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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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Empowering Leaders Empowerment Forum

Posted by on Oct 26, 2018 in Leadership, Uncategorized, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Empowering Leaders Empowerment Forum

On October 23, 2018, Management Concepts along with Young Government Leaders (YGL) and Blacks in Government (BIG) NOW Generation held the “Emerging Leader Empowerment Forum” for aspiring leaders in government to hear from a panel of speakers as they discussed their career journeys, challenges, and successes. Jozetta Robinson currently serves as the Director, Office of the Executive Secretariat at the Office of Personnel Management where she facilitates the management of correspondence, regulations, plain language implementation, policy and other critical issues for the Director and agency leadership. She has dedicated over 25 years of service to the Federal Government. The panelists for the event included: Ron Holloway, M.B.A. who serves as a Program and Management Analyst, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. He is also an advocate, creative writer, entrepreneur, and speaker. Ron has spoken to a variety of audiences ranging from small groups and large conferences to speaking on topics on behalf of the Obama Administration. Tiffany J. Lightbourn, Ph.D. who serves as the Director of Payroll and Personnel Systems at the Internal Revenue Service. She oversees the timely issuance of pay to 84,000 IRS employees, obligating over $8 billion annually. Previously the Director of Employment, Talent and Security, she led the hiring of 12,000 permanent and seasonal employees and the suitability and security screening for all employees of the Service. Arlene Pena who serves as the Chief Communications Officer at the Young Government Leaders (YGL) National Leadership Team. Since joining YGL in 2017, she has created YGLs first Branding Guidelines, put together a 208 omnichannel marketing strategy and is currently developing YGL’s 2018 video campaign. When beginning her career as a public servant in 2015, she took the digital portfolio of her agency and doubled the following, quadrupled their engagement, and created a robust digital marketing strategy. Lisa Thomas, Ph.D., FACHE serves as the Executive Director, Human Capital Management at the National Cemetery Administration. In June 2016, Dr. Lisa Thomas was appointed as the Executive Director, Human Capital Management for the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) within the Department of Veterans Affairs. In this capacity, Dr. Thomas is responsible for the entire human capital life cycle of NCA’s workforce, which includes approximately 1,800 dedicated employees who are committed to honoring Veterans and their families with final resting places in national shrines and commemorating their service. The panel was moderated by Lahaja Furaha, the Organizational Culture Practice Lead and Senior Human Capital Advisor at Management Concepts. The conversation between the panelists and the audience was lively and informative. Below are a few topics touched upon in the discussion: Finding a Mentor Informational interviews are a great way for aspiring leaders to seek receive guidance as the chart out their career path. Connect with those in positions that you admire, be clear about your intentions, and provide updates on the results of any action items provided to you. As an employee of the Federal Government, you have access to coaching inside your agency, outside your agency, and from coaching providers like Management Concepts. Information on how to receive coaching can be found on OPM’s Coaching wiki. Gaining a Promotion It’s important to first understand why you want the promotion. Whether it be more responsibility or higher pay, there might be another route to get you to the same path. A key factor in...

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The Secret to Building a High-Performing Team

Posted by on Oct 25, 2018 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

The Secret to Building a High-Performing Team

All organizations strive to build and maintain high-performing teams on some level, yet few are successful. Why? What is so elusive about high-performing teams? Before we can explore the answer to those questions, we must first define the word “team.” A team is a collection of individuals working toward shared goals and making decisions using consensus; accountability is shared among the manager/leader and the members. When most effective, teams have the capacity to: Encourage collaboration Develop interpersonal skills Strengthen the creative process Increase engagement Promote accountability and feedback High-performing teams are uniquely committed to action, achievement, and maximizing opportunity. All organizations have teams, but not many can be crowned high-performing. In the Harvard Business Review article, “The New Science of Building Great Teams,” author Alex Pentland characterizes high-performing teams as being, “blessed with the energy, creativity, and shared commitment to far surpass other teams.” Members of high-performing teams are: Empowered to maximize their strengths Afforded the opportunity to develop additional skills Fully engaged Motivated to perform at their best Capable of adapting Responsive to the internal and external forces that may alter team dynamics Transforming low-performing teams into high-performing teams is a tremendous challenge, as well as an opportunity. A team development and performance study by the Brandon Hall Group referenced in the Training Magazine article, “High-Performing Teams: A Crucial Differentiator of Business Performance” by Laci Loew included survey results from 191 organizations and found that approximately “72 percent of 191 organizations surveyed said team performance has a positive or extremely positive impact on overall productivity.” What’s even more interesting is that “one-third (34 percent) of those same organizations said they do not have a strategy to improve team development, and 21 percent said they do not invest any time or resources of any kind to develop teams at any level within their organizations.” Many organizations are leaving productivity and financial gains on the table by not investing in the development of high-performing teams. When the benefits are so obvious, the natural question is – why? As you can imagine, the answer differs from organization to organization and depends on countless situational variables. But could it be that most organizations can’t get over the first hurdle in any growth situation – an open admission that the team in question is low-performing? To be fair, job security, complacency, and personality conflicts are all obstacles in change management and cultural transformations. However, there is an inherent vulnerability required for team members and leadership to openly express that they are headed in the wrong direction and something needs to change. For many organizations, this moment of clarity and vulnerability will never be actualized because the organization and the team are missing one essential element: trust. Loew defines trust as “confidence, the absence of suspicion, and an ongoing record that confirms expectations of behavior and performance. Trust is expressed in the behavior toward others and will grow or shrink due to interactions and experiences.” High-performing teams are defined by their individual trust of team members to do the job, stay on mission, and ask for help when necessary. Trust is the glue that holds high-performing teams together. Teams that do not have trust are by definition, low-performing. Low-performing teams are stagnant, lack action, and rarely initiate growth activities. Collectively they operate timidly, reactively,...

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And the winner of the 2018 PMI Fellow Award is …

Posted by on Oct 11, 2018 in Leadership, Project Management, Workforce Management | 0 comments

And the winner of the 2018 PMI Fellow Award is …

It’s often said that the most important asset in any organization is its people. It’s true in the public sector, it’s true in the private sector and it’s definitely true here at Management Concepts. We can deliver superior solutions not just because we have great course content, but because we also have amazing, highly-qualified instructors with a passion for teaching. One instructor that we are extremely proud of is Cynthia Snyder-Dionisio. It turns out that we aren’t alone in finding her exceptional. On Saturday, Cynthia was named a Project Management Institute (PMI) Fellow at the 2018 PMI Professional Awards Gala. The PMI Fellow Award is the highest and most prestigious individual award presented by the Project Management Institute for service to the organization and profession. With membership of over 500,000, and almost 1 million certified project managers around the globe who are potentially eligible for the award, this is no small feat. Cynthia has had a remarkable career with Management Concepts since she joined us in 2004. She played a pivotal role as a lead consultant and instructor on multiple key accounts such as Medtronic, ViaSat, NASA and NASA JPL. But perhaps the biggest feather in Cynthia’s cap was being a key part of the Management Concepts team that developed the Federal Acquisition Institute’s Federal Acquisition Certification for Program and Project Managers (FAC-P/PM) curricula for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VAAA considers the FAC-P/PM certification to be one of the most successful training programs in the Federal Government. Ms. Dionisio was awarded a letter of commendation signed by the Chancellor of VAAA, based on her work on this project. Subsequently Cynthia developed our popular PMP Exam Prep Bootcamp based on the updated PMBOK 6th edition. High quality work, high caliber professional. We could not agree more with the PMI decision to name her a Fellow. Congratulations,...

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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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The President’s Management Agenda Series: Thinking Strategically

Posted by on Aug 28, 2018 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

The President’s Management Agenda Series: Thinking Strategically

In March 2018, the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) was released to the public. The PMA “lays out a long-term vision for modernizing the Federal Government in key areas that will improve the ability of all agencies to deliver mission outcomes, provide excellent service, and effectively steward taxpayer dollars on behalf of the American people.” So how will the U.S. Government carry out these goals? In this blog series, we will explore some of the actions, processes, and practices it can leverage to ensure success. Thinking Strategically How do you think strategically when your day is comprised mostly of the tactical work? How can organizations think strategically when they are overwhelmed with accomplishing the day-to-day operations required to keep them running smoothly? How can the biggest organization of all, the United States Government, balance the need to think strategically while achieving objectives at a tactical level? Tactical and strategic thinking provide different perspectives, but these concepts are intertwined and essential to individual and organizational success. Strategic thinking requires a broader recognition of all the elements in our environment that will affect our plans for the future. Instead of simply focusing on what exists, strategic thinking allows us to consider what could be. Strategic thinking: Helps with setting and achieving long-term goals Recognizes relationships and interdependencies Allows us to better prioritize our work Identifies risks and opportunities inherent to our plans Allows leaders to better align tactical work to organizational objectives While the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) lays out several initiatives the U.S. Government aims to carry out, an overarching theme among all the different goals and objectives is the need to think strategically. One of the main ways the PMA suggests the government can shift to a strategic thinking framework is by recognizing key mission requirements and aligning the workforce to meet those needs. According to the PMA, “Progress on these complex and interconnected challenges has been attempted in the past but often failed due to siloed efforts. Getting traction calls for broader, system-level thinking to tackle interconnected barriers to change, most notably related to aging technology infrastructure, disconnected data and an outmoded civil service framework.” So how can the government leverage a broader, system-level thinking approach to achieve its mission? Understanding the role that tactical thinking plays regarding strategic thinking is key; government leaders should broaden their perspectives and examine problems through a strategic lens. To begin to examine things through a strategic lens, the government must ensure that the various elements of its organization are aligned. Below are the elements that influence how strategic thinking occurs within an organization: Mission. The organization’s mission is its reason for existence. Most organizations have a mission statement that outlines why the organization exists, what it is meant to do or accomplish, and who it is meant to serve. Vision. The organizational vision describes what the organization strives to be. Most vision statements illustrate a future state that would result if the organization is successful in achieving its mission. The vision statement is meant to inspire and motivate individuals to help the organization achieve that desired future state. Goals and Objectives. Organizations typically have documented long-term and short-term goals, as well as reasons for why reaching those goals is a valuable endeavor. Climate. The climate is how you describe individuals’ shared perspectives...

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40th Annual BIG NTI Conference Recap 2018

Posted by on Aug 23, 2018 in Leadership, Uncategorized, Workforce Management | 0 comments

40th Annual BIG NTI Conference Recap 2018

  I write this blog as I await the announcement to board my flight back to Washington D.C. after a phenomenal week at the 40th Annual Blacks in Government National Training Institute (BIG NTI). This annual training event ran from August 13-16, held at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel and hosted more than 2,500 professionals from Federal and state governments as well as private and not-for-profit organizations. The theme for this year’s BIG NTI was “Leveraging Your Professional Attributes for Sustained Growth and Development.” While the institute is primarily focused on the professional development of attendees, it also boasts thriving community engagement, leadership, academic achievement, and military veterans’ programs among its core initiatives. Management Concepts was a proud Gold Sponsor, presented a leadership workshop, and hosted a Munch & Mingle networking event in conjunction with the BIG NOW Generation. The Munch & Mingle networking event gave conference attendees the opportunity to connect with peers, BIG leadership and other special guests. This year’s event featured remarks on “The BIG Experience” from BIG’s National Executive Vice President, Ms. Shirley A. Jones, Esq. Michelle Clark, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Marketing presented the 4th Annual Leadership Certificate Program Scholarship Award to Emmanuel Onyeobia, Grants Manager at State Veterans Home Construction Grants Program; Office of Capital Asset Management. There were several all-day forums held by Federal agencies including the Departments of State, Energy, Labor, and the Navy. Management Concepts held a one-day Leadership training program, “Creating Connections to Improve Performance and Foster Engagement.” The program covered mentoring, managing change, cultivating motivation and engagement, and building relationships through collaboration. The session reached capacity before the start of the institute, and due to continued demand, we were able to reopen registration for additional participants.  The training was very well received, one attendee said: “I am really enjoying this leadership course. I am glad you are depositing into Aspiring BIG leaders.” Another attendee of the training said this of the program: “An AWESOME training experience in leadership, collaboration, and networking with Margaret Eggleston.” After being professionally enriched, motivated and challenged in the sessions during the day, attendees were able to participate in a wide variety of events in the evenings. There was something for everyone; from networking and receptions to shopping and even a gospel concert. Of course, attendees were excited to partake in the local cuisine – the seafood gumbo, beignets and café au lait were among my favorites. I’m thrilled to have participated as an attendee as well as a representative of Management Concepts. The week was packed with opportunities to learn and grow both professionally and personally. I highly recommend this event to leaders and emerging leaders across every workforce. It’s well worth the investment. Learn more about the training and consulting we offer at Management Concepts. In addition to Leadership and Management training we offer courses in Program, Grants, and Financial Management, Analytics, HR and...

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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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Why Pure Agile Doesn’t Work in Government: Part 1

Posted by on Aug 2, 2018 in Project Management, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Why Pure Agile Doesn’t Work in Government: Part 1

When the 17 founders of the Agile philosophy met and agreed upon the values and principles of what has become the Agile Manifesto, they brought with them a wealth of experience, skill, and knowledge on developing, testing, and deploying software in private and commercial industries. But very few of the founders had much experience in developing software within the environment of government. As a result, the Manifesto reflects this limited background and does not align with governmental software projects. The Agile Manifesto contains four foundational values: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools Working software over comprehensive documentation Customer collaboration over contract negotiation Responding to change over following a plan While these values work very well within lesser regulated commercial markets, they don’t meet the demands of governmental requirements and mandates under which Federal, state, and local IT projects operate. A more effective and appropriate set of values that make the necessary accommodations needed for public IT software-type projects are: Use of properly trained individual using vetted processes and tools Frequent delivery of working software and required documents User collaboration supported by flexible acquisition contracts Use of change-friendly processes described in meaningful plans These modified values provide a more appropriate foundation for software projects within a government venue by shifting the mindset of both government agencies and their contractors towards an effective working solution that embodies the strengths of the Agile adaptive philosophy while supporting the more rigorous legalities of project management in government. Agile and its many implements such as SCRUM, XP, Kanban, Lean, ScrumBan, and others are based on primary development methodology concepts of modular deconstruction, incremental application, and iterative processes. These concepts collectively provide a dynamic software developmental environment that facilitates a more discovery-based, collaborative approach allowing for a higher level of...

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The President’s Management Agenda Series: Improving Customer Service

Posted by on Jul 31, 2018 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

The President’s Management Agenda Series: Improving Customer Service

In March 2018, the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) was released to the public. The PMA “lays out a long-term vision for modernizing the Federal Government in key areas that will improve the ability of all agencies to deliver mission outcomes, provide excellent service, and effectively steward taxpayer dollars on behalf of the American people.” So how will the U.S. Government carry out these goals? In this blog series, we will explore some of the actions, processes, and practices it can leverage to ensure success. Managing Quality Customer Service Customer service is vital to every organization, including—and especially—the United States Federal Government. You may be thinking, who are “customers” of the Federal Government? Well, that’s simple: you, me, him, her, them. Every citizen of the United States of America is a customer of the Federal Government. And we all expect a lot from this particular service provider! Customers expect outstanding service, but often, when people like you or I think of the government, we recall long lines at the DMV, tax time anxiety, and other less-than-stellar experiences. People don’t often think of exceptional customer service. Further, there are some individuals who rely on the government for intensive services, such as small business owners, veterans seeking support, and others. These especially impacted groups require the absolute best service to meet their needs, yet many still feel customer focus is severely lacking. The President’s Management Agenda has laid out a plan to change this perception and bring quality service to the forefront. Providing exceptional customer service is not a choice in today’s fast-paced business environment. Organizations in the private sector are competing more than ever to add and retain customers. The Federal Government isn’t immune to this competition. The PMA has undertaken an initiative to provide a “modern, streamlined, and responsive customer experience across government, comparable to leading private-sector organizations.” An integral part of the Federal Government’s mission is to provide the goods and services that the American people need. As public servants, Federal employees are tasked with fulfilling that mission in a variety of ways. But the 2016 American Consumer Satisfaction Index and the 2017 Forrester Federal Customer Experience Index show that, on average, government services lag nine percentage points behind the private sector in terms of customer satisfaction. This lag can be remedied by considering and acting upon the three major steps to providing quality customer service: Identifying your customer’s wants and needs Providing service in an efficient and professional manner Resolving any issues that may arise Addressing each of these steps will ensure that your customers leave each experience feeling understood, taken care of, and valued. But how do we address these steps? What are the skills and qualities needed to provide quality service? Research shows that serving customers effectively and efficiently requires the following: Listening Problem-solving Communicating Partnering According to the PMA, “The foundation of exceptional customer service is exceptional communication with your customers. Exceptional communication involves listening effectively, diagnosing and solving problems, choosing careful and appropriate language, and using technology to meet customer needs.” So what is the Federal Government’s plan to remedy this deficiency in customer service? The President’s Management Agenda sets out a long-term vision that works on behalf of the American people to: Transform the customer experience by improv­ing the usability and reliability of...

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Strengthening Federal Evaluation: Meet in the Middle?

Posted by on Jul 20, 2018 in Grants & Assistance, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Strengthening Federal Evaluation: Meet in the Middle?

