of software developers working to code the research findings into predictive computer simulations. As tension mounted around requests for “tools”, it turned out that the research team used the term “tool” generically to mean anything – from a checklist to a complex algorithm embedded in a predictive simulation – while the developer team thought of “tools” only as something to be coded. Setting aside time upfront to agree on the terms everyone will use would have prevented a lot of churn. Keep the focus on people, not resources Even those of us in human resources and human capital roles can fall into the trap of talking about people in the organization as resources. When introducing analytics to the process, it can be even easier to focus too much on the numbers, data, resource levels, etc. If you want other functional partners to remember the end goal of bringing analytics to HR, you’ll need to keep that goal – improving decisions about people in the organization – front in center, starting with the words you use.  Know who to ask for help when you need it A recent survey by SolarWinds  found that only 32.6% of technology professionals were consulted all the time about strategic decisions on emerging technologies. HR analytics is a rapidly growing and fast moving technology area that can be difficult for HR professionals to keep pace with. Find a partner in the IT group to ask for help when making decisions about what technologies you can and should use to support analytic decision-making. Let systems thinkers think about the whole system IT professionals and engineers tend to think in terms of systems and the implications changes in one element can have on other parts of the system. HR analytics are...

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How Coaching Really Worked – At Least in This Case

Posted by on Jun 13, 2014 in Coaching & Mentoring, Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

Man, was I ever stuck. I had struggled with this problem, literally, for years, tearing my hair out, frustrated, and increasingly pessimistic about a solution. It was a chance encounter at a coaches’ conference (of all places) when I sat down for lunch with the amazing coach Karen Gravenstine. In less than five minutes, everything shifted. The door opened, and I had cracked the case. Before explaining just what happened, it’s important to focus on one incredibly important aspect of coaching, a feature that, among others, helps give the practice its power and results. We all get stuck sometimes. We go around and around in our thought loops, trying to find an answer. The stuckness can come from the way we are looking at the problem or issue. We may be making assumptions we’re not even aware of. There may be possibilities we hadn’t even considered. Enter the coach, who with fresh eyes, an objective perspective, can help us discover new and different ways to frame the problem, which can generate new moves – solutions. This can take the form of a question, or feedback. In my case, it was feedback. Karen said it sounded like one aspect of a project I was wrestling with was draining me, and another aspect energizing me. As she stated this, a distinction arose in me, and I immediately realized that in order to achieve the goal, I had to offload the portion of the thing that was blocking all progress. In my case, it was around either standing up a non-profit (huge administrative heavy lifting) or partnering with an organization with complementary aims, to whom the services I was envisioning would also create a benefit. So you know, the project itself is around helping disadvantaged women who made it to college learn leadership skills. I realized I couldn’t pull it all off by my lonesome, and perhaps I then joined the millions of managers and leaders who learned the hard way (lack of results) about the need to delegate, in order to focus on what they uniquely can bring, and work they are good at. (I have to tell you in the self-disclosure department it was a pretty big “ouch” to experience the lesson I have taught to many managers and leaders.) As I let go of the previously unconscious need to be in control of everything, I experienced a huge surge in energy around work that I could do well, and which was meaningful. I had painted myself into a corner with this deep-seated belief that I had to manage everything. Karen created a walkway over the paint and out of the room I had been trapped in. And she did it just by confirming which aspect of the work I could really get behind, which she had noticed as I talked about the vision and hopes for the project. Coaches do lots of things, and I hope this one example will help illustrate one of those, and how powerful that can be. Thank you,...

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Walk into Better Management

Posted by on Jun 11, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

While many are focused on better using technology to achieve mission goals, Federal managers shouldn’t forget that sometimes the best way to know what’s really going on is to get out of the corner office and talk to people. In my upcoming book, 98 Opportunities to Improve Management in Government, I recommend management by walking around:   I highly recommend that you manage by walking around. Such an approach will increase your visibility and give the employees greater confidence in you—if for no other reason than if they see you every day, they will become more comfortable with you and conclude you are truly interested in learning what is going on. Moreover, walking around is a great way to gain understanding of what is happening under the surface. If you stay in your ivory tower every day, you can always find a reason to convince yourself that things are going great. However, if you walk around, you will learn to read your employees’ body language, which is an excellent way of gauging the real situation. For example, if employees do not want to look you in the eye, that is probably a good indicator that something is not right. Moreover, you will also see if people are working together or are disengaged. Finally, if you regularly interact with employees on a casual basis, they will be more willing to share information with you and tell you what is really happening. Such information is absolutely crucial in nipping problems in the bud. Excerpted with permission from 98 Opportunities to Improve Government Management by Stewart Liff. © 2014 Stewart Liff & Associates, Inc.  All rights reserved....

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Stop Feeling Overwhelmed! Three Questions You Should Ask When Weighing Leadership Development Options

Posted by on Jun 4, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

The most successful leaders know that you can never stop learning and should continually invest in your professional development. That’s easier said than done these days because there are more options than ever for leadership development and professional services like leadership coaching. While the leadership development landscape was once dominated by commercial providers (ahem, Management Concepts), both public and private universities are furiously entering the leadership development market. The good news is you have a lot of high-quality choices and the providers are working hard to earn your business. The bad news is you have a lot of high-quality choices and the providers are working hard to earn your business. So, how’s an individual or a leader in search of options for his or her employees to decide the best route to take? Step 1: Stop stressing. Step 2: Ask yourself three simple yet critical questions: Considering where you are today, what do you or your team need to rev up your performance? How much say do you want in designing your learning experiences? What is/are your preferred learning style(s)?   Determine your needs Yes, this is a big question and it might take some time and effort to peel back the onion, but determining what specific skills you or those you lead need to perform more effectively is the central question to answer. Seek feedback from a variety of sources, including the intended participants, and gather ideas from colleagues and learning development professionals. We all have trouble seeing our blind spots and you need to understand the full picture to make informed decisions. Don’t worry if the picture is still somewhat unclear after a bit of thinking, too. This might be one indication that you should consider a tool like a 360-degree assessment to determine where to focus your energy. Once you’ve zeroed in on the skills you need to target, do your due diligence and find the providers with explicit expertise in those areas. Be sure to cast a wide net and consider both commercial providers—small and large—as well as either local or well-known universities. As I mentioned, many people are looking for your business! Each type of provider has its merits, and you’ll need to determine who is the best match not only in terms of expertise, but also who will be able to engender trust and encourage you or others to fully engage in the process. Structured programs vs. flexible options With so many options out there, another way to help narrow down the possibilities is to decide how much say you want to have in designing your learning experience.  Some providers specialize in providing a small number of prescribed certificate and/or degree programs, whereas others take a more consultative approach and work with you to design and develop programs around your specific aims. Both approaches are equally likely to succeed in the right circumstances, but the program aims must be in line with your needs. Depending on the list of skills you need to target, it may be easy to match up your needs with a highly structured program or it may leave you feeling like only a portion of the focus is relevant to you. Your budget also comes into play at this point. For those of you Federal leaders out there whose travel...

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Assuring Successful Adoption of Business Innovations

Posted by on May 27, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 2 comments

It’s common practice for the government and commercial entities to periodically modify their organization’s reporting structure, business processes, and day-to-day procedures to adapt to the changing needs of the agency or company.  And … it’s human nature to be resistant or hesitant to the accepting the changes, or confused by the new ideas that result from those actions.   Senior leadership tends to introduce the “new ways of doing things” through policies, memos, all-hands meetings, and the all too frequent “word of mouth.”  Although these work to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the “message” or the level of effort in planning the changes, there are some fundamental tips that relate to basic human behavior which work with most people regardless of their nationality, language, culture, education, or location.   I would like to share five easy-to-remember building blocks that have been proven to lead to successful adoption of new ideas and innovations. The foundation for these building blocks were derived from an analysis of over 1,100 sociological studies by Everett M. Rogers and Floyd Shoemaker in their ground breaking book, Communication of Innovations, 1972. The authors define innovations as “an idea, product, or practice as being perceived as new by an individual.” The key here is that when individuals, not the organizations, adopt new ways of thinking or acting, the resulting changes are more readily accepted.  To verify that this definition is true, Rogers and Shoemaker explored the characteristics of innovators, the rate of adoption of ideas by a diverse population of people, and the decision-making processes in 103 different sociological settings. They also compared what they found with similar conclusions in more than 1,500 publications dealing with the communication of innovations. Examples of the new ideas they studied ranged from introducing farm tractors in Turkey, to family planning techniques among Hindu housewives, to modern math among Pennsylvania teachers and ultimately the introduction of new medicines worldwide. You may have heard of the terms “innovators,” “early adopters” and “late adopters”, which are commonly used in the press and trade journals. Those terms and concepts are from these authors.   Types of Innovation Adopters (Adapted from Rogers and Shoemaker, Innovation Curve in Communication of Innovations, 1972)  The Five Building Blocks for Successful Innovations There are the five building blocks that you may want to include in your planning for new “innovations.” Relative Advantage:   “The degree to which an individual perceives that a new idea or product is better than the one it supersedes.” The relative advantage of an innovation is positively related to its rate of adoption. Compatibility:  “The degree to which an idea or innovation is consistent with existing values, past experiences and the needs of the person considering the adoption of the innovation.” The compatibility of an innovation is positively related to its rate of adoption. Complexity:   “The degree to which an innovation is perceived as difficult to use or understand.  The ease with which an individual can acquire capabilities in the use of the innovation is measurable on a simplicity — complexity continuum.”  The complexity of an innovation is negatively related to its rate of adoption. Trialability:  “The degree to which an innovation may be experimented or “tried out” on a limited basis; without committing the individual to a permanent adoption.”  The trialability of an innovation is...

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Employee Performance: Do You See the Big Picture?

Posted by on May 27, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Linda, a supervisor of an eight-person analysis team, went home every night for a week frustrated that her team wasn’t getting the job done. She shared her frustrations with her husband over dinners, “Maybe this team just doesn’t have what it takes. Charles and Kelly don’t seem to understand some of the analyses we do. And, Jose and Pat just seem apathetic most of the time.” Linda’s husband asks, “Wait, didn’t you invest a lot in training those four last year? Remember how many dinners I ate alone because you were doing their work while they took classes?” Linda sighs, “Yeah, I thought things would get a lot easier when they improved their analytics skills. I even made sure they knew how strongly I felt about investing in them and their careers.” Linda faces an issue that many supervisors face each day. They often ask: What influences employee performance? How can I improve their performance? More factors impact performance than many of us realize. Some of these factors include: Skills Ability Attitudes Personality Background and experiences Motivation Organizational culture Work context Linda might want to consider all of these factors as she tries to figure out why they are performing lower than her expectations. Here are a few hypothetical scenarios that relate to each factor: Skills: Despite having sent the four team members to training, the analysis software that is used on the job is different from the one used in training. Additional training in the analysis software that the team uses may be needed. Ability: Some of the team members don’t have the attention to detail that analysis work requires. They may perform better in a different role. Attitudes: Jose and Pat are apathetic because they feel they are still regarded as junior team members even though they have advanced analytical skills. Personality: Charles and Kelly are reluctant to ask questions about their work assignments in a team meeting because they are introverted. Background and experiences: Charles has a background in financial analysis, which is quite different than technical analysis that Linda’s team does. Some of the concepts are the same, yet the work is different enough that Charles has a hard time using his background in his current role. Kelly comes from a family of technical analysts who take pride in one-upping each other, so she feels self-conscious about asking questions and prefers to figure things out on her own. Motivation: Pat was turned down for a promotion last year and doesn’t feel that his performance is being fairly rewarded. Jose feels that any extra effort he puts out is rewarded with more work. Organizational Culture and Work Context: Linda’s predecessor answered questions from the team with, “Don’t we pay you to know the answer to that?” Over time, the team stopped asking questions; the team’s norm soon became one of figuring things out on their own instead of working together to address challenges. Linda’s choice of solution depends, of course, on which of the above factors are operating. A likely next step is for her to gather additional information, perhaps by meeting with each team member. Linda, like most supervisors, will probably feel nervous or unsure how to approach this meeting or how to phrase her questions. The important first step for Linda is to recognize...