Greetings from the proverbial swamp. It’s July in Washington. I’m ruing the lack of seersucker in my wardrobe – longing for the ocean breezes of Miami Beach. So how do I meet this digression? With some good ol’ Beltway insider habits. First, I check to see if Congress has at least gone through the motions of pushing the 13 appropriations bills through committee. And the answer is yes. There’s even one bill that has been passed through both houses. (Energy and Water consolidated with Legislative Branch and Military Construction-Veterans). Considering how this year has been, it’s a nice surprise to see something that should be normal occur. Second, time to check out the full version of “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century,” or the Trump Administration’s proposal to overhaul the Federal Government. You might have heard about this primarily through the proposal to merge the Departments of Education and Labor into the Department of Education and Workforce (DEW). (Which leads to another tangent: Does anyone in the Administration drink Mountain Dew?) But as I push through the document, I want to learn more about these proposals as a grants professional looking at the authorization needs for these changes (potentially in appropriations bills). And frankly as someone whose career was shaped by the formation of DHS, a merger of 22 agencies. Then I happen upon the section, “Strengthening Federal Evaluation,” on page 118 of 132 in the PDF. Grants and policy gold. In two-plus pages my hopes for good government soar. The use of evaluation to inform policy making is the ideal, and often the point of grants and their subsequent management. We want to fund effective programs that work and even try programs that fail. The first two pages of this section are a true call to “Meet me in the middle.” A reach to the middle for a government designed to be inefficient? Tell me more! And then I reach the top of the third page, and an emotional pop song comes into my head. I see, “Establish and utilize multi-year learning agendas.” I hear in my head Maren Morris singing, “Meet Me in the Middle.” The middle is hard because policy making is an emotional and often reactive process. And grants, which are policy tools, are often the instruments evaluated to inform policy, effectiveness, and compliance. This section reads innocuously enough. Yet this proposal sets up a situation that what gets measured gets managed. And those who sets the measurements are a conduit of the President’s Agenda. Keep in mind that the President changes every four or eight years; the so-called learning agenda can change dramatically. This is a challenge because sometimes it takes longer than eight years to find out if something really worked. To carry out this proposal, you have to protect the policy experiments getting measured. Which could mean asking an Administration doing something from a policy standpoint is abhorrent to their stated policy positions. But what if you’re elected to do a 180 on a policy, even with data available? Do you have a temper tantrum about being dragged to the middle, using data to make decisions that contradict your policy position? And how does that trickle down to grantees who finally have a system to measure x, y, and z; but...

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The Reform Proposal’s Potential Impact on Federal Grant Making

Posted by on Jul 16, 2018 in Grants & Assistance, Workforce Management | 0 comments

The Reform Proposal’s Potential Impact on Federal Grant Making

I’ve already written about the evaluation section of “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century,” the Trump Administration’s outline for reorganizing the Federal Government. Now, I’d like to focus on the potential movements of grant makers and programs. I’d like to start by stating that any significant adjustments to an organization, be it mergers or eliminations, have a significant impact on the people affected. Sitting on a client site in 2004 during years one and two of the Department of Homeland Security taught me that change management and culture considerations are as important, if not more, to the success of the change as the gained efficiencies. Back to some of the proposals. Proposed: Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) This could be the most ambitious and contentious of the Administration’s proposals and definitely requires Congressional authorization and appropriations for it to happen. But when it comes to looking at the grants part of Labor and Education’s business, there are some details to be hammered out, such as: Will Congress consolidate program authorizations for workforce education, or will DEW still have to manage the same number of assistance programs with a streamlined workforce? If this merger occurred, what would need to be done to bring the legacy Departments’ adoption of and exceptions to 2 CFR 200? Are there enough lawyers on staff to manage the requisite regulatory process? What programmatic expertise/points of view could be at risk of elimination as part of the merger? What are the potential economies of scale? These same questions apply to some of the other proposed movements, including the consolidation of food assistance programs under Health and Human Services (to become Health and Public Welfare), housing at HUD, and the long-term efforts to bring State and USAID together. Proposed: Numerous Movements of Smaller Grant Programs and Agencies Over the years, Congress has established several standalone Commissions and Agencies in reaction to meeting a specific need. These organizations manage grants to carry out their policy missions. The Administration proposes the following moves: Fold Inter-American Foundation and U.S. African Development Foundation under USAID Consolidate administration graduate fellowships under the National Science Foundation Move the Delta Regional Authority, Denali Commission, Northern Border Regional Commission, and HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program under a new Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Growth From the back-end, what you need to make a government agency work, perspective, these proposed moves make sense. For instance, sharing IT and human capital resources. However, the proposed changes will still need to abide the Congressional intent of these commissions and programs in their authorizing statutes. This could mean that the new organization is still managing many “special snowflake” programs. Proposed: The GEAR Center The proposed Government Effectiveness Advanced Research (GEAR) Center is an organization that will be set up to fully utilize the option of fixed-amount awards. I think that this proposal will take some of the best practices and efforts in government that have occurred in the past 15 years. For example, issuing more “challenges” and improving public-private sector collaboration. Pulling “innovation” into an incubator setting could help with the conundrum of long-established agencies: “How do I innovate and meet the huge amount of compliance requirements?” Proposed: Combined Census and Statistical Agencies Experienced grant recipients and applicants know and use the information put out...

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Federal Spotlight Interview: Nathaniel H. Benjamin

Posted by on Jun 21, 2018 in Coaching & Mentoring, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight Interview: Nathaniel H. Benjamin

  MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? I’ve been in Federal Service excluding military time for about 15 years and my main responsibility is managing the Human Capital Office for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Under that responsibility, I’m responsible for talent acquisition for general schedule employees. Additionally, we manage the executive resources program for our Senior Executive Service members and our political staff. We also manage the diversity and inclusion programs, learning and development, employee engagement, outreach, employee relations, performance management, and data collection and reporting. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? We are in such a place of change when it comes to the Federal Service. We have Baby Boomers that are exiting. And as Baby Boomers are exiting, it’s creating new opportunities for Generation X and Generation Y. As these opportunities present themselves, it creates a landscape for public servants to see change right before their eyes. For me, it’s an opportunity to continually build a solid career and, down-the-line, position myself so that I can hopefully be a change agent for Washington, as well as the Federal Government at large. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? I would say one of the biggest achievements that I’ve had is coming into my position. We had a hundred percent turnover. I am currently the most seasoned veteran. When I came in, one of the charges was to bring the office into the 21st century; to be more strategic; to be more aligned with the organization. Because those were the marching orders that I received, I made it a point to make sure that I hired a staff that was capable of making these things happen. It’s great if you have one person come in, but anybody who is in management understands that the staff really can make or break the organization. And so, I hired in a top-talented staff, or as I call them, my varsity squad; because there was no room for JV players. Within 18 months, we brought in more automated processes and website development. We really ramped up our employee engagement efforts to include staff partnering with our senior leadership to create a Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Work Plan focusing on D&I as a part of the institution and not just a program that resides in Human Capital. By getting engagement around the entire organization, we’ve been able to establish what we know as diversity and inclusion dialogues. Additionally, we have created a program known as “Community Spaces” where our employees with different backgrounds, perspectives, life styles, and work experiences can feel safe to engage in constructive dialogues – in a confidential setting — because we know that who you are and what you bring to the office has a critical impact on the work that you perform. We want our workforce to feel that they can bring their whole self to work, because that is when they can do their best. The total person is very important. We were intentional when it came to promoting Special Emphasis Programs (SEP) and it’s very important for each month where we acknowledge and celebrate specific groups. And so, each month that there is a...

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The President’s Management Agenda Series: Transforming through Innovation

Posted by on May 18, 2018 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

The President’s Management Agenda Series: Transforming through Innovation

In March 2018, the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) was released to the public. The PMA “lays out a long-term vision for modernizing the Federal Government in key areas that will improve the ability of all agencies to deliver mission outcomes, provide excellent service, and effectively steward taxpayer dollars on behalf of the American people.” So how will the U.S. Government carry out these goals? In this blog series, we will explore some of the actions, processes, and practices it can leverage to ensure success. 1: Transforming through Innovation Many people think of innovation as a bulb that suddenly flashes on as your face lights up with a one-time stroke of brilliance. Sure, an innovative idea can come to you at any time, but innovation comprises much more than a moment of genius. Innovation is a structured and deliberate process; it can be practiced, improved, and fostered by an overarching framework that supports creative thinking and risk-taking. Innovation occurs when organizations follow through with the best creative ideas, evolve with changing demands and challenges, capitalize on new opportunities, and achieve efficiencies through continuous improvement. It can be a very powerful tool that buoys individuals, teams, and whole organizations. Innovation is considered successful when it adds value to an organization—often that value equates to profit. But in the case of the Federal Government, innovation is measured by whether it improves the lives of the American people who are served by the government every day. The President’s Management Agenda refers to the concept of innovation frequently, and it is depicted as playing a critical role in achieving the outlined goals. Take for example the administration’s intention of creating a data strategy and infrastructure for the future by leveraging data, accountability, and transparency. According to the PMA, the Federal Government “lacks a robust, integrated approach to using data to deliver on mission, serve customers, and steward resources.” The administration seeks to develop its data strategy to remain current with technological advances and ultimately increase the effectiveness of the government. One of the key components in its plan to enhance Federal data strategy is through commercialization, innovation, and public use. While commercialization and public use will take advantage of the private sector and research communities, the innovation piece of this objective is especially crucial, because it requires a major mindset shift from the status quo to the inventive and imaginative. The PMA states that “enabling external users to access and use government data for commercial and other public purposes spurs innovative technological solutions and fills gaps in government capacity and knowledge.” With the administration’s renewed commitment to innovation, can it succeed in accomplishing the lofty goal of bridging the gap between ideas and action? Below we explore the challenges facing the government when it comes to innovation, and the ways it can overcome those challenges and support an environment of innovation. What are the barriers to innovation? Lack of flexibility and an acceptance of risk that can be uncomfortable and unnerving. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, or fear of looking foolish. Knowledge, which tends to cause us to look at things in a highly selective manner, can lead to close-mindedness when envisioning solutions or ideas. Habits that make tasks easier to perform, but hinder creativity. Complacency—as exemplified by the attitude, “If it...

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What makes audit findings so Special?

Posted by on May 15, 2018 in Grants & Assistance, Workforce Management | 0 comments

What makes audit findings so Special?

It was Christmas in April at Management Concepts. At least for me. I worked with our colleague Meghan to pull down the Single Audit Clearinghouse as of March 31, 2017. So every few days I’ve started to play with the data to figure out what path I want to go down from a research perspective – or to find out what would help our students. I admit – I could play with this information all day. Which is why no one has taught me how to program our internal dashboards. This is what I’ve found so far: The most common findings in 2014-2017 are Cost Principles and Reporting. Given my last blog on the compliance conundrum, this wasn’t a surprise. The next one that popped: “Special Tests and Provisions.” What does this even mean? To the Compliance Supplement went: “The specific requirements for Special Tests and Provisions are unique to each Federal program and are found in the laws, regulations, and the provisions of contract or grant agreements pertaining to the program. For programs listed in this Supplement, the compliance requirements, audit objectives, and suggested audit procedures for Special Tests and Provisions are in Part 4 – Agency Program Requirements or Part 5 – Clusters of Programs.” Unique. There’s that word that’s an enemy of consistent reporting. And really if you’re managing multiple grants, it’s a reasonable hypothesis that the “unique” provisions are what will show up as a finding in an audit. You may not have a “unique” control in place to go with it. I’m going to continue to dig in to the data and share what I find in future posts. That said, let’s focus on what you can do now, especially since it’s the height of Federal application season. Start at the beginning. Read your Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFO) carefully, and consider writing to and budgeting how you’re going to meet the unique requirements of specific grant programs in your applications. You need your whole team involved in this discussion. Because if it’s unique maybe it should be a direct cost. You need to get that right at the time of application and award. Plan for regular and special grant lifecycles. Manage your grants as consistently as possible. Then document any special activities you must undertake to meet those “special provisions.” That way you’ll be prepared for an auditor or site visit at any stage in the process. Triple check what you’re charging to the grant. Have I mentioned I think that Cost Principles is one of our most difficult courses? It’s because there are so many instances when the decision isn’t black or white. Remember, audit findings are preventable with good planning, management, and...

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Managing Your Training Dollars in the Era of Continuing Appropriations Resolutions

Posted by on May 9, 2018 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Managing Your Training Dollars in the Era of Continuing Appropriations Resolutions

The old saying goes, “Waiting for the other shoe to drop,” but, when working in or with the government, “Waiting for the money to drop” is more like it. The last time the United States Congress passed a budget was in May of 2015. Prior to that, the last time a budget was passed was in 2009. Suffice it to say, the Federal Government has adopted the business practice of funding its operations with Continuing Appropriations Resolutions and with them comes funding uncertainty. The strain that funding uncertainties place on agencies forces them to make spending priorities that results in winners and losers. Unfortunately for government employees, training budgets are often the losers. Though many career fields require continuous training that agencies cannot provide themselves, when the money drops in the second, third or even fourth quarter of a fiscal year, the professionals who have been waiting for the funds to keep the lights on cannot spare the time to take training, even after the money has arrived. This a particularly trying dilemma for government contracting professionals. Whether scrambling for the 80 CLPs required to maintain FAC-C level certification, completing that last class to qualify for the next level warrant or desperately sprinting for the COR certification to manage a large program or project, training is a necessity. What does an agency contracting shop do when it’s the bottom of the third, the fourth is looming, an entire fiscal year of funds must be spent and certifications are close to expiration? Can training be forward funded into the next fiscal year? If your first reaction is, “What about the Bona Fide Need Rule,” you have good instincts. The Bona Fide Need Rule (31 USC, Section 1502) requires appropriated funds be used only for goods and services for which a need arises during the period of that appropriation’s availability for obligation. Agencies may only commit funds to acquire goods, supplies, and services that meet the bona-fide needs of the period for which Congress appropriated funds, or to replace stock used during that period. So how can training ever be forward funded? Here’s how. Training is usually a non-severable service. A training class with a defined beginning and end is non-severable; therefore, when a training obligation is incurred in one fiscal year, the entire cost is chargeable to that year, even if that training extends into the following year. This means that any training funded and initiated before appropriated funds expire may continue to completion after the appropriation period ends. Sometimes training is severable, such as a series of courses that are required to complete a certification. In the case of severable training, agencies may enter into severable services contracts for a period that begins in one fiscal year and ends in the next, IF the contract period for the training does not exceed one year. (41 U.S. Code § 3902). The key word here is “contract”. Rather than scheduling training on a case-by-case basis, an agency that enters into a contract for multiple training events within a twelve-month period of performance, can ensure that their training needs are met moving into the next fiscal year. Both scenarios begin in one fiscal year and end in another. What about training funded in Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) and taken in Fiscal Year...

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Celebrating Public Service Recognition Week 2018

Posted by on May 9, 2018 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Celebrating Public Service Recognition Week 2018

This week (May 6-12, 2018) is Public Service Recognition Week and Management Concepts is excited to show our appreciation for our government leaders and public servants! The celebration began in 1985 and is organized annually by the Public Employees Roundtable (PER) and its member organizations to honor the men and women who serve our nation as federal, state, county and local government employees. Management Concepts is celebrating this year by sharing red, white, and blue cupcakes as well as fruit to our students between 10am and 2pm in the DC and Tyson’s centers. We were joined by our strategic partners, Federally Employed Women, Blacks in Government, Training Officers Consortium and the Association of Government Accountants. There are additional events for Public Service Recognition Week occurring in Washington, D.C. including the sixth annual Public Service 5K run/walk, Federal Workforce Day at the Washington Nationals, and a congressional breakfast to congratulate the finalists of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals. You can find out more about this week here:...

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Federal Spotlight Interview: Kim Bauhs

Posted by on Apr 18, 2018 in Coaching & Mentoring, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight Interview: Kim Bauhs

  MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? KB: I made a mid-career move to join the Federal Service in 2000. Prior to that, I spent 9 years as an officer in the U.S. Navy and another 8 years with the Virginia State Government. I was ready for a change, and loved the flexibility – and opportunity – that came with joining our Country’s largest employer. I am currently the head of Human Resources (HR) for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an organization of 12,000 dedicated scientists and program administrators who use cutting-edge research and high-tech instrumentation to provide citizens, planners, emergency managers and other decision-makers with the reliable information they need, when they need it. NOAA’s Mission: Science, Service and Stewardship To understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts To share that knowledge and information with others To conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources The work is fascinating. My team of HR professionals provide tools and guidance to ensure NOAA has the talent needed to accomplish the mission, and promote a work environment that enables optimal employee performance. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? KB: I’ve never wanted to work anywhere else. Mission is what drives me, and the Federal Government has some of the most exciting and meaningful jobs in the world. But more importantly, our customers are the American People. As public servants, we are not here to generate revenue, but rather are motivated by a “higher calling” to serve others. We’re here to protect our nation and its resources; to provide essential services to the public and ensure long-term economic prosperity; to fight deadly diseases such as cancer and HIV; and to care for those who need our help. I’m proud to be a public servant, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? KB: I’m working towards it now! At NOAA, and more broadly across the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), we are changing the way we deliver HR services. In 2017, we began moving transactional functions to a shared “enterprise” approach, where efficiencies are gained through process improvements and technology solutions. As these day-to-day operations (e.g. personnel actions, benefits, payroll, etc.) are migrated to the DOC Enterprise Services Organization (ESO), the NOAA HR team focuses more on providing human capital guidance to our customers. We are reshaping ourselves to serve as strategic partners with our mission areas, guiding them to make effective decisions on how to attract, develop, and retain the workforce they need. This 3-year transformation is the most comprehensive change management initiative I’ve led. It affects every aspect of our work – and impacts the thousands of internal customers we serve at NOAA. We have much more to do to achieve the goals we’ve set, but we are making progress. MC: What advice would you share with young people on entering government? KB: A few things come to mind: Know that every organization has a degree of “bureaucracy.” This is not unique to government. The key is to learn your organization inside and out. Gain insights into how decisions are made and who is in a position to...

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Federal Spotlight Interview: Adrianne M. Callahan

Posted by on Mar 28, 2018 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 1 comment

Federal Spotlight Interview: Adrianne M. Callahan

MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility? AC: I have been employed within the Federal Service for a little over 26 years.  I have spent the entire 26 years at the United States Environmental Protection Agency.  I am currently the Small Business Specialist and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Manager for USEPA, Region 5.  Where I advocate for small businesses to have a fair and reasonable opportunity to access, understand and hopefully receive an opportunity to do business with EPA.  I work with both sides of the EPA procurement house – contracts and grants.  In my role, I work closely with senior management and staff to implement the Agency’s small business program which includes: socio-economic goals, participation in short and long-term acquisition planning, negotiation of Fair Share goals, etc.; I also ensure appropriate assistance to small businesses working on EPA funded projects for state, local, and tribal organizations and represent the Agency in a multitude of outreach events throughout the Midwest states (IL, IN, MI, OH, MN, WI) to ensure the small business community is aware of EPA’s procurement opportunities.   MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector?  AC: I serve as a collateral duty Special Emphasis Program Manager for the Black Employee Program, participate on a number of intergovernmental committees for small business and a number of organizational improvement committees that encourage process improvement.  From the internal activities to promote cultural awareness and consider workplace trends to the external committees that support the everyday work I do, all of these support my routine work activities however, each of them, tends to give me a new opportunity each day to learn and/or meet someone new.  I stay motivated and passionate about the public sector because I have found value in being a public servant.   MC:  What is one of your biggest achievements? AC: One of my biggest achievements is winning the Federal Employee of the Year – Outstanding Specialist Category.  Competition for the Federal Employee of the Year is extremely high, my nomination was reviewed and ranked the winner out of 18 nominations from various agencies within the Chicago Federal Agency area and it truly was a humbling surprise.  Having my family attend, along with the supervisor who nominated me, was a very momentous occasion.  More importantly, it was a very stressful work year, with a number of high level assignments and it was truly an honor to receive the award for all my hard work.   MC: What advice would you share with the next generation of leaders on entering government? AC: I would share the following advice with the next generation of leaders entering the federal workforce: Get involved, beyond your day-to-day assigned activities. Be willing to conduct the necessary research to understand the mission of the agency and how your work directly impacts the mission. Understand the Agency’s budget and how your position is impacted by changes to the budget. Network beyond your comfort zone; engage with people that can not only mentor you but offer you the opportunity to share your knowledge and experience.   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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5 Ways The President’s Management Agenda Misses The Mark On Federal Workforce Engagement

Posted by on Mar 22, 2018 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

5 Ways The President’s Management Agenda Misses The Mark On Federal Workforce Engagement

On my favorite radio show, they play a game called “What Year Was It?” The DJ shares 3 or 4 notable happenings from a year in history, and listeners guess what year those events occurred. It goes like this… In what year did these things happen? 1. “How You Remind Me” by Nickelback was Billboard’s hottest song on the radio 2. Ron Howard’s “A Beautiful Mind” won the Oscar for best picture 3. With $103.9B in assets, WorldCom’s bankruptcy became the largest ever filing in the United States 4. The Office of Personnel Management began administering what is now known as the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey to measure the engagement of the Federal workforce If you guessed 2002, congratulations! It’s hard to believe that it’s been 16 years since employee engagement became a hot topic for the Federal workforce, but with engagement’s prominence in the recently released President’s Management Agenda, it’s clear that engaging the Federal workforce will continue to be top of mind, at least for three more years. Unfortunately, President Trump’s ambitious goals for improving employee engagement misses the mark in some important ways: 1. While the PMA emphasizes performance improvement, it fails to push agencies to make direct links between improving employee engagement and driving individual and mission performance – there is plenty of research demonstrating the relationship between improved engagement and organizational performance. OPM should require federal agencies to take two decisive actions: a. document the anticipated impact that improving employee engagement will have on individual and mission-driven outcomes, and b. develop evaluation plans for gauging progress. 2. Improving engagement for engagement’s sake is a noble but hollow effort. It can and will only lead to short-term changes. Without creating a virtuous cycle of increased engagement leading to increased performance, which then sustains increased engagement – employee engagement will simply remain a “nice to have” feature of Federal workplaces. This will cause the importance of employee engagement to diminish overtime, as “more important” mission priorities arise. 3. Tim Kuppler, founder of CultureUniversity.com, and I have written extensively in Changing the Culture of Government and Beyond and the Fall Edition of Armed Forces: Comptroller about the problems with focusing on employee engagement (and other climate measures), instead of getting to the root cause of challenges in organizations driven by culture. Many of the presenting symptoms of malaise in the federal workforce are the result of deep seated behavioral norms that won’t be changed by focusing on surface level measures like engagement. The PMA was a prime opportunity to introduce new methods and measures that can help federal agencies begin to achieve meaningful shifts in their culture leading to improved engagement, improved mission performance, and higher quality citizen services. 4. Despite naming engagement as a priority, the timelines embedded in engagement initiatives don’t really suggest that agencies need to put a focus on it. One initiative allows agencies three years to drive a 20% improvement in engagement for their “bottom 20%”. This lofty, long-term improvement goal runs counter to the theme of “agile” that is pervasive in other parts of the PMA. The Administration should be looking for ways to demonstrate progress in much shorter timeframes, like 90 days. It’s true that making significant changes in organizations can be a lengthy process, however, taking a more agile...

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Federal Spotlight Interview: Laniera Jones

Posted by on Mar 20, 2018 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight Interview: Laniera Jones

  Federal Spotlight:  Laniera Jones, Training Officer, Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). 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? LJ: I have been in the Federal service since June 2003 which included serving all my time with the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Department of Commerce. I came into BEA working part time as an intern while I was attending Lynchburg College.  BEA offered me the flexibility of adjusting my schedule to accommodate my course load.  In June 2010, I was offered a full-time position with the Bureau which I graciously accepted. Throughout my tenure at BEA, I worked in training and development and currently, I serve as the Training Officer for my agency.  I have seen the progression of the agency’s investment in employee development mature over the years. I manage all training initiatives and programs, at the Bureau and program area level.  I ensure that we comply with OPM regulations, chair our Training Council, and represent the Bureau and Department at the Federal Chief Learning Officer level. What I love most about my role is that I also have an opportunity to use my additional skills as an organizational development subject matter expert and facilitator.  I also serve as a coach with the Federal Coaching Network.  These sessions remind me of why I truly enjoy seeing the outcomes of learning and development. These events provide an opportunity to connect with colleagues and customers on a different level, helping them to realize their desired state. This is so intrinsically rewarding for me! It is truly a joy to have a position that allows me the flexibility to perform outside the role of a traditional Training Officer.   MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? LJ: The opportunity to serve the public is noble and honorable from my perspective. To know the work I do continues to grow and develop our workforce that contributes to the agency’s ability to fulfill its mission is motivation enough. As I mentioned, I am able to experience variety in my role almost every day which is another facet that keeps me motivated continuously. Over the last four years, I have had the opportunity to work with the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy (ICSP), by developing a mentoring program across the Federal statistical system. Part of this experience I could not have anticipated is the comradery the working group has developed during this process. Not only have we created a mentoring platform across agencies, but we have organically mentored one another in the process. Last year, ICSP made the decision to focus on broader development opportunities for technical staff across the agencies. Thus, the employee development working group was formed under the sponsorship of Brian Moyer, the Director of BEA. We have been working diligently over the last 11 months to determine technical challenges across agencies and how to target those collectively. As a result, we focused on two main priorities: an action learning project team across four agencies and hosting an innovation showcase. The showcase, called Big Data Day, is an event highlighting the innovations across ICSP agencies around big data through posters, demonstrations, a panel, and lightning presentations. As the working...

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Federal Spotlight: Melody Bell

Posted by on Mar 13, 2018 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Melody Bell

  Federal Spotlight:  Melody Bell, Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary (ADAS) Resource Management, Office of Environmental Management. 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? MB: I have over 33 years between my time in the U.S. Air Force and Department of Energy in management and leadership positions with multi-disciplinary programs in energy, environmental management, and defense programs.  Currently I am the Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Resource Management in the Office of Environmental Management (EM).  Specifically, I provide leadership and direction in implementing key activities around empowerment, engagement, diversity and inclusion, and continuous improvement to promote positive organizational culture change within EM.  Previously I served as the Senior Advisor to the Associate Deputy Secretary (ADS) at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).  I also served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Business Administration and the Director of Program Execution Support in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at DOE and the Deputy Director of the Office of Transformation for the National Nuclear Security Administration where she assessed and developed policy to enhance and improve effectiveness, utility, and efficiency of the nuclear weapons complex. I began my career as an Officer in the United States Air Force, where I managed several projects and contracts in support of major Air Force weapon systems. My education achievements include: a Master’s of Science in Environmental Sciences from the Colorado School of Mines, a Masters of Business Administration from Pepperdine University, and a Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering Mechanics from the Air Force Academy.   MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? MB: As the oldest of 4 children raised by a single-working mom, I have always felt a calling and motivation to pursue a career of service.  I wanted to be a role model of service and responsibility. Upon graduation from the Air Force Academy, I began my service career in the Air Force.  I enjoyed being part of a dedicated, professional cadre that stood for Duty, Honor and Country.  During my Air Force career, I had the opportunity to work on a Hazardous Waste minimization and Pollution Prevention project at Hill AFB.  This is when I knew that I wanted to combine my passion for both the environment and national security.  After serving for over 8 years, I wanted to continue my love of service, passion for helping others and my community and entered the civil service.  DOE Office of Environmental Management and Defense Programs were perfect alignments for interest in public service. I have learned much in my career progression to SES and as a public servant.  In addition, I enjoy mentoring and being a role model for women and girls in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) career fields and reinforcing the benefits of being a life-long learner.  I am a lifetime member of Girl Scouts and volunteers as a Troop Leader enabling the transformation of girls into leaders.  I am also a member of the National Society of Black Engineers.   MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? MB: I have several, starting with successfully graduating from the Air Force Academy to having a son and adopting a daughter with special needs at birth. ...

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Federal Spotlight: Pamela Thompson

Posted by on Mar 6, 2018 in Workforce Management | 2 comments

Federal Spotlight: Pamela Thompson

Federal Spotlight: Pamela Thompson, Senior Advisor, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 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? PT: I started my Federal service when I joined the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in February 2014. Prior to joining CFPB, I worked for The MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit company that operates multiple Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs). However, I spent the majority of my career working for Federal government contractors as a Human Resources executive. In addition, I have worked as an independent contractor for NASA, DHS, VA, OPM, and U.S. Postal Service, providing executive coaching, training, and other human resources services. In my four years at CFPB, I’ve had the good fortune to serve in three roles: Chief of Staff to the Chief Operating Officer, Sr. Organizational Culture Advisor in the Director’s Front Office, and in my current role as Senior Advisor in the Supervision, Enforcement and Fair Lending (SEFL) Division. Today, I am responsible for overseeing SEFL’s general operations and employee engagement functions (e.g., human capital strategy, communication, culture, diversity and inclusion) applying change management and organization development methods and tools.   MC:  What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? PT: I am a second generation native Washingtonian and my first job was with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as a part-time clerk/typist in the Accounting Division. I left NRC after graduating high school to attend college. Following college graduation, I worked with government contractors on contracts that fulfilled my desire to serve the public.  One contract I was proud to support was with the Department of Labor processing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for students. Another contract was with The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services educating and answering senior citizens’ questions about the Medicare program and their benefits. My passion and life purpose is helping organizations and people develop. At this point in my career, my professional priorities have shifted and doing meaningful work is at the top of the list. The problems in our world are even more pressing today and the opportunities to grow and add value are plentiful in the public sector. Working for an agency that educates and empowers consumers to make better informed financial decisions and gives me opportunities to help the agency and people develop, keeps me motivated, passionate, and committed.   MC:  What is one of your biggest achievements? PT: One of my biggest achievements that still gives me goose bumps today was working on a contract to federalize the U.S. airport passenger screeners after September 11, 2001, when nearly 3,000 people lost their lives. In November 2001, President Bush signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act into law, resulting in establishment of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). I had the honor to lead the recruitment of recruiters across the U.S. who helped TSA recruit the first Federal officials to conduct passenger screening and baggage checks in all of the U.S. airports. We had 100 days in which to get it done. We worked around the clock. Whenever we felt exhaustion, remembering the 3,000 people fueled us to persevere to achieve our mission.   MC: What advice would you share with the next...

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Ready, Set, Go: Time to Finalize FY 2019-2023 Strategic Plans

Posted by on Feb 22, 2018 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 1 comment

Ready, Set, Go: Time to Finalize FY 2019-2023 Strategic Plans

After months of waiting, Performance.gov is finally back online. While it’s only an interim resource and a brand-new site is forthcoming from The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and General Services Administration (GSA), leaders across the Federal government are thrilled to have something easily accessible to support continued updates to draft strategic plans submitted last summer. The Trump Administration’s call for large scale reform first outlined in a 2017 OMB memo is beginning to take shape with the release of the FY 2019 President’s Budget, and more important details needed to finish the next round of strategic plans will be announced in March when the President’s Management Agenda is available: “This March, the Administration will release the President’s Management Agenda to set forth a long-term vision for an effective Government that works on behalf of the American people. The Administration will make aggressive down payments on this vision by establishing key management reform priorities, addressing critical challenges where Government as a whole still operates in the past. To drive these priorities, the Administration will leverage Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goals to coordinate and publicly track implementation across Federal agencies.” –Performance.gov The process of preparing strategic plans for Federal agencies is highly prescriptive and follows a well-documented, mandated process. However, without all the necessary inputs, the process grinds to a halt. Why is it so important the FY 2019 Budget was released this week and why are so many waiting with bated breath for the President’s Management Agenda? Strategic plans are the essential road maps our Government uses to guide its work for our safety and prosperity each day…down to the last detail. Strategic planning provides a way for agencies to determine if they are achieving their mission. It provides a framework for organizational action by providing organizations within the agency a common basis for assessing situations, discussing alternatives, and deciding appropriate actions to take. Strategic planning in the Federal sector also provides agencies across government a plan for cross-agency action. Simply put, effective strategic planning allows Federal agencies to: Improve decision-making Foster teamwork and communication Assess market and industry forces Facilitate effective resource allocation Clarify future direction Manage change If you are contributing to your Agency’s strategic planning process for the first time or need a refresher on the latest guidance, join us for Strategic Planning in Federal Agencies. We’re updating our content in real time to bring you the latest information on how to prepare a Federal strategic plan....

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Finding Time for Strategic Thinking

Posted by on Feb 1, 2018 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Finding Time for Strategic Thinking

In our fast-paced work environments, there is a natural inclination to keep our heads down and accomplish only the tasks directly in front of us at any given time. From the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep, we are bombarded with emails and social media alerts that require our immediate attention. Indeed, we are often rewarded on the job for our ability to navigate daily emergencies and constantly be available. However, there is a cost to always being “on.” Constantly receiving alerts triggers stress reactions in the body, leading to physical and emotional fatigue. More broadly, when we are stuck in firefighting mode, we lose the ability to plan for and achieve long-term goals. This is why strategic thinking is such a powerful skill to develop. Instead of simply focusing on what exists around us, strategic thinking allows us to consider what could be in the future. To move beyond the here and now and incorporate strategic thinking into your daily routine, consider these best practices: Avoid checking your phone when you first wake up. Though we might want to immediately connect with the world, checking your notifications instantly frames the start of your day around your immediate to-do list. Focus your energy on one task at a time. There is a wealth of research showing that humans are not skilled at multitasking. Fully investing your attention on one specific task improves your productivity and time management, allowing you to pursue long-term interests. Cultivate strategic relationships. Ask yourself: Who can help me get where I want to be in five or ten years? Identifying these people and actively seeking partnerships ensures that you are positioning yourself for continued success. There will always be another email in your inbox, another meeting invite, and another pressing deadline. Still, finding the time to take a future-focused perspective ensures that you are always advancing your long-term goals. Elevating your thinking beyond the here and now requires discipline and intention, but it is well worth the investment. Thinking Strategically, and many other topics, are covered in the updated Professional Government Supervisor Program. Learn more about how to design a curriculum catered to your personal development needs at...

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Mentoring: A Win-Win Situation

Posted by on Jan 26, 2018 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Mentoring: A Win-Win Situation

As National Mentoring Month comes to an end, let’s reflect on the importance of mentorship and its impact on an individual’s professional development. The support and guidance from well-respected and seasoned executives is instrumental as individuals strive to achieve career ambitions. As Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” Good mentors are more than just successful business people – they offer their time, network, and willingness to help others because they genuinely want to see someone else succeed. Top 10 Qualities of Great Mentors Shares knowledge and life experiences Enthusiastic about their work Invests in the success of others Values the opinions of others Respected by colleagues Enjoys the opportunity to help others and see them succeed Exhibits integrity and humility Approachable and available Demonstrates a “can do, get it done” attitude Thoughtfully connects mentees to the right people While mentors often serve as a good support system and sounding board, they can also help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to be better prepared for that next big meeting or execute a business venture. Their eagerness to share failures, lessons-learned, and personal experiences provides valuable learning opportunities that support your professional growth. These attributes not only benefit the mentees, but also create immense satisfaction for the mentor. “I’m about paying it forward. I believe in karma. I think it’s important [to mentor others] and I enjoy it. I feel like I’m doing the right thing,” says Lori Greiner, entrepreneur and star on ABC’s Shark Tank. When successful people are asked about their career accomplishments, you’ll notice that most of them credit those who helped them along the way, their mentors. Who do you admire and respect? Tell us @Mgmt_Concepts #Mentoring Month and learn more about how our coaching and mentoring services can support your professional...