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Take It Personnelly: Crisis Communications in HR

Posted by on May 22, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

On the day Mary Bara was promoted to CEO of GM, I happily tweeted a congratulatory message and spent some time fantasizing about being the first female Motor City CEO. I admit a large part of that may be my fantasy about having a 1967 Chevrolet Impala just like Dean Winchester’s, but there also exists a desire to see women in the driver’s seat of a Detroit car company (insert groan for the horrible pun.) I was not, however, thinking about running a company that was hiding a product defect that resulted in the deaths of 13 people and the recall of millions of cars. When I did start to think about it, the first thing that came to my mind was the need for crisis communications and I was impressed, as always, by communications expert Paul Argenti’s advice for senior leaders in a recent HBR blog. Crisis management in the public sector can be even more complicated than in the private sector because the United States has more than 300 million stakeholders. Consider, for example, the situation at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The implications of the crisis at the VA, like that at GM, not only demand crisis communications to the public at large, but also to employees. VA employees are under intense scrutiny even though the vast majority are doing their absolute best for our Veterans. This is precisely where the advice for senior leaders needs to align with actionable advice for HR. Even when a corporate communications team handles the external communication, HR has a responsibility to ensure that internal communications both facilitate the change necessary to solve the problem and engage employees to maintain continuity of operations. Although HR is usually adept at change management communications, crisis communications can be different and a lot trickier. Here are some tips for handling internal crisis communications when they fall to you in HR: Align External Communications with Internal Communications from Day One: HR may not be the first people you think of to address a crisis any more than the employees are your first stakeholder audience, but HR is critical in mitigating the impact on employee productivity, engagement, and retention. Moreover, employees should not be the forgotten stakeholders in a crisis. HR should be more than consulted on employee impact; HR should be accountable for making sure the organization can make the changes necessary to address the issue – and that starts with internal communication. Mea Culpa to The Employees, Too: Paul Argenti recommends to “admit your mistakes publicly” and that’s sound advice. That mea culpa should also include an apology to employees who will be affected by the crisis and it should be timed as closely to any public apology as possible. No one likes to learn bad news about their organization from a news report any more than Obama wanted to find out about the VA crisis on the news. If an apology is issued to customers, employees deserve one, too, as most of them had nothing to do with the crisis at hand. HR should also reiterate available support to employees, especially if the crisis is of a tragic nature. Provide “Talking Facts”: In crisis communications, the rumor mill is a formidable enemy and hierarchal credibility may have been damaged by the crisis...

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Bounce Up When You Can’t Bump Up: Strategies for Getting Ahead in the Federal Government

Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 1 comment

Bounce Up When You Can’t Bump Up: Strategies for Getting Ahead in the Federal Government

Are you ready for a promotion, but know there won’t be an opening for you until Hilary’s grandchild is old enough to run for President? Given the shrinking size of the Federal workforce, the budget constraints on filling open positions, and lack of retirements from baby boomers, opportunities for promotion in your current division or even your current agency may appear non-existent. As discussed in an earlier blog, this results in the need for members of the Federal workforce to view a career as a lattice rather than a ladder. In plain language, sometimes you need to move laterally to find an opportunity to move up. Moreover, sometimes you need to move down and laterally to find that opportunity: you need to bounce up. The key to the bounce up is that it’s NOT a “bounce” in the Urban Dictionary sense of the word ­­- you aren’t simply existing your current component or agency. You’re moving on with a deliberate plan to move UP. The key to blazing such a career trail is having a deliberate plan, which can be much more complicated in the Federal workplace than in the private sector. To discover how to find a Federal job when you already have one, I spoke with LaVerne Rayford, a Federal human resources expert. I surmised four key recommendations from my conversation with LaVerne: 1. Have a Written Plan – This doesn’t mean that you have to put it into Microsoft Project. A Post-It™ Note could suffice, but put your plan in writing. This is especially important if you’re taking a job at the same or a lower level. Make a commitment to where you want to be and how to get there. 2. Do Your Homework – Take inventory of the skills you have and make a plan to develop any additional skills you will need to move into a new position. It’s imperative you’re honest with yourself about what your skills are. You can read more about that in this great blog by Robin Sparks. LaVerne also recommends talking with a mentor about whether it’s best to move inter- or intra-agency. 3. Invest In Yourself – A reality of public service is that there often isn’t budget to reimburse you for training outside of the needs of your current role, a professional society membership, or a professional journal in the field you want to move into. You may have to pay for these things yourself. And you are worth the investment (like L’Oreal, only with career advancement and without Beyoncé). 4. Put Your Best Foot Forward – Chris Rock observed that, during the first few months of dating, you aren’t really dating that person. You’re dating their “representative.” That is to say the best parts of them with little view into their weaknesses (like whether they wear Crocs.) You need to show your best self in the application process. This does NOT mean you should be deceptive about your weaknesses. Much like dating, you’re looking for alignment or “fit.” To do this: Represent on your résumé: Always tailor your résumé to the job you want and highlight your achievements. Don’t just cut and paste from your position description. Describe your success for each responsibility and use numbers whenever possible. As they say, “In God we trust....

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Use the Active Voice for More Impactful Writing

Posted by on May 8, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

We often lessen the impact of our writing by using the passive voice. In The Government Manager’s Guide to Plain Language, I offer some very practical guidance and examples that illustrate how government managers can add directness and impact to their communications, both with their staff and with the public. Give it a try with something you’ve written recently. See the difference? PREFER THE ACTIVE VOICE In an active sentence, the person or agency performing an action is the subject of the sentence. In a passive sentence, the person or item acted upon is the subject of the sentence. Changing passive voice to active voice in your writing can add energy and cut wordiness. Consider the following two versions of the same basic message, which describes a supervisor’s actions: All issues and questions were discussed and explained very clearly by my supervisor. Following the completion of each task, I received a full feedback that gave me an opportunity to reflect upon and improve my performance. I was given support in addressing my personal objectives such as improvement of interviewing skills and building technical and client knowledge. My supervisor clearly explained all the issues and fully answered my questions. His comments after every task helped me to reflect upon and improve my performance. He constantly encouraged me to address my objectives, such as improving my interviewing skills and building my technical knowledge. The first version, in passive voice, is wordier, weaker, and less direct. The second version, in active voice, is briefer, clearer, and more conversational or natural. The active voice emphasizes who is doing something: “My supervisor clearly explained all the issues and fully answered my questions.” The actor (my supervisor) comes first in the sentence. The subject of the sentence does the action. The passive voice emphasizes who or what is being acted upon: “All issues and questions were discussed and explained very clearly by my supervisor.” Or, the doer may not be mentioned in the passive sentence: “All issues and questions were discussed and explained very clearly.” To communicate effectively, write most of your sentences in the active voice. To change passive sentences to active, follow these four steps:   1. Find or supply the actors. “An excellent job was done by Stacy.” Stacy is the actor. 2. Put the actor at the beginning of the sentence. “Stacy . . .” 3. Replace the passive verb with an active verb. “Stacy did . . .” 4. Make the subject of the passive sentence the direct object. “Stacy did an excellent job.” Of course, sometimes the passive voice is a better choice, such as when you need to point out an error or shortcoming in a diplomatic way. “A mistake was made in the last set of calculations” is more tactful than “You made a mistake in the last set of calculations.” Excerpted with permission from The Government Manager’s Guide to Plain Language by Judith Gillespie Myers, PhD., a book in series The Government Manager’s Essential Library.   © 2013 by Management Concepts, Inc. All rights reserved....

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Not Just Phoning It In: HR’s Role in Supporting Agency Telework

Posted by on May 7, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 3 comments

I attended the Federal Workplace Training and Expo recently. There were many great presentations, but my favorite by far was by Mika Cross from OPM on the topic of telework. I was not surprised to hear that 32% of teleworkers participate in telework three or more days a week. I was surprised, however, to learn that 12% of Federal workers have not been notified of their telework eligibility and 24% of Federal Agencies still do not have a telework policy in place to meet the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010. (You can learn more about the act and Federal use of telework at Telework.gov.) Perhaps even more surprising, 22% of Federal employees did not receive approval for telework even though their job would allow it. This is all in spite of measurable benefits ranging from energy savings to better Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results. Given the benefits of telework to the Federal agency and employees alike, HR teams have an imperative to implement telework to the extent possible in their agencies. This presents several complex challenges for HR: HR is becoming more virtual and individual contributors must learn how to work as HR professionals on virtual teams as managers adapt to managing virtual HR teams. HR professionals must become adept at supporting a virtual client base. HR must help their client base learn how to participate on and manage virtual teams. Rumor Has It According to OPM research, the number one barrier to telework in agencies is management resistance. HR’s change management capabilities are key to overcoming resistance, specifically in listening to their clients and separating myths about telework from the reality. One of the most common concerns HR hears from clients is that they will not be able to adequately supervise a teleworker. What I find most interesting about this concern is that so many employees only telework a few days a week and have little to no interaction with their managers when they are in the office, yet the manager still feels concern about managing the employee remotely. Ms. Cross suggested a method to address this is to start by having the manager telework a few days a week to help the manager both understand the benefits of telework and that he can manage without being in the same building. I’d also propose that HR offer to facilitate conversations between the manager and the employee about how to measure productivity with the intent that the conversations will continue without HR facilitation after the initial agreement. I have also heard about increased scrutiny of teleworking employees. For example, expecting an hour-by-hour account of the person’s time when working remotely, but not having the same expectation when the employee is in the office. There is also often a mismatch in expectations around communications. Some individuals prefer to use telework to be “heads down” on a project and expect not to be disturbed. If an employee’s manager, however, expects the teleworker to check in via email or telephone throughout the day and to be on instant messenger all day, their productivity might be severely limited. In my experience, mismatches in expectations – especially those around communication– lead to the greatest dysfunction among virtual teams. Tips for Making it Work So, how can HR help managers and individual contributors set and...

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Can You Handle the Truth?

Posted by on Apr 25, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

There is an infamous scene in the movie “A Few Good Men” where Jack Nicholson’s character responds to constant questioning about the truth with a legendary outburst. “You can’t handle the truth!” he shouts to Tom Cruise’s character. This scene reminds me of coaching, but not in the way you might think. As coaches, it is not our job to goad our clients into acknowledging their situation the way Tom Cruise’s character does in the courtroom. In fact, as coaches, we do not necessarily even know what the truth of a particular client’s situation may be. We come to the table with our knowledge of human behavior and leadership; we also bring an assumption that our client is naturally creative, resourceful, and whole. We do our due diligence to learn about the client and the context they work in but we do not seek to be experts in their work arena. We are not coming in to “fix” them or tell them what to do. The client often comes to the table with feedback they have received along with their own perceptions of how things are going. Working in collaboration with our client, it is our job as coaches to help the client gain clarity about what is working and what is not working, and what they are willing and able to do to get closer to their desired outcomes. We accomplish this through deep listening, inquiry, and behavioral practices that help the client to achieve goals for themselves and their way of working. That sounds like a pretty straightforward process, doesn’t it? It can be, but it isn’t always that simple. I have lost count of the number of times a coaching client has said, “I’ve never talked with anyone else about how hard it is for me to lead before now. I’m harder on myself than anyone else is.” Or, “I can’t believe I just admitted out loud that I don’t feel competent as a leader. I wake up worried about it in the middle of the night.” These statements are just two of the ways that past clients have acknowledged the truth of their situation in a coaching session with me. I know I am not the only coach who experiences this on a fairly regular basis. The feedback that clients bring into coaching can be very hard for them to process, particularly if the client has a blind spot or it is the first time they have ever been told that their leadership approach isn’t working on some level. This is where a trained coach helps to create a safe space for the client to discuss the hard truth of their situation. I frequently refer to this as sacred space because that is how it feels to me when a client invests their trust in me and in the coaching process. I feel honored and humbled when a client invites me into that space. It is important to treat that space – and the client – with dignity and respect. It may be the only judgment-free zone they have in their lives. So, where is the similarity to the infamous movie scene I’ve mentioned? The sacred coaching space I’ve described is very different from the witness stand. I think many leaders come into it at...

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Assess Before You Diagnose

Posted by on Apr 22, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

I opened my copy of Performance Improvement recently and was excited to read “An Ounce of Good Assessment is Worth A Pound of Analysis and A Ton of Cure” by Roger Kaufman. It is only natural for managers and executives to diagnose their organizations. They want quick answers. The sooner they can figure out what is causing a problem, the sooner they can focus on getting “real work” done. When I go to the doctor, I am the same way. I’ve already Googled my symptoms and think I know what’s wrong. I don’t want to spend time talking about the different possibilities. I want to focus on how I can cure my ailment. What I really want is a shot or pill that can fix me quickly! It’s frustrating when I leave the doctor’s office with nothing more than an order for a diagnostic test. But, I know that it’s the right approach to gather additional information to make a correct diagnosis. Organizations work the same way. Stepping back to gather information takes time. It takes resources. It requires clear thought. An assessment is simply a tool that helps you collect the information so that you can accurately diagnose what’s going on and then find the right solution. Does this mean that assessment has to be a costly, time-consuming endeavor? Of course not. Many ways exist to gather information—interviews, focus groups, online assessments, surveys, observations, and existing metrics. You might conduct a few interviews with key stakeholders.  You could invite five or six people to a focus group or spend a day observing employees on the job. You also might use an online assessment or survey, which are great ways to get information from many people in a relatively short amount of time. I learned from Dr. Kaufman’s article that investing the time to accurately diagnose the problem is not a new concept. In 1975, another leading scholar in the field of instructional design and performance improvement, Joe Harless, wrote a book called An Ounce of Analysis is Worth a Pound of Cure.  Today, people still want to rush to find a quick solution without spending time to analyze the problem. The next time you think you might be self-diagnosing a problem in your organization, stop to ask yourself a few questions: What are other possible explanations for what I am seeing? What evidence do I have that my explanation is the correct one? Am I relying on anecdotal evidence, such as a handful of personal observations or what others have told me? How can I collect information that will help me reach the right conclusion? If you think an assessment will help you better understand an organizational problem, seek assistance from an expert. Find someone who can advise you on how to collect the information you need for an accurate diagnosis. Performance improvement specialists—sometimes called human performance technologists, assessment specialists, instructional systems technologists, or industrial/organizational psychologists—will know the latest and most efficient way to proceed, often drawing on their experience and lessons learned while helping with other...

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Is It Time for a Training Line of Business?

Posted by on Apr 17, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

Reducing budgets and increasing efficiency is standard fodder these days in all discussions about Federal Government operations. Whether discussions focus on government civilian pay and pay systems, retirement contributions, veterans’ benefits, redundant and overlapping programs, or Federal real estate, the need to improve return on investment and reduce spending is a pervasive theme. For more than a decade, the Federal Government has been introducing line of business (LOB) initiatives to reduce redundancy and increase process and system standardization using shared services. LOB initiatives include financial management, security, and human resources. A 2009 Cost Benefit Analysis conducted by NASA estimated that the HR LOB managed by OPM would save more than $1.3 billion in costs. As downward pressure on the Federal budget continues, consolidation of redundant services into shared service LOBs should continue across the Federal Government. Perhaps one area that warrants serious consideration for consolidation into a shared service center is in the procurement of cross-domain competency training. With agencies at all levels of the government challenged to provide needed training to personnel, breaking down silos between agencies and removing redundant infrastructure required to procure, delivery, manage, and evaluate training on core common competencies may offer a way to stretch Federal training investment. To promote dialog on the consolidation and sharing of training across Federal agencies, here are few positives and potential negatives associated with creating an interagency training shared services center. Pros: Cons: More efficient administration of training and training contracts More efficient may not mean less expensive Streamlined administration reduces overhead burden and workload (for agencies and contractors) Shared service center becomes a “single point of failure” for procuring training that could lead to delays in contract awards Increased consistency in quality of training offerings Less ability to customize training to the specific agency context Removes redundant training management systems and infrastructures Integrating agency specific technical training into a shared serviced learning infrastructure could require significant investment Uniform training evaluations enable better evaluations of effectiveness / ROI across programs and vendors Harder to create evaluations that link directly to agency specific performance measures   In her closing remarks for the National Treasury Employees Union annual legislative conference, OPM Director Katherine Archuleta, noted that the 2015 budget will include measures to “support the exchange of training ideas across government.” This idea exchange could be an important first step in moving to a training shared services concept. Open and thoughtful dialog about how to save money while providing the high quality training experiences Federal workers need (and deserve) has to be the cornerstone of any meaningful effort to optimize return on investment for government training...

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Is ILT Dying?

Posted by on Apr 8, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Yes, ILT (instructor-led training) is dying, but we need not mourn its loss. Instead, we should realize we are standing on the brink of something exhilarating: the reincarnation of instructor-led training as virtual instructor-led training (VILT). The traditional brick-and-mortar ILT classroom has been smoldering for a while now. As federal travel budgets shrink and training dollars dry up (although the future of training is looking up), organizations are seeking alternatives to fill their training needs. Organizations are continually looking for a way their employees can be out of the office for less time. In response, virtual instructor-led classes, which are typically delivered by an instructor in a virtual environment, are swooping in to meet this need. Organizations that have previously only offered traditional ILT classroom experiences acknowledge the customer expectation that these same courses be available virtually. ILT Reborn VILT marks the rebirth of ILT. In this format, employees can take required training courses without leaving their worksite. Some parts of the training may be available asynchronously, meaning students can learn at their own pace, and when their schedule allows. The classic VILT experience is guided by a facilitator, who in many cases will be delivering instruction real-time, so students can ask questions and participate in peer discussions. Given that there has been an overall increase in the use of VILT, and it is likely not going away anytime soon, it is important to address some of the common questions that come up around this training modality. How can you possibly replicate the ILT experience virtually? The answer is you cannot — and should not — simply carry over the ILT experience into virtual training. Instead, you design VILT courses so that the material can come to life in a virtual space. VILT courses are not mindless page-turners; rather, they have the potential to be highly interactive, relevant training experiences with frequent instructor and peer interaction built into the course. Where does the instructor fit in this new format? In the VILT class, the instructor still stands at the helm of the learning experience, coaching students, telling stories, answering questions, and delivering lectures (recorded or live). In fact, the instructor may be even more tapped into how individual students are doing than if the class were offered only in a traditional face-to-face classroom. VILT has the potential to provide more engagement through discussion forums, chats, polls, and other “pulse checks” that help the instructor gauge each learner’s mastery of the content. How do you reach those students who prefer to learn in an ILT setting? The point of VILT classes is not to set students adrift, floating alone in the virtual sea. Instead, they are part of a community of learners who happen to interact in a virtual classroom. Students often have the opportunity to explore course content at their own pace, so they can take the time they need with the material. In addition, the virtual environment encourages support, as peers respond to questions and share knowledge with each other. In the VILT classroom, there may also be some hesitation on the part of non-digital natives. Those who have built their careers sitting in the physical classroom with an instructor leading from the podium may find it difficult to envision a productive virtual training experience. Given that the...

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GSA Uses the Cloud to Smash Barriers

Posted by on Apr 4, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

The term road block is synonymous with barrier for a reason. Perhaps that’s what inspired the General Services Administration (GSA) to look to the cloud to overcome communication barriers as they move toward a hoteling model for their office workspaces. As discussed in The 77 Deadly Sins of Project Management, if your project hits a barrier—anything that restrains or obstructs progress or access—that means there is something coming in between you and the success of your project. As project managers, it is our duty to remove barriers to keep the project moving. These days, for an organization like GSA, which is spread out with regional offices in 11 different cities across the country, a barrier to an enterprise-wide project like this could be as basic as communicating appropriately with all of the necessary stakeholders. And for that very reason, GSA has been working on migrating many of its core agency systems to the cloud. As part of this migration, GSA set up an enterprise social network for its employees, which they leveraged as part of their hoteling model project to capture ideas about streamlining their business processes. InformationWeek reports that this move has saved GSA approximately $5 million annually. By being inclusive and removing communications barriers from the onset of the project, GSA enabled its employees to collaborate on ideas for future phases of the project, generating continued stakeholder buy-in and leading the way toward overall project success. This hoteling model shift includes a major change in their organizational culture and it demonstrates an admirable level of awareness for them to build on the project’s progress and leverage the network as a line of communication about the project itself. GSA has also leveraged the same social network communications tool to aid in continued employee support for project improvements and ideas as well enabling GSA employees to track project costs and schedules with links to their internal planning and budget documents. To learn more about project barriers and tips to avoid and overcome them in your own projects, download the excerpt “Sin #4: Barriers” and check out the complete book The 77 Deadly Sins of Project Management from Management Concepts...

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Tips for Government Managers to Overcome Writer’s Block

Posted by on Apr 3, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Whether writing a business plan, memo, or report, one of the hardest tasks government managers face in writing is getting started. In my recent book, The Government Manager’s Guide to Plain Language, I offer some  tips to help you break through the writer’s block we all experience—and also to help you make an initial assessment of what you have written before passing it along for editing and review.   TIPS FOR WRITING DRAFTS To make the draft stage easier and more productive, consider the following steps: • Once you have a complete outline in hand, write your first draft quickly. • Schedule blocks of uninterrupted time for drafting. • Begin with the easiest section. • After you complete the first draft, walk away from it. • After you get some distance, take a few minutes to review your draft with fresh eyes. • Assess the following before going into the editing stage: – Did I explain my purpose clearly? – Did I consider the role, knowledge level, attitude, and other characteristics of the reader? – Does the overall organization of the draft make sense? – Did I provide closure? (For example, did you tell readers exactly what you want them to do?) After taking a cursory look at your first draft, you’re ready to go on to the editing stage. Excerpted with permission from The Government Manager’s Guide to Plain Language by Judith Gillespie Myers, PhD, a book in the new series The Government Manager’s Essential Library.  © 2013 by Management Concepts, Inc. All rights reserved....

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Are You Leading in a Hostile Workplace?

Posted by on Mar 13, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 4 comments

The recent controversy over hostile workplaces in the National Football League (NFL) should have each franchise owner taking a hard look at his or her organization, and serves as a great leadership fishbowl from which the rest of us can learn. For those not following the situation, rookie hazing has had tacit approval in the NFL since its inception. Earning the right to interact with teammates as a peer comes at a price in the NFL. Rookies are expected to entertain veteran players, run errands for them, and as we learned from the Miami Dolphins situation that is still in the news, subsidize (or outright pay for) trips, meals, etc. for them. Rookies even often endure some forms of physical abuse. The prize is acceptance by the veterans – and the right to join in the “fun” the next year when the new crop of rookies join the team. Owners and coaches have long turned a blind eye to this practice, and players haven’t talked about it much, until recently. In 2013, rookie Jonathan Martin changed that, by claiming the Miami Dolphins created a hostile work environment and walking off the team. This week, he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers – but that doesn’t address the underlying problem with the Dolphins, and potentially other franchise cultures. To explain more, let’s go back: A hostile work environment is one in which, “The hostile behavior, actions, or communication must be severe [and] must seriously disrupt the employee’s work [or] an employee’s career progress … Additionally, the behavior, actions or communication must be discriminatory in nature.” So how could the owners and coaches fall asleep at the switch and let this hostile workplace develop? A common defense is that “Boys will be boys,” and “We can’t watch what they do all the time,” but that abdicates responsibility and is becoming recognized as a cop-out.  Teams have, in the past, failed to address these kinds of issues (illegal drug use, domestic or sexual violence, or other brushes with the law), preferring to handle them “in-house” without upsetting the applecart. As this issue plays out, the NFL culture is due for a reckoning, and the league response to this crisis will likely be transformative and difficult. So here’s the question for you: as a leader in your organization, what would happen to you if you operated your organization under the same level of tacit approval for a hostile work environment that, until now, was acceptable in the NFL? Without getting too far into the weeds about the legal definition, the question remains: Are you or your colleagues creating conditions where actions, communication, and behavior make doing a job very difficult? And if you think the answer to that question is, “No,” then the follow up question is, “Even if you are not creating that environment yourself, does that environment exist in the workplace in which you lead?” If you can’t confidently comment either way, how can you find out? Keep your eyes open to the dynamics of your organization. Ask around, and listen openly to what you hear. Is HR receiving complaints that you may not be aware of? Does the culture support widespread dissemination of content or communication, in person or electronically, that may be considered offensive? Are you observing employees...