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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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Federal Spotlight: KerriLaine Prunella

Posted by on Jan 16, 2018 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: KerriLaine Prunella

KerriLaine Prunella serves as Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Administration. 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? KP: This past October I finished my 11th year in the Federal sector. I started my Federal career in the former SCEP program (Student Career Experience Program). I was in graduate school, working full-time and attending school part-time. I finished a graduate certificate in Organizational Development and an MBA, as well as some graduate level public policy classes. It was really exciting to be able to take what I was learning in class and immediately apply it on the job. My first Federal position was in Employee Relations and then I did a rotational program, where I learned all facets of human resources, such as– staffing and recruitment, and development. From there, I transitioned to an HR business partner role which was essentially an internal consultant and allowed me to work with the highest levels in the agency. I then accepted a supervisory role and I have been a supervisor for the last six years. In 2014, I went on a special assignment as a senior advisor to a deputy assistant secretary, which was really fascinating because I was able to see how a large Federal agency worked and the direct connection between the mission focus areas and policy. Today, my primary responsibility in my current role is oversight of human resources, facilities management, and executive resources. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? KP: I grew up around public service. My father was Mayor of my town. My mother was Vice President of the school board so it was always a part of my life. I was in the private sector for the first few years, but I didn’t see the direct connection of what I was doing to the larger business results. I reached out to career services at my alma mater, Penn State, and I jokingly said I had a quarter life crisis (at 25) and I wanted to think about the other ways to use my talents. My advisor had suggested a transition position where I worked for a trade association, while attending school and seeking a Federal job. I found the SCEP opportunity and I applied the day the announcement was to close. At the time, I worked close to my house, so I was able to go home at lunch get my transcripts, and I had a fax machine– so, I faxed in the requested documents. I received a call a few weeks later, interviewed and then started on October 29, 2006. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? KP: I’ve had a diversity of experience over the past 11 years working in large and small agencies. I have been able to rebuild and rebrand HR as a true partner in at least three of the jobs that I’ve held. I remember hearing the stigma, “Well, this happens because of HR, or “I don’t have a vacancy so, do not need to talk to HR.” I made breaking down those barriers and myth busting a priority. HR is more than recruitment and benefits. It’s a full service strategy, advising, consulting, as...

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Year In Review: Our Most Read Blogs of 2017

Posted by on Jan 12, 2018 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Year In Review:  Our Most Read Blogs of 2017

And that’s a wrap for 2017! Just in case you missed some of our most read blogs of the year, we wanted to make sure to call them out… again. With topics ranging from human resources, OMB Releasing the 2016 Compliance Supplement to how culture can make a significant impact in an organization – there’s something we all can relate to. We strive to produce content that is not only relevant, but that also can provide insight and value while initiating new ideas to our subscribers. As an early 2017 Forbes article put it “Blogs offer an avenue for delivering that value to a global audience. They provide a hub for tutorials and walk-throughs, and an avenue for crafting and constructing resources that help individuals that are looking for useful information.” And on that note, enjoy reading our top 10 most read blogs from 2017. Our Top 10 What’s in a Name? Human Resource Business Partners v. Human Resource Generalists How Assumptions Impact Organizational Culture OMB Releases 2016 Compliance Supplement and the Revised SF-SAC Form What Changes are Ahead with the new PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition? Tracking Timesheets under 2 CFR 200 Three Pillars of Project Management Agencies Required to Use Federal Award Identification Number (FAIN) for Grant Awards Rock Your Next Federal Job Interview Strengths and Weaknesses of Agile FAPIIS is Here – What You Need to Know Cheers to another successful year in...

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Three Initiatives to Help Improve the Acquisition Workforce

Posted by on Jan 10, 2018 in Acquisition, Workforce Management | 1 comment

Three Initiatives to Help Improve the Acquisition Workforce

As a new year begins, agencies are also making their resolutions.  High on their list are ways to keep employees engaged, energized, and focused on meeting mission goals.  These are the top three initiatives we’ve seen when helping our clients identify ways to improve the acquisition workforce. The importance of having a clear career progression for the acquisition workforce.  Below is a graphic (adapted from VA’s model) that shows that potential advancement includes not only completing the certification requirements, but also mastering professional competencies.  Agencies who recognize this can better guide their workforce to reaching their professional goals. The need to establish a formal COR program. CORs are integral members of the Acquisition Team.  Since COR is a “duties as assigned” role, some of the challenges that agencies face includes: Managing and tracking certification Aligning best qualified/best fit CORs with contracting needs Tracking CORs’ progress To help agencies form their own program, we offer COR Roadmaps for Level I and II.  The recommended courses for the program include those in acquisitions as well as professional skills.  This further reinforces the career progression model. Improving the Quality of Requirements Documents.  Members of the Integrated Product Team (IPT) contribute to creating documents that make up the Requisition Package.  To succeed, acquisition teams need an organized and structured approach to define needs, develop requirements, and write the requirements documents. When these documents do not clearly and concisely communicate the requirement, the government agency will receive faulty cost estimates, reduced competition, protests, contract changes, increased costs, disputes and claims, and ultimately not what was truly needed.  Helping IPT members develop skills such as writing effective statements of work is crucial.   Learn more about how Management Concepts can help you improve your acquisition workforce at...

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My Predictions of Workforce Trends In 2018

Posted by on Dec 28, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

My Predictions of Workforce Trends In 2018

As we wind down 2017 and begin looking forward to a new year, I’ve been thinking about the issues, trends, and themes that are likely to shape the experience of the Federal workforce in the second year of the Trump Administration.  And, while I’m not a very good prognosticator – I picked the Falcons to win the Super Bowl, the Nationals to win the World Series, and was betting on August as the release date for the final book from George R.R. Martin in his Song of Fire and Ice Series – I thought I’d take a stab at predicting what workforce trends and themes may emerge in 2018.  Here are my top 4 predictions: The importance of psychological safety at work will be an important topic for discussion. A Rand report in August 2017 noted that nearly 1 in 5 American workers say they face a hostile or threatening social environment at work. This sad statistic, when combined with the high-profile incidences of sexual harassment at work point to a disturbing pattern of working conditions. While efforts focused on workplace safety have drastically improved the physical safety of workers in the last 30 years, it’s clear that the concepts and disciplines need to be extended and expanded to include a view towards improving the emotional and psychological safety at work. In 2018, this movement should pick up steam and become an area of focus for leadership development programs and human resources organizations. And, individual leaders increase their focus on building environments that encourage inclusivity, trust, and bi-directional feedback. Work/life balance will continue to take on greater importance. With the country approaching full employment and the percentage of the workforce from younger generations continuing to increase, organizations will again need to focus on ensuring their work environment and the demands they place on workers can be appropriately aligned to fit with non-work activities. I think the conversation will, and should, move away from a discussion of “balance” and the notion of “fit” will come to the forefront. Organizations will need to figure out what role they can and should play in helping individuals navigate their obligations to the organization where they work while maintaining their personal commitments to family, friends, social causes, and themselves. We will finally experience the tipping point where interest in “organizational culture” transitions to attention and investment in building constructive cultures that enable high performance. For at least the last three years organizational culture has been a popular buzzword and many organizations are investing in shaping a culture that enables performance. But, still, the majority of CEOs and senior leaders, even though they acknowledge the importance of culture, are not making the investments required to drive performance through intentional stewardship of their organization’s culture. In 2018, I believe, not only will organizations realize the culture is an essential enabler of high performance, but can also be a powerful discriminator in attracting and retaining the high-quality talent they need to meet their objectives. There will be a renewed focus on understanding and using social networks to improve performance in organizations. Most Federal agencies are already confronted with the challenge to do more with less, a phenomenon that isn’t likely to change in 2018. Add to this the recent finding by the Corporate Executive Board that indicates...

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Reforming A Federal Agency: My Top 10 Thoughts to Unify Organizations

Posted by on Dec 13, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Reforming A Federal Agency: My Top 10 Thoughts to Unify Organizations

Ever since the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published OMB Memo 17-22 in April, a lot of attention has been paid to reform in Federal agencies.  Agencies across the Federal government have begun the process of figuring out how to improve performance, reduce costs, and streamline operations of their organizations and, for many, meaningful changes are emerging. The history of radical change is long and storied, often driven by challenging outmoded thinking, developing new technology, and/or changing cultural sensibilities. Shaping any change starts with creating a vision of the desired end-state and explicitly identifying the barriers for achieving the desired vision.  While the vision will undoubtedly vary by agency, I believe there are some universal barriers that need to be addressed to achieve the desired end state. So, in the spirit of speaking plainly about barriers to change, I offer my top 10 thoughts on barriers to systemic reform across Federal agencies. Perhaps some plain statements about the challenges I see in reforming the Federal government can spark a dialogue that will help agencies focus on some core principles for achieving the aims of reform. An effectively functioning Administration and Congress are essential for creating a high performing Federal workforce. To achieve true reform, the White House and Capitol Hill will also need to improve their performance. Congress must provide a more predictable funding cycle and budget process to enable agencies to create an execute the long-term plans needed to achieve meaningful reforms. Leadership matters, perhaps now more than ever, so filling senior level vacancies in agencies should be a top priority for the Administration and Congress. Followers are just as important as leaders in achieving the transformations that are the objectives of the reform effort. Agencies must look for new and innovative ways to attract, engage, and retain top performers who will embrace and execute the vision for reform being shaped by senior leaders. One of the keys to retaining top performers is to change the rhetoric and stereotypes about the Federal workforce. While the government certainly has its share of social loafers, dishonest employees, and those who are overpaid for their contributions to the organization, that is true of any large organization.  Less energy should be spent figuring out how to make it easier to get rid of the few and more time, effort, and resources ought to be spent on retaining and motivating the majority of hardworking civil servants. Meaningful and lasting reform will only come through cooperation across all levels of agencies and between Federal agencies, Congress, and the Administration. As such, the collective Federal workforce must get back to basics, focusing on reclaiming and meeting the intractable challenges that only government agencies are able to address. A reformed and streamlined Federal government must not be designed to meet the needs of today, but those of the next decade and beyond. While incremental changes should be welcome, efforts must ultimately be focused on creating agencies that are sustainable today and optimized for tomorrow. All private sector leadership and management practices will not work when leading a large Federal agency. Federal leaders must learn with and from experts who understand the difference, and can help them adapt and apply appropriate industry best-practices to public sector environments. Effective management must be prioritized at all levels of...

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Federal Spotlight: Amy Rogers

Posted by on Nov 28, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Amy Rogers

Amy Rogers serves as Director, Treasury Executive Institute, 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? AR:  I’ve worked for the Federal government for over 25 years, starting my career at State, then at OPM and then at Treasury as the Director of the Treasury Executive Institute (TEI), a shared service program of leadership and executive development programs and coaching services.  At the end of October, I began a detail working in Treasury’s Human Capital Office helping to set up and implement strategies for Treasury and its workforce. MC:  What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? AR:  Making a meaningful difference. Specifically, my joy is in bringing people together in a setting in which they can grow and thrive by equipping, empowering and encouraging them to develop and unleash their leadership skills – for their customers, staff, colleagues and their own benefit. MC:  What is one of your biggest achievements? AR:  There are a number of projects and successes that I could point to, but one that I am most proud of was when I was a branch chief at the State Department. It was there that I had the opportunity to establish a culture and create an environment in which my colleagues and I transformed our organization into a high performing service provider that earned respect and kudos from our customers. More importantly though, we broke down the internal silos and barriers, earned one another’s respect and came together to serve a greater purpose, transforming ourselves in the process. MC:  What advice would you share with young people on entering government? AR:  My advice may seem obvious, especially to Millennials and those who will come after them, but sometimes we need to see and hear messages repeatedly so let me add my voice to the many others who have said: Get clear on who you are: Know what matters to you, what you want out of life and your career, and who you are here for. This insight will help you navigate the numerous options and decisions over your lifetime. Invest in yourself: Never stop learning, growing and challenging yourself. Most often your growth and development doesn’t require money but it will require focus, time, and effort. Remember, you’re worth it! Even when you become an Executive, don’t assume you’ve made it and that you’re “done”. There is always something to learn, refine, or deepen. Connect, connect, connect! Relationships are what make the world (and your government career) go round. Help and be helped.   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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Leading Contracting Organizations

Posted by on Nov 16, 2017 in Acquisition, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Leading Contracting Organizations

NCMA’s Government Contract Management Symposium is just around the corner.  Each year, NCMA organizes a stellar program centered on key training topics for the acquisition community.  Last year’s education track included sessions on forming successful acquisition teams, to understanding how industry conducts business, to managing contracting organizations.  This year’s symposium highlights understanding contract management, adapting to our changing environment, and leading with confidence.  A common theme is leadership, specifically leading contracting organizations. Often times, contracting leaders are placed into management roles in contracting organizations with little training or guidance on how to be successful in their new role.  Today’s acquisition professionals are expected to combine technical expertise with strong leadership skills to achieve agency missions.  One of the fundamental roles of contracting managers is to develop and retain talent through effective performance management.  What are the best practices managers can adopt to support and manage their workforce?   Performance Management Although performance management is ongoing, the cycle typically begins with performance planning, moves to monitoring, developing, appraising, and then rewarding. Planning. Involves setting performance expectations and goals for your direct reports. These should be tied to organization- and agency-level objectives. Get employees involved in the planning process so they understand the logic behind the goals. Monitoring. Is ongoing and involves measuring performance and providing feedback on progress toward goals. Conduct progress reviews with employees so they know how well their performance is measuring against elements and standards, and so they can course correct as needed. Developing. Refers to helping develop your employees’ capacity to perform. Development of employees may involve training, stretch assignments, coaching, mentoring, and formal education (e.g., graduate degree). Appraising. May be done formally or informally. The appraisal process helps you compare an employee’s performance over time or against other individuals and standards. It impacts pay increases as well as the assessing of valuable personnel during periods of reductions in force. Rewarding. Means recognizing employees, individually and as members of groups, for good performance and acknowledging ways they have contributed to the organization’s goals and the agency’s mission. It should be an ongoing part of day-to-day operations and may involve cash bonuses, paid time off, and nonmonetary rewards, such as praise and other acknowledgements.   Performance Appraisals Performance appraisals should be viewed as an integrated part of performance management. Managers who use the following basic performance appraisal values to guide their performance cycles will be set up for success: Hold feedback conversations early and often. When there is a shared understanding of performance expectations and managers provide regular feedback, employees will not be surprised by any information in a performance appraisal. In fact, the performance appraisal should be a review of what they already know. Balance positive and corrective feedback. It is a misconception to think that the point of an appraisal is to expose all problems, shortcomings, or deficiencies. Instead, effective managers approach appraisals as gap analysis. However, most human beings can hear corrective feedback much more clearly and openly if they are also acknowledged for what they are doing well. Consider a ratio of three positive comments for every corrective or critical comment.   Giving Feedback Three feedback principles to keep in mind are: Positive intentions. If your motives and goals related to giving feedback are about anything other than helping someone perform well, it...

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Federal Spotlight: Amira Reiss

Posted by on Nov 6, 2017 in Acquisition, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Amira Reiss

Amira Reiss serves as Homeland Security Acquisition Institute’s (HSAI) Associate Director for Training. 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? AR:  I have been in Federal Service for almost seven years. I currently serve in the DHS Office of the Chief Procurement Officer (OCPO) as the Homeland Security Acquisition Institute’s (HSAI) Associate Director for Training.  HSAI’s Training Program continues to be one of the most active acquisition training offices in the Federal Government, supporting over 400 formal learning opportunities with over 12,750 course completions last fiscal year. Our program supports more than 13,000 DHS acquisition workforce members nationwide. We provide them with the training required to earn certifications in any of the ten acquisition career fields we support. We also offer a wide variety of continuous learning opportunities to ensure our workforce maintains current skills and knowledge. MC:  What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? AR:  The people. I truly enjoy assisting and learning from other people. My passion has always been giving individuals the tools they need to succeed.  I enjoy connecting people with information and knowledge. I thrive by seeing sparks when connections are made. Navigating the Federal Government is challenging, but I enjoy connecting my colleagues with the tools, resources, and people who can help make them successful. MC:  What is one of your biggest achievements? AR:  Several years ago, I represented DHS in the cross-agency working group that redeveloped the Federal Acquisition Institute Training Application System (FAITAS). FAITAS is the official system of record for tracking the training, certification, and continuous learning fulfillment of the federal-wide acquisition workforce. I was also responsible for rolling out the redeveloped platform across DHS. Today, we leverage the centralized platform to track the accomplishments of our workforce across their careers, including between agencies. This was a great, successful endeavor and I was honored to be part of making the government more efficient. MC:  What advice would you share with young people on entering government? AR:  Listen more than you speak. Never think you have all the answers.  There are always other perspectives. Ask questions and clarify the answers. Your actions, and those of others, have ripple effects. Personal goal achievement almost always stems from a team effort. Also, each day, directly or indirectly, your work in the Federal Government impacts millions of people. It’s worth taking the time do it right.     — 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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Resilience: Millennials on the Rise

Posted by on Oct 30, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Resilience: Millennials on the Rise

On October 19, 2017, Management Concepts participated in a professional development series with the Young Government Leaders (YGL) and Blacks In Government NOW Generation (BIG-NOW). We have been joining forces to create educational networking events to increase the participation and engagement of underrepresented groups within public service.  This breakfast event was held in Washington DC and included a dynamic keynote speaker followed by panelists who told compelling personal stories about how they have succeeded in their careers while sharing thoughtful career advice to those in attendance. The keynote speaker was Chad Sheridan, Chief Information Officer at the USDA Risk Management Agency.  Chad shared some life lessons learned through his various career experiences which helped him become a more resilient person.  For example, early in his military career he learned no one was going to save him when things went wrong, and that resilience is critical to helping him overcome obstacles.  He also advised that when someone you respect offers you an opportunity, you must say “yes” even if you have no idea how to do the job; he admitted it was the best thing that ever happened to him.  As a leader, he has learned that you must believe in the people you hire, trust them to do a good job, admit when you are wrong and give others permission to be wrong. He concluded with telling the audience to be open to learning, show curiosity and don’t be locked into one mental model. Following Chad’s engaging talk, Tim Bowden (General Manager of People and Performance Consulting at Management Concepts) was introduced as the moderator and asked the panel members to introduce themselves by talking about their current role along with their favorite books/blogs for developing leadership capabilities. The panelists included: Melody Bell, Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy Leland Boyd, Branch Chief, Benefits, Performance & Compensation, USDA Departmental Management Office of Human Resources Management Tinisha Agramonte, Director, Office of Civil Rights, U.S Department of Commerce Minette C. Galindo, MPA, Public Health Advisor, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Tim Bowden then led the panelists through four questions before holding a Q&A session with the audience.  Here’s our paraphrased collection of the best advice and perspectives shared at the event:     What advice would you offer young government workers who feel like they can’t get ahead? Tinisha: Attitude determines altitude – you need to be able to change the way you look at things.  Are you working for a purpose or a paycheck?  Sometimes you have to check your ego at the door and show humility for there is always room for development. Minette: Be open to mobility and doing something new and different so you can re-brand yourself.  Luck happens when preparation meets opportunity.  Learn something new every day and give back to your community.   Can you share what approaches you’ve used to “manage up” or lead from a more junior position in the organization? Leland:  Be innovative and don’t be afraid to give your opinion or point of view.  And it is most important to make your customers happy. Tinisha: Speak the boss’ language and constantly be aware of the national priorities and public sentiment.  Also think about everything right regarding an idea instead of everything wrong with the idea. What advice would you offer...

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Strategies to Build a Meaningful Career

Posted by on Oct 12, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Strategies to Build a Meaningful Career

Every one of us has a certain number of years to invest in working and making a living. Having a job is fine, but creating a meaningful career will maximize your opportunities for success. To have a successful, fulfilling career requires that you continually plan, execute and review your career management strategies. You may be like many people in the workforce who only think about your current role or your next desired promotion. However, given today’s changes and uncertainties in the Federal workplace, you need to broaden your short term thinking and how you manage and grow your career. Here are a few ways in which you can proactively work to broaden your skills and understanding of how and where you can use your strengths in your organization: Job shadow other employees in your organization to learn about different jobs. Explore lateral moves to broaden and deepen your experience. Attend classes and training sessions to increase your knowledge. Hold book clubs at work to develop knowledge, and share terminology, concepts, and team building with coworkers. Seek a mentor from a different department that you’d like to explore. Above are some immediate actions you can take to broaden your career. However, succeeding in a demanding, changing workplace requires a strategic career management plan. Below are longer-term strategies to use when developing your plan. Actively engage your manager in a discussion about your career goals, and collaborate to create a career development plan, especially if this is not usually something done in your organization. Investigate short- and long-term skill requirements. If your goal is to be a Chief Information Officer, understand the education, skills, technology, and experience requirements, and develop interim career plans for achieving your long-term career goal. Increase your knowledge of career options by requesting one-on-one informational meetings with colleagues and managers. The purpose of these brief meetings is to gather information to help you make educated career decisions. People are generally willing to share their success stories and offer advice. Volunteer to complete challenging projects and assignments. One of the best ways to advance your career is to identify an organizational problem, propose a solution and work to implement the solution. By doing so you will not only increase your visibility as a problem-solver in the organization, but you will also expand your skills in the process. Think of your investment in the development of a career management plan as a personal enrichment process: An investment that is always working for you because it focuses on making you a better person both in and outside of the workplace. The ultimate win is happiness in your work and your ability to be successful despite an ever-changing workplace. Learn more about our products and services and how we can help you reach your career goals....

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Building an Organization’s Performance Culture

Posted by on Sep 22, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Building an Organization’s Performance Culture

For leaders tasked with developing a performance culture in response to the Human Capital Framework (HCF) released by The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in April, I suspect agencies are seeking answers to the questions like: Where do we start and how do we interpret the framework? If you are uncertain with where to start, how to make it relevant to your agency, or how to execute let’s explore possible immediate steps to support your existing performance culture or begin to shift your existing culture to one of performance. The purpose of the HCF is to aid agencies as they implement talent management strategies in response to the change in Administration and subsequent budgetary and management policy adjustments. OPM has structured the framework across “four open systems”, one of which is the Performance Culture System. OPM defines Performance Culture as: A system that engages, develops, and inspires a diverse, high-performing workforce by creating, implementing, and maintaining effective performance management strategies, practices, and activities that support mission objectives.” So what is meant by a Performance Culture? It’s the practice of creating new and reinforcing existing systems that lead to improved organizational performance. It is the mindful and intentional practice that sustains organizational growth and evolution. A performance culture is not established by simply having a performance management practice. It’s deeper than a system(s). A performance culture is the shared understanding by members about the value and importance of individual, team and organizational learning. How is a Performance Culture created? First, evaluate existing systems to assess effectiveness and value. While culture goes beyond the systems, the systems must be effectively functioning and stable to enable employees to effectively benefit from the system. Second, determine if the systems and resources are relevant and aligned. Many organizations have systems or resources that no longer support the mission and priorities of the organization. Evaluate your development initiatives, ask if they are supporting the knowledge, skills and abilities needed for today and tomorrow’s workforce. What can leaders start doing? In Organizational Culture and Leadership, author Edgar Schein, identifies multiple strategies leaders can practice to embed and transmit culture. Here are several techniques to kickstart your efforts: What leaders pay attention to, measure, and control on a regular basis According to Schein, “the most powerful mechanism … for communicating what [leaders] believe in or care about is what they systematically pay attention to.” Put another way, employees pay attention to what leaders say and do. Using the HCF as a guide, identify organizational priority areas of focus when developing your performance culture. Share the story effectively and often. Ongoing communication about the purpose and importance of establishing a performance culture. Why is a performance culture important to the organization? How does a performance culture benefit individuals? According to OPM, a performance culture refers to an agency’s “holistic approach” to performance. Learn more about our Organizational Culture Alignment solutions and how we can help align the values and capabilities of your organization’s requirements for future...

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How Human-Centered Thinking Drives Higher Performance

Posted by on Sep 21, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

How Human-Centered Thinking Drives Higher Performance

Over the past few weeks I’ve been reading the recent studies from Gallup, SHRM, and the Rand Corporation that describe the current experience of employees in the American workplace. The results from these studies present an interesting and contrasting, portrait of work in the U.S. today. On the one hand, we see that only about 1/3 of employees are engaged at work[1], just over half of all workers say they are actively looking for a new job[2], only 23% of employees strongly agree that their manager provides meaningful feedback[3], while just 18% of employees strongly agree that employees who perform better grow faster at their organization[4]. But the most distressing statistic is that nearly 1 in 5 American workers report being exposed to hostile or threatening social environments at work[5]. Of course, the news is not all bad. All three studies call for a shift in the way work is managed and measured to create a more human workplace and there are data points that suggest that some workers are beginning to see the benefits of organizations that understand that focusing on creating environments where employees can flourish is good for employees, the organization, and ultimately, the communities in which we live. For example: Four out of five workers report that their job provides at least one source of meaning[6] 58% of workers describe their boss as supportive[7] The trend toward support for remote work arrangements and flexible work times is increasing[8],two job characteristics that are important to many workers While these three studies looked at the private sector workforce, I believe that in many ways the experience of workers in public sector, and in Federal government is not all that different from what study participants reported.  And with the current mandate to streamline and reform Federal agencies, creating a human-centered workplace should be the central strategy for achieving the Administration’s aims while continuing to deliver high-impact citizen services that meet the needs of American taxpayers. As you begin the process of rethinking the way your agency delivers value, here are three ways you can infuse human-centered thinking into the (re)design of your organization: Prioritize purpose to drive performance – Most agencies are really good at defining high-level strategic priorities and goals using language that is clearly linked to their overall mission. But, as those goals cascade to lower levels of the organization and drive day-to-day work of agency personnel, it’s easy for language to drift and for purpose to get lost. In a human-centered workplace, it is foundational to make clear and meaningful connections between the work each individual does and its place in the value chain for delivering impact to citizens.  As you think about how you will reform your agency (or team), focus first on the why of each role and activity, and use that why to guide the identification of measures of performance and effectiveness. Replace discussions about risk with conversations about resilience – Understanding the risks that are inherent in your work is important. But, too often a focus on risk creates an environment where the goal becomes avoiding risk, rather than creating an organization that is resilient enough to recover when a risk becomes a reality.  Your workforce needs to have confidence that they and the organization can withstand the turbulence that is...

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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: Chad Sheridan

Posted by on Sep 14, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Chad Sheridan

Chad Sheridan serves as Chief Information Officer for the Risk Management Agency (RMA) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). 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? CS: I’ve been in Federal service for just over 24 years, including six years of active duty. I’m responsible for all the IT systems and services for the Risk Management Agency here at USDA, which supports the Federal Crop Insurance program, which is really a public-private partnership. We provide crop insurance across the country, covering about $100 billion worth of agricultural value every year. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? CS: For me, it’s always about mission. It started with my service in the Navy. My service in the Navy was at headquarters for the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. I got the opportunity to design and build nuclear power plants for navy ships. I ended up working on networks and software for nuclear-powered ships to support propulsion plant operations. That’s been more than a decade now. Evidently, IT stuck. I’m one of those who likes a challenge. I got to work on, and recently just got to see the commissioning of, the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford, which is a new class of aircraft carrier. That was my job for more than seven or eight years. I was either supporting the design or responsible as the Deputy Program Manager for the design of that propulsion plant. The Deputy Program Manager job came about from an informal hallway conversation. One day, I ran into one of my colleagues in the hallway, who was the Program Manager for the new aircraft carrier propulsion plant. She was about to be broken off into her separate section as the first female executive in the organization. I’d been working on a specific aspect of the propulsion plant design for two years. She told me that she needed a deputy. She then half-jokingly asked, “Hey, do you want to come work for me?” I replied, “Yes.” Then we looked at each other, somewhat stunned. “Did that just happen?” Life lesson: when someone you respect asks you to come work for them, the right answer is “yes.” Two months later I started working for her. I was active duty at the time—still a junior officer. Many times, I felt I had no business there, but the mission did not care. We were expected to represent the four-star admiral in anything and everything we did. It was a GS-15 type job, and I’m running this as a 26 year old. Learned everything along the road. I got thrown in the deep end and I swam. You only design an aircraft carrier about once every 40 years, so the opportunity I was given at a very young age to work in a program that might outlive me is something that matters. I believe that service matters and that continuing to work in the Federal government is about driving the mission, driving what we are trying to do to support our citizens. So now I am in information technology, which was never part of the plan. I started life as a nuclear engineer. That was my life. I’m still a certified mechanical engineer in the Commonwealth of Virginia....

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Growing as a Coach – Tips from a Seasoned Expert

Posted by on Sep 11, 2017 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Growing as a Coach – Tips from a Seasoned Expert

Whether you’re new to your coaching role or have logged countless hours coaching many kinds of professionals, there’s always room to hone your skills and be more helpful to your employee, peer, or other person you might be supporting. The better you are, the better you can be. These tips will help you adapt your approach and refresh your intentions for each person you coach, each time you coach them. Be transparent. If you’re going to try a coaching approach in a conversation that sounds different than how you’ve spoken in the past, go ahead and be transparent about how and why you want this conversation to be different. This can clear the air for the person you’re speaking with. No one likes feeling “worked on” or peppered with questions if they don’t understand the context of the new approach. Give yourself permission to not prescribe answers. Allow your mindset to include that your employee or partner can be creative in conversation with you, with the resourcefulness to generate answers themselves. Check what assumptions you are making about your stakeholder. Approach them as full, whole people—not deficient or otherwise “un-able” to generate new possibilities. Find out what they want from the conversation. What’s a successful outcome of the conversation for them? Pay attention to what you’re paying attention to. What are you listening for? (e.g. opportunities to reply or to understand? etc.) Let your coaching mindset drive your open-ended, generative questions. As a coach, you aren’t there to give out directions and answers. Are you asking questions that lead and impose, or uncover and evoke? Frequently, the 11 Core Coaching Competencies (as defined by the International Coach Federation) get boiled down to simply listening and asking powerful questions. But the real (and more challenging) work of becoming a stronger coach for your peers or employees (or clients) lies in the tips I’ve listed above. If you leave a coaching skills class and you hear yourself asking questions like “What if you tried this?” or “Have you thought about doing that?” Just keep practicing. Eventually you’ll learn to get away from asking questions with your own answers already embedded. Remember, your coaching mindset is what drives your questions, your thoughts, what you listen for, and more. The work that you’re doing as a coach for other people begins with work you’re doing on yourself. All of the tips above are actions you’re taking with yourself, your awareness, your mindset. You have to pay attention to how you process these things. Cultivate that mindset, and the impact of your conversations will follow. — Learn more coaching tips by subscribing to this blog, using the form at the top-right of this page. And for more about Management Concepts Coaching and Mentoring offerings, check out our Coaching homepage. And last but not least, see if our Anytime Coaching training might be right for you or other leaders in your...

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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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Coaches Succeed When They Have the Right Mindset

Posted by on Aug 18, 2017 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Coaches Succeed When They Have the Right Mindset

Command and control isn’t the only way to relate to employees, nor is it the best mindset when you want to engender staff who are more creative or empowered. Coaching skills also help managers demonstrate their interest in their employees, a key factor for retaining and engaging employees. That’s why there’s a lot of talk these days about managers and leaders using coaching skills. It’s actually an acronym referenced in courses and coaching studies by the International Coach Federation: “MLUCS.” And while the skills of coaching tend to feel more tangible and executable to the learner (or boss who is funding the training), the coach mindset is the more important factor in whether or not your coaching conversations with others come across as genuine, growth oriented, or even well intentioned. Many factors contribute to getting the coach mindset wrong. Here’s how to shift your mindset: Skillset: After years of telling and directing, most managers and leaders are well-practiced at watching out for problems, telling staff how to avoid or fix them, and having the answers themselves. Managers and leaders have to move from the mindset of “problem solver” and allow for the employee to be a part of creating the solution. Identity: Let’s not forget how easily one’s sense of self is built by, and rewarded for, having answers. Instead, asking employees for creative answers, and starting conversations about an employee’s development without prescribing their path or even pretending to have the right answer, can feel like a relinquishing of control, threatening a leader’s identity by altering perhaps long-held views of how leaders provide value. Think of coaching as adding a new dimension to your identity as a leader—as a coach, you aren’t dispensing answers. You’re standing side-by-side with somebody and giving them room to grow. Time: Additionally, taking a coaching approach to supervision rings in many MLUCS’ ears as having to spend even more time with employees in an already packed workday. They want conversations to be quicker or less frequent, not longer or more frequent. Thing is, effective in-the-moment coaching is the short and frequent, open communication that empowers the employee. Role: Shifting to a coach mindset often needs to take place in the middle of the same conversation in which suggestions or answers are offered based on experience and expertise (mentoring/teaching), or performance-related directives are being given (supervision). Ask your employee if they’d like you to help them think through some options together. This helps you make sure you’re providing the support that is needed, and once confirmed, you can intentionally reframe your mindset in order to focus on asking open questions and listening effectively. Your coaching mindset is the place where your intentions lie. This is your reason for bothering to have coaching conversations in the first place. Whoever your stakeholders are, don’t leave them guessing about whether they can assume you have positive intent, or see them as a situation to be “dealt with.” Learn more coaching tips by subscribing to this blog, using the form at the top-right of this page. And for more about Management Concepts Coaching and Mentoring offerings, check out our Coaching homepage. And last but not least, see if our Anytime Coaching training might be right for you or the “MLUCS” in your...

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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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Same Data, Different Conclusions: It’s a Good Thing

Posted by on Aug 15, 2017 in Analytics, Workforce Management | 2 comments

Same Data, Different Conclusions: It’s a Good Thing

In just a couple weeks, I will be on my way to Italy for a two-week vacation! Che bella! When I was deciding where to go with my husband, I experienced a bit of work-related decision-making déjà vu. Every option we considered was very different from the next, but all were possibilities chosen based on the same exact set of data (number of vacation days available, budget, etc.). I felt like I was back at the office working with a team, arguing about what decision to make, even though we’re usually reviewing the same data. The difficulty can be that different does not necessarily mean wrong in these situations. So, how do you successfully prepare for those conversations where everyone’s perspectives are different, but also valid? First, think through your own decision-making process: How did you land on your decision? How did you weigh/prioritize each piece of information? Maybe you want to spend as many days as possible on big, once-in-a-lifetime vacations, and so you decide to go all-out on a long Safari trip in Africa. Or maybe you’d rather scatter PTO on shorter vacations to places close by, always with a buffer day to recover when you get home, so you plan several city-hopping long weekends to Miami, Seattle, San Diego, and Boston throughout the year. Once you understand your own process, you’ll be better-equipped to collaborate with others. As you enter these conversations, keep in mind that everyone is going to approach a decision from their own unique perspective. Ask yourself: How could others interpret this data? How might your own decision change if you had additional data? Is there new information that others have that might influence your decision? What decision, or rather, what desired outcome of the decision, is best for the mission? If you take a few moments to think through the answers ahead of time, you’ll be more prepared for the conversations, and likely more open to possibilities. It will help you understand where others are coming from, as well as what potential differences to expect. More often than not, analyses do not point to a single decision. This can invite conflict when stakeholders bring different perspectives to the table. By arming yourself with your own decision-making process, and an understanding of how others might interpret data, you are setting yourself up for success. Data-driven decision making, naturally, is equal parts data analysis and collaborative, constructive decision-making skills. For more strategies, techniques, skills, processes, and models on this subject, along with training for influencing stakeholders, register here for our new two-day course, Data-Driven Decision Making. And just remember, an African safari isn’t wrong, it’s just different! Ciao! — Enjoy this blog post? Check out our other recent Analytics blogs—and don’t miss our other posts on data-driven decision making. And don’t forget to subscribe to this blog by using the form at the top-right of this...