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Trying Times: Leading With Emotionally Intelligent Communication

Posted by on Mar 7, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

Emotional intelligence matters almost all the time, but one time it really matters is when any doctor, including a vet, is giving really bad news. After 11 great years, our beloved Corgi dog, Lily, was dying. Her fatal condition came on very suddenly. As my wife and I sat in the vet’s office processing this news, I could not help but notice the compassionate communication and emotional mastery the vet and her assistant practiced in helping us understand and deal with this sad news. When at work we teach emotional intelligence, we talk about all the bad ways communication goes wrong. At the vet’s, a horrible possibility would be to simply say, “Your dog is dying. Do you want to put her down or not?” Particularly during change, disruption, loss or stress, emotionally intelligent communication makes a difference. I had reason to call in at the vet’s a few weeks later, and made it a point to praise the staff for their handling of our situation. One person expressed her thanks, and said, “We try really hard at that.” “Application planning” is a standard component of most leadership development programs. After all, if you’re not going to apply what’s learned, what’s the point? Yet we know that too many people leave the room and have a very mixed record of actually changing behavior. (This is because of a lack of ongoing support and other factors.) In other words, they’re not really trying that hard. Life gets busy, they forget things, and it’s back to business as usual. People often talk about periods of loss, stress, change, disruption or upheaval as “trying times,” but I would like to borrow the phrase the suggest that anyone going through a leadership development experience think about specific instances in which he or she can try new things. This can be a trying time. For example, leaders may try a new behavior to increase communication. They might listen more or better. They may stop interrupting, or start asking open-ended questions to draw out others more. Whatever they do, to set aside a trying time would be good for...

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How Do You Know When You’ve Closed the Gap Between Strategic Goals and Workforce Capabilities?

Posted by on Feb 27, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

One of the recurring questions I hear from clients on a regular basis is: “How can we measure the success of our learning and performance improvement solutions?” For years, training and learning professionals have wrestled with evaluations of training effectiveness, return on investment, and impact on the business. Frameworks like Kirkpatrick’s four-level model and Phillips’s five-level evaluation provide an established structure for gathering metrics to evaluate training success. But, with the increasing digitization of training and growth in the use of automated systems for learning management, performance management, training delivery, and workforce management, new opportunities are emerging for harnessing the power of analytics to evaluate and improve learning. In the theme of my recent blogs on helping organizations take the first steps to introduce analytics to the HR function, I wanted to look at a specific application for analytics, learning analytics (LA), to provide HR/HC leaders with insight on one way to bring data driven decision making to HR. Learning analytics is the use of data, statistical analysis, and exploratory and predictive models to achieve greater success in training and learning. If training is all about closing the gap between your strategic goals and your workforce’s capabilities to reach those goals, then learning analytics is the tool that helps you know when you’ve closed the gap. The beauty of learning analytics is in its simplicity. The best LA programs make use of existing learning systems and data to gauge training performance. For most organizations data from your Human Resources Information System (HRIS), Learning Management System (LMS), Content Management System (CMS), and performance management tools can be combined to provide insight into training program effectiveness. Here are just a few examples of the types of effectiveness questions you can answer, and actions you can take, by combining data from various sources within the organization: Question Decision Is there a relationship between training performance (LMS) and position type (HRIS) or time-in-grade (HRIS)? Revise the training program to reduce inequalities across participant groups Document course pre-requisites to encourage enrollment by those most likely to succeed Can I predict performance in a course (CMS) based on the number of embedded links the participant accesses (CMS)? Integrate content from the most frequently accessed links into the course   Do participants who complete a training program (LMS) receive improved performance ratings (HRIS)? Promote the benefits of the training program Customize individual development plans At the organization level, is there a relationship between training participation (LMS) and business metrics (performance management tools)? Prioritize training investments on those programs with the best impact on business performance Is there a relationship between training completion or performance (LMS), engagement with the content (CMS), and a change in employee status (promotion or termination) (LMS)? Predict and proactively address potential attrition based on training performance Integrate training participation and engagement metrics with career planning   As you can see from these few examples, by merging data from a variety of sources, learning analytics can provide valuable insights into your training and learning programs. The measures you can evaluate are limited mainly by your ability to ask the right questions based on your objectives and the available data. The intersection of training and big data can provide a wealth of actionable information to inform decision making and improve your learning program. If...

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Contract Negotiation: The Ambiguous Authority Tactic

Posted by on Feb 20, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management, Uncategorized | 0 comments

In The Government Manager’s Guide to Contract Negotiation, author LeGette McIntyre offers federal negotiators a host of tactics they can use to get a solid, fair deal for their agency. One of these tactics is the “ambiguous authority” tactic—which we’ve all been subjected to when we’ve bought a car! How do you employ the tactic to get the best deal for the government? Share some experiences with your colleagues and we’ll all be better prepared for the next negotiation!   THE AMBIGUOUS AUTHORITY TACTIC You can use the ambiguous authority tactic when you are the chief negotiator but you don’t have ultimate authority to finalize the deal. You may have to go through an approval process before finalizing the negotiated agreement. You may have instructions to consult with a higher-up before you finalize the deal. These people or committees will be the ambiguous authorities you will defer to if you elect to use this tactic. The most common use of this tactic is in buying a car. You’ve slogged it out with the salesperson all day and finally think you have a deal. But then the salesperson wrinkles her brow, frowns, shakes his or her head slowly, and says those magic words, “I’ll have to talk to my sales manager.” Usually, there is no sales manager. The salesperson simply leaves you in the room to stew and sweat a little bit. You start second-guessing your last offer—and negotiating against yourself.   It’s good practice never to go into a negotiation with unlimited authority to close the deal, even if everyone has given you preapproval to do so. Always have someone you must go back to for approval. If you do have ultimate authority, never let negotiators for the other side know it. Once they find out you are the sole decision-maker, they know you are the only obstacle in the way of the terms and conditions they want. There is just one person to convince. The ambiguous authority tactic is usually employed just before the close of a negotiation. The other side thinks it has a deal, and all of a sudden there is someone else, or even a whole new cast of characters, to deal with. The last thing the other side wants is for this mysterious other person to blow a deal that is so close to being consummated. Negotiators may start to second-guess themselves and be tempted to soften their positions a bit to help you “sell” the deal to the other authority. They actually might start making additional concessions without demanding something in return. In effect, they start bidding against themselves. Always try to keep your ambiguous authority as vague as possible. This prevents the other side from immediately countering your tactic. If you hold out your boss as your ambiguous authority, the other side may simply ask you to bring that person into the negotiation. It’s harder for them to put a face on something vague like “the review committee,” “my finance folks,” or “my customers.” The best way to counter the ambiguous authority tactic is to head it off at the pass. Simply refuse to negotiate with anyone who doesn’t have ultimate authority to bind the company. Remember, you control the process—including setting and running the agenda. When you send the other side...

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What Can You Learn About Mentoring From the Game of Tennis?

Posted by on Feb 12, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Here’s a mentoring tip, borrowed from the world of tennis. In tennis, the mantra is that if you want to get better, you should play against people a little better than you. (Not a lot better, because you get smoked 6-0 and that’s just demotivating.) The reason playing against people a little better than you is so important is that in doing so you start to notice moves you would not have made. The other person is playing a different, better game. It has been said that all the best moves are stolen.At work, I recommend identifying people who seem to have a better game. In whatever domain, they perform better. It may be that they: Are more organized Are good at managing conflict Know how to gain cooperation and buy-in Create great presentations Connect with customers in creative ways Whatever it is that you notice, and value, I recommend you take these people out and buy them a cup of the gourmet coffee. Maybe even lunch. In this setting, you can ask them how they do what they do, and then sit back and listen. Here’s the potential magic in this conversation: As your new friend unpacks his or her reasoning – a way of thinking about the topic – you will probably hear something new, something you hadn’t thought about. This creates new opportunities and possibilities. For example, you might hear from someone skilled at conflict management that the first thing he or she does in a conflict is to listen and ask clarifying questions. This is contrary to how most people engage, which is more commonly to raise defense shields and counter-attack. And so the drama begins. You’re really after superior “source code,” lines of instruction that create better “applications” that you can run. The reason for the O.S. metaphor is that the ways of thinking about performance and behavior are often beneath the surface and perhaps not immediately obvious – until you...

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Will 2014 Be the Year of Employee Value Proposition in Federal Government?

Posted by on Feb 6, 2014 in Human Resources | 0 comments

Like many of my colleagues in the human capital, training, and leadership development fields, I enjoy reading the many articles that pop up across the web discussing the current state of the industry. As I think back about the themes and trends I noticed throughout 2013, one of the most common seems to be the looming critical talent shortage organizations will face in 2014 and beyond.  In fact, Josh Bersin predicted that 2014 will be the year of the employee, boldly proclaiming that “The war for talent is over, and the talent won.” Of course, many in the blogosphere share Bersin’s belief that we’re finally seeing a shift in the employment market that will place employees in the driver’s seat – a position they haven’t held for the last five to eight years.  For Federal agencies, 2014 may represent a perfect storm of conditions that make it difficult for the Federal Government to compete for increasingly scarce talent resources. The hiring freeze that has affected many agencies for three (or more) years has left many positions vacant with the workload for those jobs added on to already overburdened employees. In addition to high workload, the failure of the retirement wave to materialize means that younger workers have had less opportunity for career growth and advancement. Then, add pay freezes, limited budgets for recognition, continued talk of downsizing in the Federal workforce, and negative public opinion about the quality of the Federal workforce. And it’s not hard to believe that attracting top talent to the civil service could be a major challenge in 2014, and beyond. This is why I think that 2014 should be the year of the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) in Federal Government. EVPs, in the broadest sense, specify the deal between employer and employee and describe the total employment experience. They address total rewards, the mission, vision, and job culture, and the people – the nature and composition of the workforce and how that contributes to the organizations objectives. Research has shown that organizations with effective EVPs are more likely to have engaged employees and stronger performance. Articulating an agency’s EVP is a fast and effective way to attract and retain top talent that requires little financial investment. The EVP provides a way for employees to see that their contributions to the organization offer them a chance to engage in meaningful service, be a part of a culture that aligns with personal values, and offers career enhancing experience that can lead to growth and advancement (either at their current employer or another agency). Having a clear understanding of what employees get in exchange for their effort leads to increased commitment, satisfaction, and higher levels of discretionary effort – all things that are sorely needed at most Federal agencies. So, to help you get started in defining and communicating your EVP here are a few key things to keep in mind: Focus on connecting employees to the mission. Remind your staff of the reason why your organization exists and emphasize how they contribute to achieving that mission. Describe how employees can contribute to and benefit from the culture. Discuss the link between employee compensation and organizational values. Highlight the consistency between your client facing brand and the employer – employee relationship. Explicitly identify what employees can expect...