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Federal Spotlight: Jonathan Alboum

Posted by on Aug 9, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Jonathan Alboum

Jonathan Alboum serves as Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in federal service? What is your main responsibility in your role today? JA: I’ve been in the Federal government for approximately 11 years, and today I’m the CIO for all of USDA. In that role, I have responsibility to manage technology directly in my office, which supports our approximately 2,800 county offices and enterprise network connections across the country, as well as information security and capital planning for all of USDA. At the same time, I’m the leader of the USDA IT community. USDA has 17 offices and 19 agencies, all with IT needs and several with agency CIOs. We work collaboratively to deliver solutions, support program needs from fighting forest fires to delivering nutrition assistance, doing agriculture research, and food safety inspections. I have an oversight responsibility for all of it. I began my career in the Federal government by working as the deputy CIO and then the CIO for USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. I’ve really learned what it’s like to be an agency-level CIO—did it firsthand for several years. I left for a while and worked at the General Services Administration (GSA). One of the things that I was responsible for at GSA was the creation of a unified GSA IT organization. Once that work was completed, I had an opportunity to return to USDA to work in the farm and foreign agriculture mission area. I worked very closely with USDA Leadership to support the Farm Service Agency and the implementation of an enterprise system to manage activities in offices all over the country. I’ve had a variety of USDA experiences across mission areas, which gave me a good perspective as I moved into this job as USDA CIO. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? JA: An organization like USDA touches the lives of all Americans. USDA has a role in everybody’s day-to-day life even if it’s not always obvious. Everybody eats, and we support the farmers and ranchers that produce our food. We support the nation’s ability to visit a national forest. We support the school lunch program. Every child that goes in to have a school lunch, whether it’s free, reduced or they pay it for full, is a USDA customer. We touch everybody’s life in a way that they don’t necessarily see or know—but we know we’re there and, to me, that’s a very motivating factor. USDA does so many things that make the United States of America a great place to live. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? JA: I’ve had a lot of opportunities to take on projects that were troubled. Many years ago, I worked on a project as a contractor for an agency in USDA. When we started on the project, it was extremely behind schedule and it was unclear if we were going to deliver what we needed. I had the benefit of being new, and I was able to ask a lot of questions and make some adjustments with the team, and we had the opportunity to re-plan the project. We were able to get all of our deliverables met, and...

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Federal Spotlight: Ali Pourghassemi

Posted by on Jul 31, 2017 in Workforce Management | 3 comments

Federal Spotlight: Ali Pourghassemi

Ali Pourghassemi serves as a Human Capital Manager for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal service? Ali Pourghassemi: I have officially been a “Fed” since July 2012 so that puts me at a little over five years… time flies! MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? AP: The people. The people who come to work daily and contribute 100%. The people who consistently seek ways to improve or eliminate unnecessary processes. The people who believe in collaboration. The people volunteer and are not “voluntold.” The people who think outside of the box. The people who are passionate about their agency’s mission and mentoring future leaders. The integrators. Those who realize we are truly public servants that collectively have a responsibility to the American people to fulfill our missions. Connecting people who would have never met otherwise is essential. I am an integrator. That is my passion. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? AP: Honestly, one of my biggest achievements was, and continues to be, connecting mentors and mentees—particularly during the 2015 cohort of the HHS Acquisition Mentoring Program. As program manager, my responsibility is to pair individuals whom I feel would have a reciprocal learning relationship. Long story short: in this scenario a mentee did mock practice interviews with their mentor in preparation for a “big interview,” that GS-12 to GS-13 jump. The mentee reached out to me and advised me that he “got the job!” and directly attributed it to the mentor/mentee pairing he participated in. This success story keeps me passionate and engaged in my current role as the Program Manager for the HHS Acquisition Strategic Leadership, Mentor and Talent Exchange Programs at HHS. I love to see other people WIN! MC: What advice would you share with young people on entering government? AP: This is a loaded question, right? No, my biggest advice is to never stop investing in yourself. What I mean by this is: volunteer, don’t be “voluntold.” Take training that is beneficial to your career. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Take risks. Most importantly, never compromise your integrity. The government may seem large but everyone is connected. Build meaningful relationships and network, network, network. My grandmother used to tell me you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Just be...

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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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FEW NTP 2017: Empowering Women in the Federal Workforce

Posted by on Jul 21, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

FEW NTP 2017: Empowering Women in the Federal Workforce

Management Concepts was a proud sponsor for the third year in a row for the 48th Federally Employed Women’s (FEW) National Training Program (NTP) held in New Orleans, Louisiana, from July 17-20, 2017. This year’s conference theme was “Investing in Our Future.” The week was packed with practical training sessions, motivational keynote speakers, thought-provoking panels, and many opportunities to meet a diverse group of over 1,200 attendees from all over the country seeking professional development opportunities. Management Concepts was excited to host two training sessions at the conference, led by our in-house experts in human capital and talent management, leadership and management, and organizational culture: Debbie Eshelman teamed up with Anna Mauldin to present “How to be Resilient During Chaotic Times.” This session drew from our training course, Fostering Accountability, Adaptability, and Resilience, which covers everyday techniques for thriving (and helping others thrive) in today’s complex, uncertain, and often chaotic environments. And Lahaja Furaha led a session titled, “Making Culture Change Stick,” which explored the strategies, processes, and a step-by-step roadmap for achieving meaningful and lasting culture change that enables and achieves mission objectives. Over 250 NTP attendees attended our sessions and presentations. And more than half the conference-goers visited our booth for giveaways, training catalogs, and meeting our presenters. And for the third-straight year, we honored winners of our Leadership Certificate Program Scholarships. The scholarships were awarded to: Lisa Watts, Management and Program Analyst, U.S. Department of State Paula Sutton, Environmental Protection Specialist, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security The conference schedule was full of valuable training, presentations, resources, and networking. Key topics and takeaways included: Fostering diversity and inclusivity are more important than ever, and can be addressed through mentoring opportunities, and engaging differences within teams and organizations to unlock greater performance and collaboration. Critical thinking and problem solving are crucial skills for today’s workforce, where problems are more complex and roles, systems, and processes seem to be in constant flux. Culture change is key, and will continue to be critical for successful adaptation to new systems, reorganized agency structures, and shifting career opportunities in the Federal workforce. We’ll end this blog with a quote from FEW President, Wanda Killingsworth, “NTP presents networking opportunities to improve the quality of life for attendees, personally and professionally, and employees return to work refreshed and more committed and productive, creating a stronger workforce and less turnover.” We agree—it happens every year at FEW’s NTP. And we’re proud to continue partnering with and supporting members of FEW, through events, resources, and training—and we look forward to next year’s...

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Coaching Is Essential to Your Staff Retention Strategy

Posted by on Jul 19, 2017 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 2 comments

Coaching Is Essential to Your Staff Retention Strategy

If you’re thinking strategically about employee retention, then your budget has line items to fund coaching. Employee retention isn’t just about making sure employees don’t leave. It’s about ensuring employees feel invested in. Not just “productively utilized,” but supported, engaged, heard, trusted—effectively connected to their work by the opportunity to deploy their strengths. Without using coaching skills, managers, leaders, HR professionals, even peers, may not know how to hold conversations that help employees do that. Recent research shows that HR, Talent Management, or Learning and Development professionals are more likely to use coaching skills with the intention to support traditional business outcomes, like enhanced employee performance and productivity. But they may miss the opportunity to use coaching skills to increase employee self-confidence, enhance personal growth, and improve job satisfaction—all of which can contribute to employee turnover. Here are a few benefits of having an effective coaching culture at your organization to support employee retention: Employees of companies with strong coaching cultures are more engaged than those at organizations who do not. That’s 62% vs. 50%, respectively, according to a joint report between Human Capital Institute and the International Coach Federation. Coaching helps individuals work on behaviors that will guard against burnout. According to a 2017 study by Kronos, “[N]early half of HR leaders (46 percent) say employee burnout is responsible for up to half (20 to 50 percent, specifically) of their annual workforce turnover.” Peer, team, or group coaching helps create the experience of social support, which is shown to impact personal well-being. From hormones to neural activity, social support impacts how an individual is able to handle stress and even guard against serious conditions like heart disease. We can’t neglect our responsibility in creating the environments in which we, and our teams, work. Employees will feel that their boss pays attention and cares. The adage goes that employees leave a bad boss, not necessarily a bad job. “Managers/leaders who use coaching skills appear more likely to view coaching as an opportunity to improve the relationship with their subordinates.” (HCI.org) Take some time to think about how the relationships you have with your staff may be influencing whether they want to stay in your organization or take their talent elsewhere. Whether internal or external coaches are used—or managers, leaders, or peers are trained to use coaching skills—building a culture of coaching throughout your organization is one way to address employee retention before employees ever think about leaving. Check out our offerings for coaching services and our coaching skills training course (Anytime Coaching – enroll in our September class!), and read our other practical, tactical blog posts on coaching and mentoring. And don’t forget to subscribe, using the form in the upper-right corner of this...

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Experts and Leaders Convene: How the Federal Workforce Can Thrive in an Uncertain Future

Posted by on Jul 13, 2017 in Uncategorized, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Experts and Leaders Convene: How the Federal Workforce Can Thrive in an Uncertain Future

On June 29 in Washington, D.C., Management Concepts sponsored the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) event, “Stabilizing the Workforce in an Uncertain Future,” featuring our top experts and leaders in People & Performance Consulting as well as experts in Federal workforce development from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Defense and Treasury departments, and Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs. In 2017, individuals, teams, and organizations throughout the Federal government must find a productive, thoughtful path through the disorienting churn of changing leaders, policies, and Federal workforce priorities. The presentations and audience discussions at this event covered the most pressing concerns in leadership and workforce development: Leveraging learning programs Adapting to change Improving performance Here’s our rundown with the top takeaways from the discussions, panels, and presentations at the event. (Note: Statements by the presenters have been paraphrased and summarized for convenience.) Teresa Gerton (President and CEO of NAPA) and Stephen Maier (President of Management Concepts) welcomed the audience with remarks focusing on the clear need of Federal leaders to adapt to uncertain conditions in the Federal workforce—such as the looming White House directive for workforce reduction, government reorganization, and agency transformation. Gerton: For leaders, getting the most out of your Federal teams may be as hard now as it’s ever been. But it’s never been more critical. How leaders approach uncertain circumstances today will help organizations thrive in the long term. Working toward solutions should be as encouraging as they are challenging. Maier: Uncertainty and signs of trouble are always present. Are we making sure every staff, every team, every individual member of the Federal workforce has a plan? People must be treated with respect and integrity throughout the process of change. Are management teams prepared to handle the questions their employees have? Changes and challenges must be looked at from the bottom up so everyone at the organization understands them, but also from the top down, so senior management gets the change effort right. In a spirited fireside chat, Tim Bowden, General Manager of People & Performance Consulting at Management Concepts, teamed up with Jason Miller, Executive Editor and Reporter for Federal News Radio, to explore the results of a recent survey (conducted by Federal News Radio and sponsored by Management Concepts) of CLOs and CHCOs on the state of training opportunities within the government. Here are the takeaways from their discussion: In the new survey, CLOs/CHCOs prioritized closing skills gaps over needing bigger budgets for training. Lately, there’s been an increase in collaboration between agencies sharing resources, planning, and strategy. A growing spirit of collaboration between agencies is helping leaders address and close gaps. There’s a lot of interest in changing and improving performance management systems. We’ve got to make a shift from a punitive performance management mindset to one that’s more clearly about giving people the opportunity to improve. And if the right training and performance measures/management are in place, leaders have to develop a mindset of trusting their people to do good work. Instead of worrying about massive institutional culture change requiring seven or more years of effort to take place, allow small, immediate changes to build up in the short time. Change starts immediately, personally, and contagiously. If you’re committed to individual, personal change starting...

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Communicating Change: The Key to Avoiding the Most Common Mistakes

Posted by on Jun 30, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Communicating Change: The Key to Avoiding the Most Common Mistakes

There’s been much debate about the agency Reform Plans that were submitted to OMB by each agency. How seriously will agencies take those plans? Will Congress pass a budget that supports the changes outlined in the plans? One thing that is hard to debate against, however, is that there will be change. So, if change is inevitable, what we really need to think about is how we’re going to manage the change. Change management frameworks, methodologies, and best practices are widely available on the internet. However, one word sums up the key to successfully implementing change, and if not done properly, change will not be successful – communication. Yet organizations, time and time again, do a poor job of communicating change. And what happens as a result? Greater resistance and slower adoption by the workforce, which in turn hinders the organization from realizing the benefits it hopes the transformation will generate. Here are three tips that address the most common mistakes we see organizations make when communicating change: The Earlier the Better Organizational transformation requires its workforce to change behaviors, and behavior change takes time while people digest and become comfortable with what they will have to do differently. One of the most common mistakes I see organizations make when it comes to communicating change is they start far too late in the process. As soon as soon as the decision is made to make a change, it should start being communicated, and not just to a limited group of individuals, but broadly to all those who in some way will be impacted by the change. And, it’s still not enough to communicate the change broadly, it is also critical that organizations tailor their communications (content, medium, timing, and frequency) to the stakeholder groups that will be impacted. Remember That Communication is a Two-Way Process All too often we see change communicated out, which leaves people feeling like change is being done to them, rather than feeling like part of the change. And, how many times have change initiatives been delayed because unforeseen requirements surface late in the process when a stakeholder group who wasn’t engaged throughout the process finally is? Listening must be part of an organization’s communication process so that communication about a change moves beyond informing the workforce to also engaging everybody. Use Transparency to Build Trust Getting people to change behavior also requires trust. People have to trust that their input has been considered and that the organization will help them succeed and support them throughout the change process. One of the best ways to establish trust with the workforce during organizational transformation is by being as transparent as possible when communicating the change. Be honest about what you know and what you don’t know, and provide visibility into the decision-making process and criteria. Organizational transformation only happens when its workforce transforms with it. Communicating to the workforce early and interactively enables organizations to bring their people with them on the change journey, rather than hoping they hop on board once the ship is already...

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Your Words Matter: Have Conversations that Make Things Happen

Posted by on Jun 26, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Your Words Matter: Have Conversations that Make Things Happen

Words matter. A short but very powerful statement, this old saying feels especially timely right now in Washington. So, let’s talk about how we can be more intentional and get better results when communicating with others. It doesn’t matter if you are having a face-to-face, phone, or email conversation—or if you are trading quips over Twitter—how you approach a conversation directly impacts the outcome. You probably think about your approach before giving a presentation or holding a project meeting. But what about those small, quick conversations throughout the day with team members, leaders, or project stakeholders? All day long, we hastily grab a coworker for a quick chat, zip off emails to get or give important information, and (if you are like me) often multitask while commuting home by catching up on missed phone calls from the day. How often do you pause to consider what you want to achieve through conversation before you start talking or typing? Being more strategic when communicating will not only help streamline the number of conversations you have throughout the day, but also improve what you (and others) get out of a conversation. Taking just a minute before we engage in a conversation to determine a desired outcome helps to clarify what we want to relay/achieve and what we want others to do. You may have used the SMART method to set personal or professional goals, but try using it to articulate what you want to achieve in a conversation. Before you go into a conversation, think about a SMART outcome statement: Specific. Identify and state your desired outcome so that what you are trying to achieve is clear. Measurable. Make your outcome quantifiable. Provide some sort of numerical indicator (e.g., 95%, 3 times a year, 4 out of 5 attempts, etc.) when defining what you want from a conversation. Achievable. Will you motivate yourself and/or others through what you are saying—or will your words shut them down? Are your nonverbals helping or hurting the conversation? Realistic. With the time and/or resources available, can you (or others) achieve what you need to do? Time bound. Be clear about any timeframes you need to set so others aren’t left to wonder when they need to do what you are asking. If you can articulate what you need through this SMART lens, chances are you can wrap up a conversation faster, get better results, and get on with the rest of your day. Let us know in the comments below And if you want to work on more strategies for efficient, influential communication, check out upcoming offerings for our class on this subject: Communicating...

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Federal Spotlight: Melinda Burks

Posted by on Jun 18, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Melinda Burks

Melinda Burks serves as a Senior Program Officer for the U.S. Department of State. 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? Melinda Burks: I have been in the Federal sector (contractor) since June 2014. I currently work as a Senior Program Officer with the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Office of English Language Programs where I manage global academic exchanges and training programs for international educators. I worked as an English as a Foreign Language teacher in several countries prior to joining the State Department. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? MB: My past experience keeps me motivated and passionate about working in the public sector. I am a first-generation college graduate that had to search for resources, opportunities, and mentors. I did not come from a family that was well-versed in government or international affairs, so I had to pave a path for myself. I was granted the opportunity to break generational molds due to public programs, which is what motivates me to stay in the public sector. I couldn’t afford traveling to other countries if it weren’t for a scholarship I received to participate in a study abroad program. I wouldn’t have been able to go to college without the Pell Grant and other Federally-funded scholarships. My education, paired with programs offered by the Federal government, truly changed my life trajectory. I like to think that I am paying it forward by working in the public sector and simply working to provide someone coming from a challenging environment with limited resources the same opportunities that I was given when I was younger. Also, the teacher in me never dies, so I am passionate about equipping anyone with the knowledge and skills to be a change agent in their circle(s) of influence. Another motivator for me is knowing that my work is in direct alignment with my core values. All of my life experiences up until this point have prepared me for working in the public sector, whether I realized it or not. I thought I wanted to work in Public Relations, but I was not fulfilled. The universe continued pulling me back into education and public work. Knowing that I have the opportunity to create educational and cultural programs for both domestic and international audiences is personally gratifying. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? MB: A couple of my professional achievements would be designing creative academic exchanges for teachers. I am most proud of this moment because when I was brought on as a Senior Program Officer for academic exchanges my office was doing one exchange a year. In one year the program expanded to three exchanges and four the following year. I had to pursue this position with a spirit of entrepreneurship, so to speak, so I’m very proud of this component’s expansion. Additionally, it is gratifying to know that my job includes creating professional development opportunities for teachers that impact classrooms in over 85 countries. As previously mentioned, I worked as a teacher prior to joining the State Department. I am a true advocate of teachers, professional development, and training of any kind,...

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Learning Cultures Close Skill Gaps

Posted by on Jun 5, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Learning Cultures Close Skill Gaps

What is a skill gap? Traditionally, it is defined as the gap between the skills an employer needs to get the work done and the skills employees have when they walk through the door. However, skill gaps can emerge with an existing workforce. A critical gap can occur suddenly with a new mission critical priority or slowly with looming predictions, such as the impending retirement wave. When a critical skill gap emerges, an organization’s speed and approach are critical components to effectively closing the gap. So, how does an organization build capacity to respond to skill gaps? Begin by creating a culture of learning. Most workforce planning and human resource professionals understand that learning is vital to the health of the organization. However, few link learning to mission critical execution. If the workforce does not have the right skills, employees will be unable to effectively carry out the tasks required to meet the goal. What is a learning culture? A learning culture is an agreed upon set of values, systems, and processes that encourage expansion of ideas, learning, and skills that positively impacts the organization and enables mission execution. Organizations that value learning and development as a way of being are in a better position to address skill gaps as the behaviors and practices are a part of their organizational DNA. How do you create a culture of learning? Make it an organization-wide focus. Creating a culture of learning should be a shared vision and organization-wide effort. Skill gaps do not just live with an individual, team, or division. Skill gaps are organization priorities. If not addressed, they could potentially put a strategy or mission at risk. Make learning part of the dialogue around strategy and mission. Make development a leadership principle. According to a recent study of 195 leaders in 15 countries (from over 30 global organizations), two key leadership principles emerged: Nurtures Growth and Shows Openness to New Ideas and Fosters Organizational Learning. In a follow-up Harvard Business Review article, The Most Important Leadership Competencies, According to Leadership Around the World, Dr. Sunnie Giles surmises, “If a leader has these strengths, they encourage learning; if they don’t, they risk stifling it.” Create various development opportunities. While training may be the right solution for specific skill development, organizations can reinforce knowledge transfer from the classroom to the job by creating additional learning opportunities such as job rotations, special projects, job shadowing, mentoring, and coaching. Mine the gap. Leaders are in the bridge position to know which skills are or will be needed organizationally to execute strategies and identify if a skill gap exists within their teams. Leaders are then able to feedback that information to the organization and work together to create a plan to address the gap. Organizations can ignite excitement for learning by fostering a culture that encourages expansion of ideas and values development. In doing so, organizations position themselves to systematically respond to addressing skill gap issues that surface. This creates an added benefit to individuals, team, and leaders by retain institutional knowledge, minimize siloing, increase collaboration, and expand information sharing. Talent gaps continue to be a critical issue for most organizations. Learn more about our organizational culture alignment work on our webpage here, and to receive more writing about organizational culture, check out our...

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DATA Act Compliance Has Arrived

Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Grants & Assistance, Workforce Management | 2 comments

DATA Act Compliance Has Arrived

Three years of planning the implementation of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) came to fruition on May 9, 2017 as Federal agencies were required to begin reporting spending by using governmentwide, standardized data elements. Prior to the DATA Act, agencies used differing data elements and definitions to report spending. Use of the Act’s open and uniform standards is meant to improve reliability and access to the government’s financial data. Nextgov.com reported that most agencies, in varying degrees, met the deadline of submitting financial data from the second quarter of fiscal year 2017. On the same day the DATA Act came into effect, the Treasury Department released a new beta version of USASpending.gov in accordance with the DATA Act requirements. Treasury describes the website as the “new official source of accessible, searchable and reliable spending data for the U.S. Government.” The data is open and machine-readable, and users can download and search through data sets. The data includes both agency appropriations and expenditures, including: grants, contracts, loans, and employee salaries. Agency compliance with the DATA Act remains a work in progress. On May 8, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Treasury requesting information on how each agency is responding to the recommendations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to improve the implementation of the DATA Act. The Committee requested the agencies respond by May 22, which have not been released. Additional provisions in the DATA Act also provide for the following upcoming milestones: August 7, 2017. OMB must submit a report to Congress detailing the results from the Section 5 pilot programs for grant recipients and contractors. The pilot programs tested different methods and procedures to reduce reporting redundancies and recipient burden. November 8, 2017. The GAO must issue a report evaluating agency compliance with the DATA Act. August 7, 2018. OMB must decide if grant recipients and contractors must use the DATA Act standards in financial reporting. As always, it’s important to stay up to date on all things related to the legally compliant administration of Federal grants. Our Federal Grants Update course keeps you current, and covers a wide variety of developments and updates in just one day of training. Also, check out our previous blog posts on DATA Act implementation, and subscribe to this blog (using the form on the upper right!) to receive the latest compliance news and updates for all things Federal...

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A Perfect Match: Data Analysts Pair Technical Skills with Soft Skills

Posted by on May 30, 2017 in Analytics, Workforce Management | 4 comments

A Perfect Match: Data Analysts Pair Technical Skills with Soft Skills

I hope everyone had a good Memorial Day Weekend – the unofficial kickoff to wedding season! In that spirit, I’m going to discuss a very important relationship in every data analyst’s life: the marriage of technical skills to their soft-skill counterparts. Just like every relationship, this one requires understanding and balancing complementary aspects to be successful. For our model skill-coupling, let’s look at how the skill for knowing how your sphere of influence—i.e. awareness of what you can do yourself, and how you can influence others—works hand-in-hand with your skill for driving data-based decisions. In data-reliant work, awareness of your sphere of influence and data-driven decision making make for natural career-long skill partnerships. They work better together, and enable you and your team to do the best work. Here are two ways these skills blend and support each other: Understanding When interpreting the results of an analysis for the purposes of making a data-driven recommendation, it is critical to understand your sphere of influence. For example, say an analysis is requested because your organization wants to know the best way to increase profits. If hiring decisions are out of your (and your supervisor’s) control, then you shouldn’t suggest adding more staff. Instead, focus on data that supports efficiency and cost-cutting measures within your influence. Data-driven recommendations are more effective when they consider both the analyst’s and the decision-maker’s sphere of influence, and are centered around practical action steps. Balance Consideration for sphere of influence must come with a healthy dose of technical analysis. The balancing act of building a practical recommendation based on what you can influence, and following the data’s lead, can be a difficult one to master. If you lean too far towards what you can influence, sometimes the decisions aren’t strongly supported by data. On the flip side, basing recommendations solely on data, without any organizational context, can lead to impractical decisions that stray from strategy. Striking the right balance allows decisions to be not only actionable and immediately useful, but mindfully and strategically aligned with what the rest of the organization is working toward. To achieve balance and understanding, try asking yourself three questions whenever your data analysis reaches the point of needing an action or a decision from others: Why is this decision important and why is it a good move? What about this issue is in your control, what is not, and who can help? Does my analysis support our strategy, and is that clear to others? Technical, hard-analytical skills and soft skills are natural, complementary partners—they make up for what the other lacks, and the two are more powerful together than apart. When united, they can take data analysis, decision making, and people to the next level. But as common wisdom would have it, relationships take work. Register for our upcoming training opportunities to improve your decision making and evaluating and presenting analysis, and other analytics skill areas, and learn how you can improve your strategic communication and influencing...

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Federal Spotlight: Suzi Inman

Posted by on May 11, 2017 in Acquisition, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Suzi Inman

Suzi Inman serves as Acquisition Management Specialist/Contracting Officer’s Representative at the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane Division, in Crane, Indiana. She is also Vice President for Membership and Chapter Organization for Federally Employed Women (FEW). 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? Suzi Inman: I have been in the Federal service for 27 years. I started out as a GS-3 Clerk Typist, which was to be a short-term engagement for only 90 days. It quickly turned into several years of service and multiple positions. I have worked in the Comptroller Department in the Budget Branch, and from there moved to a Line Division as a Financial Analyst for their Financial Core Team. After doing financial work for several years, I became a Green Belt in Lean Six Sigma and worked on a Continuous Improvement Team. All of these different positions provided knowledge and experience allowing me to move up to my current position of a Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR). MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? SI: Participating in the work we do supporting the Warfighter. And we have many opportunities to rotate our positions to various areas here on base, or to take on a totally new position while remaining at Crane. Many people question how we have a Navy base in the middle of Indiana, but our service to the Warfighter is essential to keeping our naval fleet the most powerful in the world. Working as a COR is very motivating, and I love working with people. In this role, I have the opportunity to solidify contracts that keeps our work moving forward. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? SI: During most of my 27 years of Federal service, I have been a member of FEW. During that time, I have held several positions at Chapter, Region, and National levels. I have served as the FEW National Training Program Chair several times. I was rather shy before I joined FEW, but by stepping out and taking on various leadership roles it has made me a stronger person. Throughout the years, I have addressed large audiences, when before working with FEW I would run the other way. Through my volunteer service with FEW, I have made friends all over the country. Working with FEW in all the various leadership capacities gave me the experience that has allowed me to move up in my career. In 1998, I received the Barbara Boardman Tennant award from FEW. This award is an overall achievement award to recognize an individual’s achievements of national significance during a period greater than one year. The criteria states that the person nominated must be one whose actions and leadership resulted in service to the organization at a national level to a degree above and beyond that required by membership. This award is the highest award you can receive at the national level within FEW. MC: What advice would you share with young people on entering government? SI: My advice for young people starting out with the government would be to: Work hard in your position Be flexible with schedules Be respectful of others Register for classes offered, especially leadership...

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Federal Spotlight: Bill Sutherland

Posted by on May 9, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Bill Sutherland

Bill Sutherland retired recently from his role as Director of Aviation Operations at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He currently works in support of National Guard forces, and also works as Managing Director of UASOPS, LLC. Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long were you in Federal service, and what were your main responsibilities and roles? Bill Sutherland: I joined the Army in 1985 and spent six-and-a-half years as an aviation officer. Then I got out and joined what was then called U.S. Customs Service. After 9/11, Customs Service combined with other agencies into the Department of Homeland Security, and Customs Service became Customs and Border Protection (CBP). I joined the Customs Air and Marine Program in 1991 and spent 23 years as a law enforcement officer. I did just about everything in the organization. I was with the Office of Air and Marine—we used aircraft and boats to perform national security operations like border protection and security, in the air and on the water for national security events and other homeland security requirements. I was a pilot for CBP for a number of years, then I was a supervisor, and then I ended up being a director. The last role I had was as director of the unmanned aircraft program. CBP utilizes large unmanned aircraft, or drones. They’re used strictly for surveillance along U.S. borders and coastal regions. I was in charge of the program, and I helped develop it. We had ten aircraft, and it’s approximately a $250-million program. I ended up working at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base. Because we were so successful surveilling the land border with the unmanned aircraft, we decided to try to apply them to the maritime environment. I set up the very first domestic maritime unmanned aircraft program based from Cape Canaveral. Sorting out the air space, de-conflicting, and making sure the level of safety was on par with commercial activity in the air space was a tremendous challenge. I collaborated with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DoD, DHS, and Coast Guard (USCG). It was a joint program between CBP and the USCG. We also collaborated with academia—primarily Johns Hopkins applied physics lab—for some sensor integration work. It was really busy, very challenging, and productive. Four years ago I retired, and the program is still going well. MC: What kept you motivated and passionate throughout your career in public service? BS: Initially, I was attracted because I was able to continue to fly and apply those skills in civil service. The mission was really cool. I performed exciting aviation activities with great people while flying very complex aircraft. I was detecting suspect activity from the air and directing law enforcement from the ground or from on the water. I flew some of the most sophisticated aircraft around with the coolest sensors. It was also a team aspect that kept me around, and then the ability to supervise and direct those activities kept me energized. It boils down to the people, to the relationships that you start to develop while there. Great friends, great times. We worked hard and had a lot of fun together. That motivated me to continue serving. Then these bigger projects came along, where you’re dealing with a lot of different agencies, a lot of different...

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TOC 2017 Recap: Talent Development – How Sweet It Is!

Posted by on May 4, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

TOC 2017 Recap: Talent Development – How Sweet It Is!

The Training Officers Consortium (TOC) 2017 Annual Institute was held in Hershey, PA from April 30 – May 3, 2017, and Management Concepts was honored to be a silver sponsor. More than 150 attendees, a few of our own in-house experts, and our President, Steve Maier, showed up for the inspired learning and knowledge-sharing the institute is known for. The theme this year was “Talent Development – How Sweet It Is!” The institute provided the attendees with a range of speakers and sessions on such topics as: Learning Measurement & Analytics Leadership Development Career Development Learning Technologies Training Design Training Development Over the course of three days we conducted two sessions of our own. The first by Joy Oliver, Director of Assessment Services at Management Concepts, presented, “Using Lagging Indicators to Measure Training Impact at the Individual & Organizational Levels,” where she discussed best practices to measure the value and impact of training on individual, team, and organizational performance. Our second presentation was led by Debbie Eshelman, Managing Director of the Human Capital and Talent Management Practice at Management Concepts. He presentation, “How to be Resilient During Chaotic Times” shared how to rebound from setbacks and adversity when facing difficult times. The conversations in the rooms were engaging and riveting – exactly why attending the institute is necessary for great dialogue and sharing of best practices! Some of the key ideas discussed at TOC were: Leading Change: Change your mindset to achieve lasting change within an organization. Mentoring: Launch a mentoring initiative to help facilitate career and leadership development. And it promotes retention of institutional knowledge. Webinars: Something that can’t be overstated, especially if your org still isn’t implementing webinars: this format delivers content that is engaging, informative, and efficient for any generation of mobile learners. The conference ended with a keynote presentation by Ira Koretsky, CEO of the Chief Storyteller. Through a lively and insightful program, he challenged the audience to think about how we develop and deliver our personal stories. My four key takeaways from his presentation are: The best networkers are relationship builders Use personal experience stories to engage hearts and minds Make sure your audiences quickly grasp the message in your graphics Be dynamic and hold your audience’s attention from beginning to end The TOC community provided Management Concepts with a tremendous amount of information to take back to our teams and discuss the training and performance management concerns government employees are dealing with today and in the future. Thank you to TOC for another great institute. See you next...

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Now that I’m the Leader, How Will My Team Change?

Posted by on Apr 24, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Now that I’m the Leader, How Will My Team Change?

All people fear change, whether they admit it or not. Your people (please don’t say “subordinates” – that language is SO outdated) don’t know what to expect of you as a leader, and you don’t know what it’s going to be like to lead them. Many new leaders think they should walk in with all the answers; great leaders walk in with the right questions. Then, they lead their teams to a co-crafted solution. Not only does this get buy-in from your team, it gives you a pulse on what every team member is thinking, and what they’re willing to contribute. And please write (or have someone) write down the responses to these questions. And post the questions and answers in a place where everyone is reminded of them. Do the following three things, in some way, every single day: 1. Ask them what is going well currently, and what isn’t. If you want honest and candid responses, be honest and candid. And be respectful of everyone. 2. Ask them where they see the team in one year. Ask them to describe, in rich detail, what the team will be doing, how it will be working together, and how what/how each member will have contributed to create a better, more fulfilling, more productive future. 3. Ask them what and how the team is going to get there. Ask what support they need from you as the supervisor. Ask what they need from each other. And ask what they need from other stakeholders. Your team will change and adapt, because of you, based on how you ask these questions.   But, aside from asking great questions…how is the team going to work together now that you’re the boss? Your team wants you to be successful. After possible feelings of resentment, defensiveness, or competitiveness subside, your team members realize that you are responsible for making a large portion of their lives (40 hours/week in most cases) either an enjoyable, fulfilling experience, or not. Don’t be afraid to lean on your team, just as they will lean on you. Try these things: 1. Check in with your whole team regularly in staff meetings. You’ll never know what’s going on with the whole team unless you hear from them. And if they work remotely, they may not have any idea what the other members of the team are doing. Ask for status reports, and actually read them. Acknowledge the information you receive in staff meetings. Especially with remote employees, your job is to be a connector. You’ve got to connect them with their work, with the workplace, with their teammates, and with you. Even the most senior employees have to learn different habits if they begin working remotely. And this presents an opportunity for you, as leader, to serve your team in a different capacity. 2. Meet individually with your team members at least once every two weeks to go over the work, but more importantly, to deepen the personal connections that build trust. That’s the best way to get work done. If the trust is broken, try everything you can to rebuild it. 3. Ask for feedback from your team. That sounds like, “How am I doing?” Initially, you might get a response like, “Fine,” especially if they don’t know if they...