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Mentoring: Something to Celebrate

Posted by on Jan 27, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

Did you know that, in addition to being National Blood Donor Month, January is also National Mentoring Month? For those of you already in the know, that’s awesome. For everyone else, consider yourself warned. Mentoring is making a comeback in leadership development, and for good reason. Jumping on the bandwagon could change your professional life or the trajectory of your organization. And, there is no needle involved. Promise. Mentoring has been around forever if you think about it. The term “Mentor” comes from Greek mythology and has been used since then to refer to individuals who guide and teach us. The resurgence of mentoring in leadership development has been steadily building steam over the past decade, but the conditions for its return seem to be converging: It Keeps You Moving Forward When Formal Advancement Isn’t PossibleLet’s be honest, the past few years have been tumultuous from a jobs perspective. Many organizations have downsized, and those still employed are juggling extra responsibilities to maintain business as usual. The Federal Government has a budget (big win) and the stock market is on a tear, but jobs growth remains relatively slow. As a result, formal opportunities for growth and advancement are still harder to come by in both the private and public sectors. You cannot sit idle waiting for hiring conditions to improve and big training budgets to be reinstated. Ask any leadership expert and they’ll tell you it’s essential to stay focused on growing and investing in your own leadership development—relentlessly. Mentoring is something you can do on an individual or organizational level to keep yourself or others moving forward in the absence of clear promotion opportunities. Mentoring is Taking on Exciting, New FormsWhen you think of mentoring, your mind’s eye probably pictures a seasoned leader taking a young, promising protégé with tons of energy and ambition under his or her wing. No doubt it still happens in that way, and with great success; however, mentoring is being achieved through many different types of interactions between those that have experiences and expertise to offer and those seeking to learn from them. Agencies across the Federal Government, for example, are piloting flash mentoring, group mentoring, and electronic mentoring. The easiest way to describe flash mentoring is a modified form of speed dating, where the mentees have multiple brief meetings with a variety of leaders. Group mentoring is particularly effective in helping a group to solve a defined problem, and electronic mentoring is bringing mentors and mentees together who are located in different geographic locations.  Younger Workers Want to be ConnectedMillenials build social networks naturally, almost subconsciously. They excel at connecting themselves to others in the world around them, and it may (or may not) surprise some to know that one connection emerging leaders are actively seeking in the workplace is a trusted mentor. The beauty of mentoring is that it can work just as well informally as it does through a formal program. The magic is in the match. Younger workers have already recognized that important caveat, and are focused on finding mentors that will invest both time and energy in a lasting mentoring relationship. So, Happy National Mentoring Month! The month is coming to a close. Whether you are a potential mentor or mentee, or in a position to bring mentoring...

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Sometimes Smaller is Better: Starting an HR Analytics Program

Posted by on Jan 16, 2014 in Analytics, Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

Last week, I blogged about the emerging skillsets required in the HR function for introducing analytics and data driven decision making to the HR practice. Even with the right team in place, it can be daunting to launch your first analytic study. Much has been said about the importance of data driven decision making for HR. The early results suggest that organizations who are adopting data analytics to support HR decisions are reaping the benefits. However, as the resources available to government agencies continue to be stretched thin, implementing analytics programs can seem like an impossible task. But there is good news if you are the CHCO of a small or mid-sized organization – not all analytics programs have to be complex and costly. Instead, sometimes smaller is better when it comes to your first foray into the world of workforce analytics. Here are a few strategies your organization can take to start an HR analytics program and reap the benefits of data driven decisions. Go Small to Go Big One of the most significant challenges in creating an analytics program is to conceptualize and implement big data tools and methods. So, instead of trying to build and deploy a comprehensive program, find some small wins where a limited and readily available (or easily collected) data set can provide solid evidence that will improve your decision making. Applicant tracking systems, learning and performance management systems and intranet sites that are all present in most organizations may provide valuable insight on trends, issues, and organizational needs that can be collected and evaluated with minimal investment. Use Data to Confirm (or Disprove) Your Intuition or Hypotheses While the ability to improve workforce decision making through data collection and analysis is indisputable, a hallmark of effective leadership is the ability to make sound decisions based on experience and intuition.In the rush to utilize big data and analytics it can be easy to overlook your own successful record of making good decisions in the absence of data. So, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Instead, focus your data collection and analysis efforts on gathering data that can confirm or disprove a hypothesis you already have. Chances are, if you’re plugged in to your workforce, you really do know what’s going on in the organization and what it takes to be successful. Devise a data collection strategy that is targeted to address areas where your intuition tells you more data is needed while moving areas where you have a high degree of confidence lower on the priority list. Of course, there are risks with this strategy – you might be ignoring blind spots or over estimating your grasp on the organization and its challenges. However, with limited time and money to invest in data driven decision making, prioritizing your investments is a necessity, so trust the wisdom gained from experience to guide you in the right direction. Start With the End in Mind  You will experience a strong temptation to go fishing for what your data can tell you.. As more and more is written about the benefits of data driven decision-making, resist the urge to invest time mining data in an undirected exploration.Instead, take time upfront to carefully consider the challenges your organization is facing and how increased data may...

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Are You Ready for Data-Driven Decision Making in HR?

Posted by on Jan 9, 2014 in Analytics, Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

Are You Ready for Data-Driven Decision Making in HR?

A few weeks back, Management Concepts released the white paper Federal HR Trends in FY14, our take on the five trends we believe will shape the Federal human resources and human capital space this year.  In this blog, we’ll explore the third item on our list: Data Analysts in HR. It’s not news that the rise of big data is a leading story in the field of human resources or that the push for HR departments to embrace data driven decision making strategies is a major focus across the industry. Much has been said about the importance of analytics for HR and the early results suggest that organizations who are adopting data analytics to support HR decisions are reaping the benefits. As government agencies continue to feel the pressure to optimize their investments, the push for data driven workforce decision making will continue to mount, while the resources available to implement analytics programs are likely to continue declining. The focus on analytics, combined with growing (and perhaps unrealistic) expectations about the benefits of big data and mounting pressure to make use of available data from HRIS are combining to create a high pressure environment where CHCOs are being pushed to grow their ability to apply quantitative analysis techniques to support HR decision making. Introducing analytics to the Human Resources Line of Business (HRLOB) will require HR personnel with a set of skills that has not traditionally been part of the human resources function. To ensure your organization can realize the benefits of data driven decision making here are a few key skillsets you’ll want to make sure are part of your workforce for 2014: Business Acumen The ability to tie HR data and study results to core organizational performance metrics will be critical for successful implementation of HR analytics.  While it’s one thing to design a research study, gather data, and analyze the results, making those results compelling by linking them to key performance indicators that are of interest to senior executives is a distinct activity that has not typically been part HR’s area of expertise. Because introducing analytics to the HR organization will require investment (and as such, tradeoff decisions) HR leaders will be required to demonstrate the return on those investments with solid links to business outcomes that are of interest to leaders across the organization. Research / Hypothesis Design Effectively using analytics to drive decision making requires a carefully formulated question and the design of a data collection and analysis strategy that will yield actionable information. HR practitioners need to understand how to design research studies to explain events within their organization. Knowledge about effective statistical sampling techniques and what type of analyses will provide the right view of the data at hand will ensure that the right data is collected  from the right subset of your workforce in order to obtain the information needed by HR and leaders in other functional areas. Statistical Analysis Along with knowing how to design a study so that the right data is collected, it is imperative that HR practitioners develop strong capabilities in statistical analysis using tools such as MS Excel, SPSS, or MATLAB.  The ability to calculate and appropriately interpret key statistical metrics like measures of central tendency, as well as more advanced analyses such as correlations, t-tests,...

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Make Peace with Change and Focus on Building Resilience

Posted by on Jan 3, 2014 in Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Management Concepts recently identified 5 Essential NEW Leadership Habits for Federal Leaders. The second item on that list is “Make peace with change and focus on building resilience.” It was not so very long ago that many people in organizations sought to minimize risk, preserve the status quo and even get by until retirement. That strategy worked, in a sense, so long as the going was good. Today, it is a very different story. Beset with change, disruption, technological and social transformation, and rising demands for results, practically all organizations are scrambling to stay relevant, valuable and in front of the latest wave breaking on their shores. Given the fundamentally changing terrain on which organizations now operate, a new personal ethos around change, adaptation, innovation and risk is arising. That ethos is uncomfortable, sometimes destabilizing, fraught with danger, and requires a lot more energy. But, it is here to stay. So what are leaders supposed to do? One way of understanding the new requirements for leaders to adapt and shift long-standing and  comfortable habits is to observe the tone of today’s “success literature” – all the books, articles and businesses that seek to help people succeed. The messages in this genre have shifted from something like a “get rich quick – the world is your oyster with unlimited possibilities” theme to today’s message, which runs more along the lines of “Failure is inevitable when you’re trying to do anything big. Learn from it and keep going.” How many times have we heard about the number of Edison’s failed attempts before inventing the light bulb? Federal leaders face two big problems when encountering the new normal … We will address both, and what you can do about them. The bonus is that in addressing these problems, there is the potential to build leadership capacity in your organization, and strengthen relationships with your team … Problem: Gradual Problems that Build-Up Over TimeThe first problem runs along the lines of “I made my bones coming up the way I did.” This translates as a leader having a sense of how things work, what works, and therefore what should be. As human beings, it is so comfortable to rely on what we have learned through experience. I sometimes say, “Oh, protect us from the things we learn.” The long-term perils of such thinking are fairly obvious. In systems thinking, it’s called “the boiled frog” syndrome. If you put a frog in hot water, it will hop out immediately. But if you put a frog in room temperature water and very slowly increase the heat – well, it’s going to be frog legs for dinner. Unfortunately, you are the boiled frog in this situation if you are failing to gather opinions from staff down the org chart. Especially, staff who could alert you to the gradual changes you may not be aware of. There is a large body of work now around how organizations are slow or even unable to detect changes that are “low and slow” versus immediate, shock-type events. So they keep on keeping on in what is sometimes called fighting last year’s war. Solution: Leverage the knowledge of your team to detect gradual change earlyIt is hard to hear, but the fact is potentially the most important and valuable information can...

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Play Dumb to Get What You Want: The Question Tactic in Negotiation

Posted by on Dec 27, 2013 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Negotiation skills aren’t just for entrepreneurs on Shark Tank. Federal managers can also benefit from mastering these valuable skills. In The Government Manager’s Guide to Contract Negotiation, LeGette McIntyre offers some very specific tactics that could help any fed facing a tough negotiation. Here’s a great example from the book that McIntyre calls “The Question Tactic.” Try this in your next meeting and let us know your results. THE QUESTION TACTIC In any negotiation, knowledge is power. You increase your power relative to the other side as you increase your knowledge about it. Use questions to probe for answers that will increase your information about the other side. Dig for more information about its position, interests, needs, hidden agendas, and so forth. In a negotiation, acting dumb is smart! When you ask questions, you tap into the tendency for people to want to help out folks they regard as less informed or less intelligent than they are. It makes them feel important. So ask questions that make the other side feel superior, such as, “I’m not sure I fully grasp all the intricacies in your proposal. Would you mind explaining them to me again?” Or, “I know the dollars you are proposing are backed up with sound facts, but for some reason I’m just not getting it. Can you explain to me how you came up with these figures?” Notice that you are asking for help in both these examples. Get in the habit of asking that all-important question, “Can you help me…?” That’s almost guaranteed to trigger the human need for the other side to feel smart and superior, and the negotiators will give you information they otherwise wouldn’t have. You also should use questions to test the credibility of the “facts” the other side is asserting. Get good at asking open-ended questions that start with “how,” what,” “what else,” “which,” and “why.” Some examples: “How did you come up with those figures?” They now have to defend their position with additional facts, and remember, any additional information shifts power. “What would you do if you were in my shoes and someone gave you that choice?” This has the added benefit of bringing them around to your side, even if it’s just a little bit. “What is really important to you?” Always follow up with “what else is important?” If they see you as caring for their position, they are likely to be more open sharing information with you. Then, ask them “which of these things is more important to you?” This gives you insight into their “must” and “give” positions. Test their credibility by asking “why do you think that position is fair?” That puts them on the defensive to justify their position. Notice that all these questions are open-ended and can’t be answered by a simple “yes” or “no” or with some finite fact. They require elaboration, which will give you more information. Closed-ended questions run the risk of eliciting a simple answer and nothing more. For example, if you ask, “Don’t you think your price is a little too high?” they may answer with a simple “no.” That doesn’t give you much information. If you ask “when will you be able to deliver?” they can answer with one date. Again, you aren’t gaining useful information....

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The Workplace Wisdom of Christopher Robin

Posted by on Dec 9, 2013 in Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were finally getting around to cleaning out the coat closet when we stumbled on our kids’ baby books. As we leafed through the pages of memories, I ran across a snapshot of my son carrying a Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal.  I was reminded of how central Winnie, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger and the rest of the inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood were for several years of our lives.  Thinking back on that time, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes when Christopher Robin said to Pooh, “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” The coincidence of turning up this memory, while at the same time reading Clive Thompson’s recent book, Smarter than You Think (perhaps Thompson is a Milne devotee), jump started an interesting chain of thought.  In his book, Thompson sets out to counter the “alarmists” who insist that the prevalence of technology is negatively impacting society’s intellectual capacity and abilities.  Building his argument from extensive anecdotal evidence, Thompson makes the case that technology is enabling us to outsource cognitive processes that can be limited and inefficient, to grow the tacit knowledge that is embedded in our social networks, and to benefit from increased multiplicity by connecting us more readily with others who share our niches of interest and expertise.  While Thompson lacks strong empirical evidence to support his premises, the points he raises about technology’s impact on learning should prompt training and learning professionals to examine how their training programs have changed (or should change) in response to the growing use of technology. The emergency of the “common core” and a focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in the primary education system has opened up a wide ranging discussion on how we educate children. But that conversation has yet to really translate into the world of corporate and, especially, Federal Government training. So, here are a few tips that will help you build a training program that considers how technology is changing the way we think about intelligence and training. Take advantage of technology’s capabilities  We’ve all been through training courses where we’re forced to memorize chapter and verse of one particular policy or another. Now that most people have smartphones with more computing power than early computers (TRS-80, anyone?), there’s rarely a need for rote memorization. Instead of focusing on storage and retrieval of information, teach smart search strategies and “library” skills so learners can more readily navigate the vast amount of online information and efficiently locate the salient information they need to execute their job responsibilities. Focus on networking and relationship building skills Training events offer a great opportunity for participants to make new connections. Building connections in the workplace has numerous benefits ranging from increased engagement and reduced turnover to improvements in collaboration and team performance. As the workforce becomes increasingly diverse and distributed, building relationships with coworkers and developing professional networks that can augment individual expertise can be challenging.  Take advantage of the power of collocation during your training events and intentionally teach the skills and techniques for building productive work relationships. Minimize problem solving and maximize problem definition While the ability to solve problems is important...

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What’s in a Name? Human Resource Business Partners v. Human Resource Generalists

Posted by on Nov 22, 2013 in Human Resources | 1 comment

What’s in a Name? Human Resource Business Partners v. Human Resource Generalists

Recently, Management Concepts released Federal HR Trends in FY14, our take on the five trends we believe will shape the Federal human resources and human capital space in the coming year. Let’s take a moment to contemplate the first item on our list: Bright lines between Human Resource Business Partners, Human Resource Generalists, and Line Managers I recently participated in a Twitter chat session that included a question about whether an MBA or an MS in HR was more useful to an HR professional. My response, which was seen as controversial by some, was that it depends on you intended career path (I also believe HR needs more diverse career paths instead of ladders, but more about that later). If you want to be a strategic HRBP, then it’s an MBA. I have literally put my money where my mouth is on that recommendation, having pursued an MBA instead of an MS HR because I wanted to provide broader strategic value to the business. On the other hand, if you want to be a senior HRG or enter an HR Center of Excellence (localized areas of in-depth HR expertise) then I would recommend an MS in HR. Why do I see such a strong distinction? Let’s face it: HR isn’t at the table with senior leaders in the manner or frequency we would like to be. This is in part because of the bias against HR, but in a much larger part because of HR’s focus on human resources as a stand-alone function (rather than taking a systems thinking view) and lack of understanding of other areas of the organization (e.g., finance, IT, mission areas). If we, as HR professionals, want to be at the table, the change starts with our capabilities, not with the attitudes of senior executives toward HR. We need to show our value in the language of business executives. The first step to HR’s true integration with strategic business leaders is to acknowledge the breadth of roles in HR and the differentiated skills and experience required in each role. We need bright lines, not blurred lines between HRBPs and HRGs (and I apologize to anyone who just had a flashback of Miley Cyrus twerking with a Beetlejuice-clad Robin Thicke.) Moreover, as more “HR” responsibilities are transitioned to Line Managers, there must also be a clear distinction between HR and the Line Managers themselves. For shared understanding, let’s clarify the definition of HRBPs and HRGs for this blog. The Human Resource Business Partners (HRBPs) perform a strategic role by advising leadership on how human capital management can support larger goals and initiatives. In other words, HRBPs have a deep understanding of – and role in – determining how to achieve its mission. HRBPs also understand the fundamentals of other components of the organization, how they add value, and how they interact with HR. HRBPs view HR through a systems thinking lens. Human Resource Generalists (HRGs) are primarily responsible for the traditional work of the HR department, like HR policy and administration, employee relations, recruitment and change management. The depth of those skills can vary depending on the size and needs of each agency, but generalists must be well-versed in all things HR and bring a breadth of knowledge and skills. Centers of Excellence provide a depth...

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A First (Quick) Look at the 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey Results

Posted by on Nov 14, 2013 in Human Resources, Leadership, Uncategorized | 2 comments

The 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results are out. There are thousands of ways you can slice and dice the data, but for instant analysis, let’s look at a few key points. First, the results overall are showing the toll of pay freezes, sequestration and furlough concerns, reduced training and everyone having to do more with less. Positive responses to a majority of the questions declined; a phenomenon that started last year. There was a significant drop in employee satisfaction. Second, in what I call the 80% club – critical mass in that at least 80% of the respondents had a positive response and probably impact culture as a result — we have the following questions: • When needed I am willing to put in the extra effort to get a job done. (An impressive 95.6 %!)• I am constantly looking for ways to do my job better.• The work I do is important.• How satisfied are you with the Alternative Work Schedules (AWS) program in your agency?• I like the kind of work I do.• I know how my work relates to the agency’s goals and priorities.• How would you rate the overall quality of work done by your work unit?• I am held accountable for achieving results. Take that, critics of the federal so-called uncreative, unaccountable slackers who hate their unimportant jobs. Third, we still have issues with performance management. The following statements were agreed with by fewer than 40% of respondents:• Awards in my work unit depend on how well employees perform their jobs.• Creativity and innovation are rewarded.• Promotions in my work unit are based on merit.• In my work unit, differences in performance are recognized in a meaningful way.• In my work unit, steps are taken to deal with a poor performer who cannot or will not improve.• Pay raises depend on how well employees perform their jobs. (This was below 20%, but what did you expect with freezes?) What to do with this data? If you are a leader, manager or supervisor, make sure people know that you recognize their efforts. Give them positive feedback when things go well, and feedback that helps when they don’t. Help others to differentiate between the things they or you can control and not control. And just to keep perspective in often-difficult circumstances, remember that the stresses, annoyances and hindrances are actually very small when compared to, say, living in the Philippines right...

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New Whitepaper: Federal HR Trends in FY14

Posted by on Nov 6, 2013 in Human Resources | 0 comments

Attention human capital and HR professionals, check out the latest whitepaper from Management Concepts: Federal HR Trends in FY14.  In addition to managing your organization’s human capital, HR pros are also tasked with handling the human consequences of uncertainty driven by the political environment.  In such a rapidly changing environment, what can you do to stay effective in your role?  Prepare for the latest HR trends.  HR practitioners should start educating and training their teams now to get ready for these 5 upcoming trends: 1. Bright lines between Human Resource Business Partners (HRBPs), Human Resource Generalists (HRGs), and Line Managers2. Closing the distance when your workforce is blended3. Data analysts in HR4. Diversity and inclusion to drive innovation5. Succession planning that includes retention, development and hiring components. Download Federal HR Trends in FY14. Do you agree with these 5?  What would you add to the list?  Over the next few weeks, we will be posting more information here on each of these trends with more tips on how to prepare for...

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Dispelling the Retirement Wave Myth: It’s an Undercurrent, Not a Wave

Posted by on Oct 31, 2013 in Human Resources, Leadership | 1 comment

For years now Federal human capital  and human resources practitioners have been told human resources horror stories about the retirement wave: “Nobody go into the barn, the boomers are all in there retiring!” In most Federal organizations, however, it’s just not happening. We know it’s coming, but more like a herd of “walkers” way off in the distance in “The Walking Dead” that is out there but never seems to approach us. (It’s Halloween, thus the scary movie references.) Of course, organizations with mandatory retirements face challenges as the boomers retire. The majority of the Federal civilian agencies, however, do not have mandatory retirement and despite feverish workforce and succession planning, it seems that far fewer govvies are retiring. Simply put, the retirement wave isn’t. There is, however, an undercurrent of change in the Federal workspace and HC/HR needs to set course with this in mind rather than focusing on the distant tsunami they fear is on the horizon. This brings key questions as to why boomers aren’t retiring, what the implications are for human capital, and what a human capital leader can do about the implications. Let’s start with the why. The economy has burdened the boomers with a trifecta of bad: • Dwindling nest eggs: First, investments have plummeted both in the stock market and in real estate. Boomers’ nest eggs aren’t as large as many expected them to be. Moreover, boomers have watched many of their parents outlive their retirement savings. Living to be 100 is great. Running out of money at 80 isn’t. • Uncertain economics: Second, boomers have a heightened awareness of the uncertainty of one’s financial future. Boomers weathered the 1970s stagflation (some even believe their entrance into the workforce caused it), Black Monday, the Friday-the-13th minicrash, dotcom bust, 9-11, and the housing bubble, just to name a few. The real cause of their uncertainty now, however, is not the commercial sector, but rather the Government. Fears around cuts to Social Security and Medicare are doubled with the reality that most of the boomers will live longer than they expected. • Sandwiched Generation: Third, and finally, many boomers’ expenses haven’t decreased the way they had hoped. Boomers’ parents are living longer than expected and many boomers are caring for their elderly parents. Boomers’ children are facing hard economic times and many have moved home.  Eight percent of grandparents share a household with a grandchild and many are the primary breadwinner in supporting their grandchildren. Boomers are sandwiched between their elderly parents and their boomerang children and grandchildren. Their expenses didn’t drop off at 55 or even 65. For many, their only option is to keep working. So, what are the implications? The upside for boomers who work in Government is that most Government jobs are not manual labor intensive (with many exceptions, of course) and boomers have unprecedented health even in their “golden years.” Many boomers are continuing to work just because they enjoy working! Government is also one of the few remaining industries that respects long-term service and experience as much as youth and exuberance. The downside, however, is that this complicates workforce planning and “sandwiches” gen X in the workplace the way boomers are at home. The result will be the loss of gen X talent in the Federal government, not the predicted mass...

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Management Concepts Introduces Eight New Training Courses Designed for the Federal HR Professional

Posted by on Aug 21, 2013 in Human Resources | 0 comments

Management Concepts recently introduced eight new courses for federal human capital professionals.  These courses help federal HR professionals become strategic partners within their agencies and accomplish their human capital missions.  In addition to the six SHRM developed courses already offered by Management Concepts, these new courses greatly enhance a growing suite of Federal HR training.  See the press release below:   Tysons Corner, VA (PRWEB) August 15, 2013 Management Concepts Inc., the nation’s leading provider of effective facilitator-led training and development to the federal government, announces the addition of eight new courses designed to help federal HR professionals acquire the skills necessary to be valuable strategic partners in accomplishing their agencies’ human resources and human capital mission. “Our mission is to unleash the potential of individuals, teams and organizations in the Federal Government,” said Tom Dungan, CEO of Management Concepts. “For 40 years, we’ve been known for providing effective, high-quality training and development opportunities for federal workers and we’re excited to continue to add more federal HR training courses to our successful curriculum.” A full list of Federal Human Capital and HR courses, dates, and locations can be found at http://www.ManagementConcepts.com/HR. The eight new Federal Human Capital Management and Federal HR courses include: Employee Relations. This course provides a basic understanding of federal employee relations, including how to distinguish between performance and conduct issues, support employees in need of assistance, and work through the grievance process. Getting Efficient: Optimizing HR Operations. This one-day course provides participants a framework by which they can analyze the performance of their organization in order to seek efficiencies. Job Analysis for Effective Recruitment & Selection. This three-day course provides individuals with necessary knowledge and skills associated with the hiring process to successfully conduct a Job Analysis that identifies the competencies necessary for effective job-related selection criteria. Labor & Management Relations. This course provides a basic understanding of federal labor relations, including an overview of labor laws, bargaining responsibilities, and grievances and arbitration. Position Classification. This three-day course provides the foundational knowledge needed to classify positions. Emphasis is on the underlying framework for all positions, the process used to classify positions, and the legal requirements of classification. HR Analytics. This two-day course provides federal human resources professionals with an overview of the fundamentals of analysis to support decision makers in achieving human resources goals and assessing HR’s contribution to meeting mission objectives. Position Management. This course focuses on organization design, aligning workforce plans to current and future positions, and ensuring alignment with classification systems, laws, and policies. Supporting Professional Growth in Organizations. This course is designed to help participants focus on assisting employees in their organization make career transitions that build a more highly engaged workforce. For further information and the latest course dates and locations, call 888.545.8579 or visit...

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Thought Bubble: “Blah, Blah, Blah”

Posted by on May 1, 2012 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

As leaders and HR professionals, we frequently have the amazing opportunity to work with our clients on their improving their leadership skills. Maintaining a strategic focus, treating the people well, and meeting or exceeding business results are leadership indicators that most leaders would agree are vital to their success. I’ve had the opportunity to hear Pat Donahoe, Postmaster General for the United States Postal Service, speak on several different occasions. Whenever he opens the floor for questions, people inevitably ask him the same question. “Pat, what’s the number one thing you would suggest it takes to become a top leader?” Every time, Mr. Donahoe answers, “Listening.” Hmmm. Listening. Do you mean that thing we’ve been doing for our entire lives? The thing that has allowed us to relate to someone else, share successes as well as challenges, and then set out upon a course of action based on what we understand? Yes. That very thing. Then why is it so hard to do? Why is it so hard to be fully present when we’re communicating with someone else? Why do we let our internal dialogue so strongly influence our interpretation of our external interchange? I recently saw this depicted in an amazing way. I was working with an audience, and in the audience, many of the participants were either visually impaired or blind. We were going to use a video, and the point of contact mentioned that she had an “audio enhanced” version of that video. Not really understanding what that meant, I quickly agreed to use her version. She had used it successfully with similar audiences, so I thought it was the best option. If you’ve never experienced an audio enhanced video, it takes a little getting used to. A rather robotic sounding voice interjects and describes what’s going on in the background, specifically to allow those with visual impairments to get a fuller picture of the interchange. It works very well, in most cases, to allow those with visual difficulty to understand what’s going on. For those of us who are sighted, it’s a great experience. I’m sure you’re familiar with movies with subtitles where you can see what’s being said. Here, you hear what’s being done. The most memorable moment in that video, for me at least, was a vignette where someone was prattling on and on about something that seemed insignificant. The robotic voice said, “Thought bubble: blah, blah blah” precisely at the same time when the actors on screen were clearly not listening to each other. I chuckled, along with many of the others. How different would your conversations be if the people you were talking to could actually read your thoughts? Surely we’ve all thought “blah blah blah” when we’re on hold trying to speak to a customer service rep or doing something that may seem mundane, but what if, and I mean if, the person you’re speaking to has something that’s very important to say. Not something that you’ve heard before, yet something that you really need to hear? How do you suspend distractions to give them your full presence? It takes practice; it takes work, and it takes intention. For the next week, strive to be fully present when someone comes to talk to you. Give them the gift of your attention...

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5 Steps to Spring Cleaning Your Psyche

Posted by on May 1, 2012 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

Spring has sprung early this year. From the rescheduling of the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC, to the record setting pollen counts in Atlanta, no one can argue that Mother Nature decided to exit her Winter hibernation a bit sooner than usual this time around. And with Spring comes a few rituals that we’ve come to embrace over the years: the Easter Egg hunt on the White House grounds, the Spring practices of college and pro football teams, longer days and shorter nights, and all the other outdoor activities that we associate with warmer temperatures. My question for you, however, relates to the indoor activities of your workplace. We can certainly engage in physical Spring cleaning activities: throwing away outdated files, rearranging some of our furniture, and scouring our office surfaces with pine-scented cleaners. But what about the internal opportunity we have to start something new and fresh? What can we commit to doing differently to become even more effective in our work? How do we break from those habits, behaviors, and activities that are not serving us well? Here are five simple steps you can use to begin the Spring Cleaning of your psyche. Take an honest look at what you’re doing. This one is simple enough. For one week, track all of your activities. If you’re the person who says, “There aren’t enough hours in a day,” or you frequently tout your multi-tasking skills, ask yourself why. Why do some people get a lot more done, while not seeming to work as hard as you? The key here, as with all of these steps, is to be honest. Take an honest look at what you’re not doing. Every time you choose to do something, you’re intentionally choosing not to do something else. This one can be difficult for people to understand. If you’re a leader with an “open door” policy, you’re also choosing not to give yourself some needed down time. If you’re constantly responding to email and other distractions, you’re also choosing not to give your brain time and space to focus on the other, perhaps more important, tasks at hand. Only you know what the true cost is of what you choose to do. Engage in scenario planning with yourself. After you’ve taken some time to examine where you’re spending your time and energy, play a few what ifs. What if you closed your door from 8-9, and then 4-5 every day? You’ve taken time to focus, plan your day, or plan your tomorrow. What if you responded to emails less frequently? Again, only you know if a strategy like this will work for you and in your environment. Choose one thing to do differently. The great thing about scenario planning is during the planning phase, all of the results are hypothetical. You don’t know how things are going to play out. Only once you begin doing something different (or differently) can you see the actual results on your workload. Practice. You may have heard that it takes 21 days of doing something differently to become habit. While that’s a convenient rule of thumb, the actual time it takes for a new behavior to become internalized may take more or less time, depending on how long you’ve been doing it in the first place. Spring...

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What Should I Know About You?

Posted by on Apr 24, 2012 in Human Resources | 0 comments

As an HR Development professional, I get the opportunity to meet a variety of people in a variety of settings. My work has taken me to almost every state in the US, as well as a handful of countries in Western Europe. These opportunities always present me with experiences that I learn from on many levels, not the least of which is how people view themselves, how they introduce themselves to others, and how much they share. One of my recent favorite ice breakers (yes, I hear the collective groan out in the blogosphere), is to have participants introduce themselves by using a word or phrase that begins with each letter of their name. For example, for “Scott,” I would say something like, “My name is Scott. ‘S’ represents that I’m from the South, Alabama specifically; ‘C’ stands for the fact that I’m a huge fan of college football, especially the Auburn Tigers; ‘O’ means that I enjoy outdoor activities; ‘T’ means that I’m love live theatre, and have performed in numerous productions over my life; and the other ‘T’ means that I value the time that we’re going to spend together for the next few days.” That pretty much sums up a lot of information about me and my interests. While this ice breaker seems quite simple on the surface, what I find really interesting is what people choose to reveal about themselves. For many, the organization’s culture dictates the amount of personal information that people share. In a low trust environment, participants are typically very guarded. They’re answers are brief, to the point, and concise. They’re choosing to protect themselves by not revealing a lot about themselves. Again, low trust, or organizational change, leads people to be self-protective. In high trust environments, however, people are much more open. They share stories rather a descriptive word or phrase. They share experiences, and somehow find a way to integrate the letter into part of the experience. Sometimes, they just say what they want to say, and beg for forgiveness for “breaking the rules.” I totally welcome that. I also find that the first two or three people who volunteer to introduce themselves really set the tone for the rest of the group. If the pioneers are very open, most others will follow. If the pioneers are guarded, that behavior follows as well. The purpose of the ice breaker is to help people begin to see how connected we all really are. We may look different, have different experiences, have grown up differently, and have had different life experiences. However, we all do have something that connects us. We’re all people who are on a path…and for a few short hours, we share that path together. So… At the end of the day, how would you answer this question? What should I know about...

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Achtung!

Posted by on Apr 3, 2012 in Human Resources | 1 comment

Many of you probably recognize the German word for “attention.” Did I just capture yours? How long did I keep it? What’s important to you about “attention?” Why do I keep asking you rhetorical questions? How many more questions will I ask? Hmmm… I recently attended a webinar. The topic of the webinar had intrigued me, and I had never heard one from the organization presenting it before. So I dutifully registered and looked forward to seeing (and hearing) a new perspective on the topic at hand. About five minutes into the webinar, the presenter posed a “yes/no” question to the audience; however, the answer(s) offered were in a multiple choice format. I sat and scratched my head, thinking that I must have missed something. I opted not to answer the question, thinking that the other 175 or so people on the webinar who had answered quickly had clearly heard (or saw) something that I had not. Since they had (what I perceived) to be more or different information than me, I would defer to their thinking. I mean, after all, I was sitting in a virtual room with 175 of my newest colleagues, so I decided to go with the majority. I then decided to pay a little more attention than I had been. As I listened and watched the webinar unfold, it became apparent (at least to me), that the information was a bit spotty. I perceived the presenter was navigating between key points in a way that was totally logical to her, but clearly was not logical to me. I wondered about the others on the webinar. Was I the only one witnessing this? Did it matter? Was I still missing something? I had a choice to make. Do I continue on the webinar? Or do I bail? At that precise moment, I recognized that I was doing something that I frequently coach my clients (who are leaders) not to do. I was judging the webinar. Because of my inability to connect the dots, I had begun to judge the entire experience. Surely I couldn’t be part of the problem. I had, in a nanosecond, begun to formulate beliefs about the presenter, the company she worked for, and the organization she was representing. My beliefs may or may not be accurate, but that wasn’t the point. The point, for me, was how I had begun to pay attention. And that was troubling. I had begun to look and listen for reasons not to pay attention. I looked and listened only for the things to reinforce my ever-increasing intense belief that the presenter wasn’t prepared (she was), or that her information wasn’t relevant (it was). I chuckled. Out loud. At myself. No matter how much I learn, read, investigate, analyze, or “know,” the more I realize that the type of attention we pay to others is critical in informing our world view. When we observe the world from a place of curiosity, not judgment, the world becomes a different place. I intentionally changed my frame of mind. I made my brain ask questions like, “I wonder what she’s going to cover next” rather than “I’m sure the next point isn’t going to follow.” I curiously anticipated what was coming next, rather than sitting and waiting to judge...

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From Bedtime Stories to Workplace Stories: 3 Tips to Harness the Power of Storytelling

Posted by on Mar 27, 2012 in Human Resources | 0 comments

The little boy fidgeted in his bed. Surrounded by his stuffed animals and his achievement trophies, he eagerly anticipated the brightest spot in his day. In fact, it was the brightest spot in almost all of his days, though he probably didn’t realize it at the time. It was the moment when his grown up majestically entered his room, book in hand, and sat beside him, snuggled in among his stuffed animal friends, and began the adventure. The adventure took them on different places every night. From tales of princes and princesses in faraway lands, to epic battles of good versus evil.  From action packed scenes of battle, to serene campfires in the Rocky Mountains. And if he were able to hold his eye lids open, as they grew heavier and heavier, some how, some way, things almost always ended in a good place. The prince and princess were reunited at last; good, yet again, was able to conquer evil. The inevitable battle gave way to peace, and the fish were always biting at the mountain lakes. For many of us, storytelling has been an integral part of our lives. Stories have given us hope when we had little; stories gave us strength when we were weak; and stories were able to send us off to dream with a sense that everything, eventually, would be all right. Sometimes, our bedtime stories taught us life lessons (though we didn’t realize it). In many cases for me as a young child, I would keep fighting sleep because I couldn’t wait to get to the end. I had to know what was going to happen. I had to know things were going to be all right; of if things weren’t right, I needed to believe that life was fair-at least sometimes. If you shared similar experiences, you probably didn’t realize that your grownups were really helping to train your brain. Our brains love to relate to others, and storytelling is one of the best ways for that to happen. But how do we tell good stories in the workplace? Stories that teach, motivate, empathize, or admonish? As HR professionals, being able to tell good stories will frequently teach the people in the agency we support lessons, or provide them a way of processing information, that a “just the facts” approach will not. We all have stories; it’s just how we choose to tell them, and the spirit in which we offer them, that will gauge their effectiveness. When telling a workplace story, here are three tips to keep in mind. Make sure your story reinforces the message you’re trying to convey. If a situation is confusing or doesn’t align with the situation, you’ll do nothing more than muddy the waters for your colleagues. Choose your words carefully. In the beginning of this blog, you were probably able to quickly generate a mental image as the story unfolded about our little boy waiting for a bedtime story. Making sure you choose words that are as exact and precise as possible will serve you well when telling your story. And, in telling a workplace story with a message, make sure you use your words, your language, and your style. One of the greatest things we can celebrate about ourselves is our differences. Practice. If...

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The Unexpected HR Professional

Posted by on Mar 21, 2012 in Human Resources | 0 comments

Many HR departments in the Federal Space find themselves, just as with many private sector companies, in a desire to become true business partners with the clients they serve. They want to have a voice in planning and co-crafting the future of the agency. From workforce planning (ensuring the best talent is available to continue the mission of the agency) to succession planning (ensuring the agency has groomed a pool of talent to fill key roles and positions for the future), HR professionals are often able to provide invaluable expertise to their business partners. But frequently, we as HR professionals find ourselves in a more reactionary mode. Because of a lack of planning (maybe on our part; maybe on the part of our clients; maybe for unforeseen circumstances), we may find ourselves scrambling just to fill a position within a timeframe, rather than filling a position with the best qualified and most ideal candidate. How can we help to prevent that a reactionary situation by becoming more proactive? Here are three tips I’ve found helpful that many of our clients don’t expect. And by doing the unexpected, you’re poised to do the extraordinary. 1. As soon as possible, establish positive, healthy relationships with our clients. Chances are, we’ve heard that one before. However, its simplicity, and importance, cannot be overstated. Your client groups need to feel like they can seek your expertise in the good times, as well as the more challenging ones. Reach out to your clients and stake holders to see how it’s going. Help your clients find creative solutions for their issues. Volunteer on projects to provide a voice for new initiatives. Our challenge is to help our clients see us as an advocate to move the organization forward, not as an obstacle to prevent new ideas from being implemented. 2. Do unexpected things to keep the relationship alive. By doing simple things-like going to lunch with your clients, sending a random email to let them know you’re thinking about them, placing a quick phone call to see how things are going-you absolutely show your clients that you’re genuinely interested in them, in their well-being, and with the well-being of the agency. 3. Capitalize on teachable moments when they occur. During the times we spend with our clients, find moments to ask great, thought provoking questions of your clients. “I know that’s how the position description currently reads, but what skills would the ideal candidates possess?” “I know this situation must be frustrating, and we’ll get through it. What do you think we can do differently next time to make sure we have a different outcome?” “I hear the morale in your department is improving. What are some of the most creative ways you’ve come up with to help affect that improvement?” “What can I do differently to help support you more effectively?”When you genuinely, authentically, and honestly practice these three simple tips, the results can do wonders to build and foster positive relationships. Do the unexpected. Expect the...

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Of Service to Whom?

Posted by on Mar 14, 2012 in Human Resources | 0 comments

As HR professionals in the government sector, we often times have many competing commitments. We have to keep abreast of what seems like never-ending changes to rules and regulations that govern our industry. We have to balance the work we must do, with the work we want to do. We want to provide assistance and service to our clients, and we want to further the mission of the agency. But at the end of the day, what is it that makes us want to do the best job possible? What is IT that has caused us to choose a career in the field of human capital? What do we do, on a daily basis, that truly makes a difference for the people we work with, in the agency we work, and in the bureaucracy that we’re sometimes forced to navigate? I believe the answer to all of these questions is service. We have selected a career in the human capital arena to serve others. We’re serving other people who have dedicated their careers to the public interest. We’re serving veterans, from conflicts we studied in the history books, to conflicts we watch on our evening news. We’re serving mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, spouses and significant others, children and grandchildren, as well as a host of others who are related to-connected to-those primary customers of ours. We’re serving ourselves (as professionals, and as taxpayers). We’re serving our families, by the work we do, by what our profession provides us, and by the benefits it affords us. So what does service, as a government HR professional, mean to you? Do you view yourself, your work, your day-to-day activities, as being in service to someone or something? On those bad days when things aren’t going your way, what if you were able to reframe your thinking, just a bit, to “How did I serve someone today?” Or better yet, “How can I better serve others tomorrow?” Would that notion of “my job is one of service” instead of “my job is a job” cause you to think, act, behave, or perform differently? I’m curious to hear your...

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Transitioning Private Sector Employees into the Government: Things to Remember

Posted by on Mar 6, 2012 in Human Resources | 0 comments

There’s an ancient proverb that says: “May you live in interesting times.” Given the turbulence of the economy, the changing demographics of the workforce and the overwhelming amount of talent that HR professionals now have to pick and choose from to fill their government jobs, our times are proving interesting, indeed. One of the newer wrinkles emerging during our “interesting times” is the movement of many private sector employees into government positions. For many, government jobs may represent a sense of stability and job security that applicants feel they no longer can find in the private sector. They also potentially are positioned at a point in their careers where they’re able to pursue a career that’s more aligned with what they really want to do: to enable change, to make a tangible difference within their community, or to more directly serve their country. Regardless of the reasons (and there are a myriad more than I’ve listed here), many employees who have enjoyed successful careers in the private sector are now looking at a career in the government as a viable option. What are the implications for the government HR professional? How do you provide someone coming in from the private sector with enough information to accurately set expectations (both theirs and your agency’s) of a government position? Here are a few tips: Ensure your potential employees understand that direction coming from senior leadership is largely set by Presidential/Congressional agendas. In the private sector world of CEOs, Presidents, Vice Presidents, and Boards of Directors, direction for the company is set to align with shareholder dividends, Wall Street expectations, and increasing the bottom line. Not so in the public sector. The agendas of elected and/or appointed officials are the overriding principles that govern the activities of the agency. Of course everyone wants to ensure that, as tax payers, our voices are heard when federal and state budgets are formulated. However, the ultimate direction comes from a set of governing bodies (GAO, GSA, OPM, OMB) that interrelate, interact, and sometimes, have different goals. Top leaders in agencies are typically appointed by the President (or elected), and based on the duration of the administration, top leaders may change several times. Many large private sector companies have had the same person at the helm for several years. Steve Jobs at Apple, Bill Gates at Microsoft, and countless others have founded the company, instilled their personal values into the culture of the company, and led the companies for decades. This phenomenon isn’t necessarily so in the public sector. Agency chiefs, deputy chiefs, and other senior leaders may migrate from agency to agency, much more rapidly than what you’d find in the private sector. For anyone coming into a government position, this seemingly rapid change in senior leadership may prove confusing or frustrating. A full understanding of how your agency is governed, the rate at which senior leadership changes, and a tolerance for ambiguity are differences in public and private sector employment that you should explain. Finally, you should also discuss how the public sector typically handles compensation and promotions. If you’re vetting a former private sector employee who’s accustomed to getting promoted every year or two and getting substantial increases in salary, you’ll need to offer an explanation of how that occurs in the federal...

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A Different Kind of EKG

Posted by on Feb 9, 2012 in Human Resources, Leadership | 2 comments

There are scores of helpful courses, articles and books by multiple firms on how to lead during times of change. (Full disclosure: the company I work for is one of those firms.) Many of these resources focus on strategy and tactics, while others focus more on the human emotions that leaders must also pay attention to. Thankfully, that human side of leadership and change seems to be gaining more attention. This is good news for the workplace, and quite possibly, the world as we know it. Change seems to be the rule more than the exception, which means we’d all be better off if we learned to deal with change – and each other – more effectively. Suggesting that the world can be changed through a greater focus on the human side of organizational life may sound a tad grandiose. But when leaders pay as much attention during change to the emotional engine in their organization as they do to their strategy and execution plans, they can foster a spirit of well-being that kick-starts the change initiative and transcends the workplace. That is a win for all of us even if we don’t work in the same organization. Think about it: what type of post-workday conversation would you rather participate in? Would it be the one that is full of positive energy and optimism? Probably. Unfortunately, too many of these conversations go like this: “Well, you’ll never believe what they dropped on us at work today.” As a leader, the way you implement change in your organization can have a direct impact on the dinner table dialogue and the sense of well-being for everyone on your  team. Research about the impact of positive psychology by thought leaders such as Dr. Martin Seligman bears this out. Check out his recent book, Flourish, to read more about this for yourself. So, presuming you are a well-intended but busy leader, what steps can you take to devote more attention and intention to the human side of change within your organization? You can start with something I explain to my executive coaching clients as an EKG. No, this isn’t a medical procedure for your heart, but it does involve your heart and the hearts of those around you. EKG stands for empathy, kindness, and gratitude. E=Empathy Think back to the last time a friend or family member approached you about some changes they were going through at work. Did they excitedly tell you about something their boss or company did during that time to show them how much they cared about him or her as a person? This is a simple yet underutilized aspect of leadership and human relations in general. Leaders promote well-being and engagement by demonstrating empathy. You might try a statement similar to this one with someone on your team who has stepped up to help during a time of change: “I realize that the new system we’ve implemented is taking some extra time for everyone to get used to. I really appreciate the time you’re taking to learn the system and coach others on it. Your patient willingness to help has reduced the stress level for more than one of your colleagues! I know your effort reduces the time you’re able to spend on other projects you really enjoy...

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The Role of Fairness in the Workplace

Posted by on Jun 4, 2010 in Human Resources | 0 comments

The opportunities for leadership to offer fair and equitable treatment to the people they lead within their organizations is rich, open to offer on a daily basis. But, does the average leader take the opportunity to focus on fairness? Or are they so focused on achieving the task within their business units they only look at who can get the job done in a timely manner? What each person deems fair in the performance of their jobs is interpreted differently depending on the perspective of who is viewing the situation, what is at stake, what the outcome would be, what benefit is gained or lost, and so on. The obvious focus of fairness within organizations is related to compensation, perks related to performing the job, and organizational hierarchy in position and status. One other area that has as much influence on perceived fairness is in social relationships. Social outcomes are valued as highly as monetary. The happiness level increases in people who believe they are being treated fairly as their brains’ reward center is actively engaged and infusing the brain with the feel good neurotransmitter, dopamine. When people perceive they are receiving fair and equitable treatment, they are less likely to reject offers of smaller value or requests from others, are more likely to accept offers of smaller value or less appealing assignments and tend to sustain a fairly happy demeanor, exclusive of other variables influencing the situation, such as gender or attractiveness. Neuroscience research shows that women, who are able to ‘see’ the person making offers of less value to them, are more tolerant in accepting the less valued offers. Women who were not able to see the person making the offers showed increased rejections of those offers. Men who were given visual cues of sexually appealing images prior to the offers, were then found to be more impulsive and accepted offers of smaller value sooner, rather than refraining and accepting offers of greater value farther into the future. The influence of sexually appealing cues increased acceptance of unfair offers by the men in the study. Attractiveness does influence the acceptance of more unfair offers. The research also notes that fairness is associated with trust and will change with mood. People in poor states of mind, a bad mood, will be less tolerant to unfair treatment and are more likely to engage in behavior associated with threat as their limbic systems, specifically their amygdala’s’ will be engaged, increasing emotional arousal with the release of stress hormones. People forced to regulate their emotions because of perceived inequity will have access to less brain resources to work effectively, lose attention to doing great work, and will require mediation to quiet their emotional state of mind. They’ll be more focused on revenge as they weren’t given the opportunity, the raise, the primo assignment, kudos for a job well done and will likely be in a state of non-productive limbo trying to understand ‘why’ it didn’t happen as they expected. Our brains are deeply influenced by inequity aversion. People will move to automatic response in the face of being treated unfairly. How does this show up in organizations? Human resources departments all over the country are dealing with employee issues totally focused on being treated unfairly. How many grievances stemming from inequitable...

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