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So I’m Officially a Leader… Now What?

Posted by on Apr 10, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

So I’m Officially a Leader… Now What?

Well, you did it. After all your hard work, your contributions, and your tenacity, you got it. That promotion. That next step. You had the celebratory party (hopefully with cake), shook hands, hugged your loved ones, and eagerly awaited the moment when you could check your paystub to see if it were true. Yes! The money’s there! You’ve made it! You’ve been promoted to a supervisor/leadership role! Then, a week passes. You’re headed home, and it hits you. “What’ve I gotten myself into now? I think I’ve got ‘what it takes,’ but what if I don’t?” Relax. It’s perfectly natural to have those moments of self-doubt. In fact, if you’re NOT having those moments, you’re in trouble. You may be using the same mindset and thought patterns that got you the promotion. Now, the game has changed, and you must as well. But that’s OK, because we all have to evolve to grow. Sometimes growth is easy; sometimes, it’s painful. It’s all part of the process – your process. Adjusting to your leadership role means expanding your skills and increasing your awareness in a number of ways, and they’re noticeable (by you, but more importantly, by others—namely your team members). Questions and situations will almost immediately come up that require you to think and act differently. You’ll need to begin thinking about your impact on others in a much more intentional way than you did before. As renowned author and leadership expert Marshall Goldsmith stated, “What got you here won’t get you there.” You may have been promoted from among your peers. You’re immediately different in their eyes—and maybe you competed with them for your promotion. Here are three ways you can start increasing your awareness and thoughtfulness with your team members: 1. Acknowledge your team members’ feelings and respect where they’re coming from. Were you ever passed over? Remember how that felt? That’s where they are. Don’t say, “I know just how you feel.” You don’t. Say, “I know this is a difficult and awkward situation given our history together; however, I’m committed to working with you to achieve our team goals. What can I count on you to do?” 2. Reassure them that while your interpersonal relationships will remain, you now have different responsibilities than you did before. Always keep your focus on the present and future. Your team will say things like, “You weren’t like that when you were one of us.” Rather than getting defensive, you can respond with a statement like, “In the past we’ve relied on each other as teammates. Now, I’m going to need your help even more as your boss. I’m looking forward to seeing how we can all create a better future together. And trust me; I’ve got your back.” 3. Ask what they want next for their career, and assure them that you’ll do what you can to help them achieve it. If you’ve been with the team for a while, you probably have already assessed everyone’s performance and potential. Your job, now, is to help all team members unleash their potential. So do it. (And you probably don’t need to hear from me how rewarding your new role will be.) And when you need help, or are looking to take more new strides in your leadership skills, training...

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The Presidential Budget and Federal Grants

Posted by on Apr 5, 2017 in Grants & Assistance, Workforce Management | 1 comment

The Presidential Budget and Federal Grants

Why performance measures are more important than ever. On March 16, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the Trump administration’s budget blueprint for Fiscal Year 2018. The purpose of the Presidential budget is to identify and explain the administration’s priorities and policy proposals. The Trump budget proposes funding decreases for nearly every Federal department, except for Homeland Security, Defense, and Veterans Affairs. Additionally, the budget proposes elimination for 19 independent agencies, including grant-awarding agencies such as the: African Development Foundation Appalachian Regional Commission Corporation for National and Community Service Delta Regional Authority Denali Commission Institute of Museum and Library Services National Endowment for the Arts National Endowment for the Humanities OMB has only released a budget blueprint, which provides a high-level statement of policy goals. OMB expects to release the full budget later this spring. Even without the line-by-line budget requests detailed in the full budget, the budget blueprint does provide significant guidance for the grants community. The budget blueprint proposes the following recommendations for specific grant programs and grant-awarding agencies: Department of Agriculture Eliminating the Water and Wastewater loan and grant program Reducing funding for Rural Business and Cooperative Service by $95 million Eliminating the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program Department of Commerce Eliminating the Economic Development Administration Eliminating the Minority Business Development Agency Eliminating NOAA grants and programs supporting coastal and marine management, research, and education including Sea Grant Department of Education Increasing funding for charter schools, new private school choice program, and Title I Eliminating Supporting Effective Instruction State Grant programs Eliminating the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program Eliminating the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program Reducing the Federal TRIO and GEAR UP programs by $193 million Eliminating or reducing funding for over 20 categorical programs, including Striving Readers, Teacher Quality Partnership, Impact Aid Support Payments, and International Education programs Department of Energy Reducing $900 million from the Office of Science Eliminating the Weatherization Assistance Program and the State Energy Program Department of Health and Human Services Increasing SAMSHA funding by $500 million to expand opioid misuse prevention efforts Reducing NIH spending by $5.8 billion Restructuring similar HHS preparedness grants to “to reduce overlap and administrative costs and directs resources to states with the greatest need” Eliminating the discretionary programs within the Office of Community Services, including the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) Department of Homeland Security Eliminating or reducing State and local grant funding by $667 million including the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program, which is “unauthorized by Congress,” and Homeland Security Grant Program. Establishing a 25 percent non-Federal cost match for FEMA preparedness grant awards that currently require no cost match Department of Housing and Urban Development Eliminating the Community Development Block Grant program Devolving community and economic development activities to the State and local level.” Eliminating funding “for a number of lower priority programs,” such as: the Home Investment Partnerships Program, Choice Neighborhoods, and the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program Increasing funding by $20 million for the mitigation of lead-based paint and other hazards in low-income homes Eliminating funding for Section 4 Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing Department of the Interior Eliminating the Abandoned Mine Land grants, National Heritage Areas, and National Wildlife Refuge fund payments “[Reducing] funding for...

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Federal Spotlight: Soraya Correa

Posted by on Mar 30, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 6 comments

Federal Spotlight: Soraya Correa

Soraya Correa serves as Chief Procurement Officer for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 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? Soraya Correa: I’ve been in Federal service 36 years. I’m the Chief Procurement Officer at the Department of Homeland Security—what that means is that I’m responsible for providing leadership, policy oversight, and support to the acquisition for the procurement workforce, which consists of about 1,500 individuals across the country. Our spend is about $16 to $17 billion annually, and we process approximately 90,000 transactions. We accomplish our work through a variety of contracting actions. Sometimes we write very specific contracts to meet specific program requirements, and sometimes we develop strategically sourced contracts that are agency-wide and possibly even government-wide. We use a variety of mechanisms to accomplish our work, but primarily we make sure that folks comply with the policies and procedures to achieve the acquisitions that support the men and women who execute the day-to-day mission of protecting the homeland. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to continue your career in public service? SC: I am in Federal service because I am passionate about Federal service. I believe in our government and our system of government. I understand we have some flaws—if we were perfect, we probably wouldn’t all be here. I’m motivated by the fact that this is a great country and we have one of the best systems of government, if not the best one, in the world. I’m also passionate about the mission that I serve. At DHS, I look at it as there is no greater mission than to protect the people who are the citizens of this country, the people who visit this country and live here. So I’m motivated primarily by mission, but I’m inspired by the people who work for me and the people that I work with and for. I’m inspired by all the other Federal employees as well as contractors who come in every day to serve this mission and support the work that we do. Those are the things that inspire and motivate me every day. MC: What is your biggest career achievement? SC: On a personal level I would say my biggest career achievement is to be where I am today especially as a woman and a minority. I started working in the federal government 36 years ago as a clerk/typist. It was a job, and I wasn’t really thinking about a career, but it turned into a great career, a career that I navigated successfully on my own. In other words, I never worked in an office where things were handed to me or a promotion was given to me. When I was ready for the next promotion or the next challenge, I went out and sought it out myself. I’m very proud of where I am as a woman and as a minority. That’s my greatest personal achievement. It’s where I am and how I try to share with others my experience how I got here, so that hopefully they’re motivated to share with others how they got here, and hopefully this is how we continue to grow and develop the workforce. At DHS, I...

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Agency Experts and Leaders Convene to Address Challenges Facing Federal Workforce Management

Posted by on Mar 29, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Agency Experts and Leaders Convene to Address Challenges Facing Federal Workforce Management

On the morning of March 28, at the University Club in Washington, D.C., Management Concepts joined forces with the National Academy for Public Administration (NAPA) to produce a spirited, critical event called “Exploring and Addressing Talent Gaps in Federal Workforce Management.” Speakers and panelists from Federal agencies included experts in workforce planning and organizational development from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), FBI, Government Accountability Office (GAO), and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They joined for a panel on closing critical skills gaps in Federal organizations, including a fire side chat on how community-building was a critical success factor in successfully implementing SES reform at HHS. Moderating the panel, facilitating discussion and audience interaction, and sharing welcome remarks, were our own Tim Bowden (Executive Director for People and Performance Consulting), Debbie Eshelman (Managing Director of Human Capital and Talent Management), and Lisa Doyle (Managing Director of Learning Solutions). The packed room at the University Club was greeted with an opening statement from Teresa Gerton, President and CEO of NAPA. Her message carried two particularly valuable points: The information and concepts shared today can be of immense value to the new administration. Everyone can take these ideas and discussions and push for meaningful and necessary change in public service. Tim Bowden followed Gerton’s charge by encouraging the audience to get back into the habit of asking questions—asking hard questions that aren’t so difficult as to not have an answer, but hard enough to lead to meaningful answers that bring change. “Ask the why, what if, and how,” said Bowden. “How would I get more people involved at my agency to engage in efforts toward performance improvement? If we can begin to answer these questions about engaging, managing, and delivering improved results in the Federal workforce, we’re going to see some changes.” What follows are highlights from topics discussed at the event:   Exploring Gaps in Federal Workforce Management Debbie Eshelman walked the audience through a new research report, published by Government Business Council (GovExec.com) and Management Concepts, called “Unleveraged Talent: Exploring Gaps in Federal Workforce Management.” The survey conducted in this report assessed how Federal employees from over 30 different agencies feel they are being supported with regard to workforce management strategies being implemented in their agencies. The survey pointed to the biggest blocks to better talent management strategies: ineffective processes, lack of leadership support, and budget constraints. Management Concepts framework for meaningful talent management speaks to the integration of strategy and implementation. An effective strategy needs to be aligned to the agency’s mission, vision, and organizational strategy, along with the culture to engage, retain, and leverage talent. Implementation needs to focus on comprehensive workforce planning, recruitment and selection, performance management, learning solutions, recognition, critical knowledge retention—it all needs to be interconnected and interdependent, and all employees should feel supported. “It’s not just Millennials who want transparent, open dialogue about performance and career pathing,” said Eshelman. “I think everybody wants this, Millennials are just more open to talking about it.”   Highlights from the Panel Discussion: “Implementing Talent Management Strategies to Close the Gaps” Lisa Doyle moderated the discussion, which featured Dr. Amy Grubb (Senior Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, FBI), Sally Jaggar (SES, NAPA Fellow, formerly of GAO), Bill Wiatrowski (Acting Commissioner, BLS), and Lisa Dorr (Director of IT Workforce...

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Federal Spotlight: Georgia A. Thomas

Posted by on Mar 20, 2017 in Coaching & Mentoring, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Georgia A. Thomas

Georgia A. Thomas serves at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as the organization’s Southeast and Southwest Area Manager, Communication and Stakeholder Outreach (CSO), Field Operations. 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? Georgia A. Thomas: I have been with the IRS since 1979. In my current position, I serve as an Area Manager in Stakeholder Liaison—Field Operations. I manage two Areas of the country, (1) the Southwest Area which includes the states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas and (2) the Southeast Area which includes the states of Florida and Georgia. My management assistant is located in Rhode Island. As Manager, I provide oversight to the outreach efforts within both geographical areas. Our stakeholders are primarily the Small Business/Self-Employed (SB/SE) Community. We also provide Disaster Assistance in these areas. In addition to providing education and resources to our stakeholders, issue management is an important tool we utilize to support our stakeholders and effectively influence compliance with tax laws. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? GT: I stay in public service at this point in my life because no two days are the same. I am motivated by knowing that the liaison work we do involves helping someone each and every day. While education and outreach is one of those fields where you can measure success by the number reached, growth in knowledge can sometimes be very speculative. However, being able to note the improvement in overall compliance levels over time because a group was educated on a given topic makes all the difference in tax administration. I am proud to be a part of a small group within the Internal Revenue Service that educates our stakeholders and lessens the burden of the American taxpayer through our outreach activities that focus on education, disaster assistance, and stakeholder issue resolution. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? GT: For me, my biggest achievements have been the ability to mentor and assist others in their careers. I have been rewarded by the gift of seeing others grow and accomplish the career goals they have set for themselves, and in several cases exceed what they thought they could do. And of course, the added bonus is when the person comes back and lets me know how much they’ve appreciated the assistance. MC: What advice would you share with young people on entering government? GT: Join an organization, whether you join something like Federally Employed Women (FEW) or another organization that supports your career and your passion. Never underestimate the power of personal growth and moral support gained by being proactively involved with others. Joining FEW has given me an appreciation for the hard work and service that Federal employees provide every day. I am especially appreciative of the positive impact that women make in the Federal workplace and in their service to the American taxpayer. My involvement with FEW has been invaluable to my career and personal growth. Without my involvement with FEW, I would not have been exposed to so many skillsets and career paths in my interactions with FEW sisters and brothers across the United States. Being active in FEW gave me the confidence to...

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Put Your Data Visuals on a Diet: No More Pie Charts!

Posted by on Mar 13, 2017 in Analytics, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Put Your Data Visuals on a Diet: No More Pie Charts!

  Happy Pi Day! To celebrate, I will be discussing one of the most widely-used (but not widely useful!) data visualizations: the Pie Chart. Data-driven, strategic decisions are only as good as the information behind them—and to decision-makers presented with data, the information’s only as good as the chart or graph that represents it. As data analysis is used more and more, the communication of actionable information becomes just as important as the information itself. While charts and graphs are invaluable tools for easily and quickly communicating a complex message to an audience, if they aren’t wisely designed, they can also be misinterpreted, misleading, or even deterrents to action. And pie charts—despite their deceptively simple style and popularity—often lead viewers astray, or lead nowhere at all. So, here are 3.14 Reasons to Never Use Pie Charts! 1. Distortion of the Information 3D and ‘explosion’ effects are very common pie chart features. But look at the following example of regional sales data—can you tell which region had the most first-quarter sales? I can’t tell either, and I built the chart! The explosion makes it difficult to gauge the slices’ sizes in relation to each other. And when using the 3D effect, slices that are closer to the reader appear larger than the others. Let’s remove the 3D and explosion effects and see if that helps. Still stuck? Me too. Dark colors naturally look larger than light colors, making it difficult to compare. Instead of a pie chart, use a bar chart that you can sort and label efficiently. Bar charts can often display the same exact data without distorting the information—and audiences are always relieved by easy-to-read charts. 2. Difficulty Communicating the Information How many times have you seen a pie chart with too many slices and a crowded legend? If your eyes need to move back and forth between the chart and the legend (and who can squint hard enough to read that legend, right?), you’re not focusing on the information or what it means. Instead, your brainpower is spent remembering which color matches each legend entry. Let’s try to fix it by limiting the number of pie flavors. This shows the top pie preferences, and buckets everything else into ‘Other’. But we’re now inviting questions about what falls into the mysterious ‘Other’ category rather than effectively communicating the pie preferences. (And if you hadn’t noticed, we’re experiencing distortion of information with the colors—e.g. is the dark blue slice twice the size of the orange slice? Hard to say!) A bar chart allows you to communicate the important information without inviting tangential (or completely unrelated!) questions. 3. Difficult to Draw Meaningful Conclusions This is the result of reasons #1 and #2. When a data visualization does not accurately represent or effectively communicate the data, one of two things is most likely to happen. One – you’re going to make a decision that you shouldn’t. Or two – you’re not going to make any decision at all. In today’s environment it is increasingly important to be able to make data-driven, strategic decisions. That’s so much easier when you use a chart style that fits your data and your message. Most often, a pie chart is not the right choice. 3.14. Pie is for eating, not for data. Don’t get me...

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Federal Spotlight: Doris Sartor

Posted by on Mar 6, 2017 in Workforce Management | 1 comment

Federal Spotlight: Doris Sartor

Dr. Doris Sartor serves as Course Director for the Air Force Civilian Associate Degree Program at Maxwell Air Force Base, and is national president of Blacks In Government (BIG). Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? DS: 35 years. My main responsibility is serving as Course Director, Air Force Civilian Associate Degree Program at the Ira C. Eaker Center for Professional Development at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. The Eaker Center is standing up the Associate of Applied Science in Leadership and Management Studies for Air Force civilians. This degree program is designed to create a body of core competencies, key skills, and abilities infused with Air Force Core Values to prepare USAF civilians to be effective as they assume increased responsibilities as Air Force Leaders. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? DS: That’s an easy question to respond to. First of all, I really enjoy the prospect of designing and implementing new programs and courses. I do enjoy seeing the plethora of positive effects the programs or courses have on civilian and military members. On a daily basis I get to witness, first-hand, the innovation, dedication, and commitment of my fellow military and civilian co-workers. Secondly, as a public servant, I get to live my passion of helping others. My nine-year position as the Course Director for the Air Force Sexual Assault and Response Coordinators and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Victim Advocates Courses allowed me the opportunity to work with those who provide sensitive care for sexual assault victims. Academically empowering students through interactive, engaging activities, helps ensure their success as they educate, advocate, and collaborate to respond to and stop sexual assault. Being a part of their journey was an incredible experience. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? DS: Now, that’s a really hard question! I’ve had many wonderful opportunities throughout my civil service career. It’s difficult to choose just one achievement. Presently, I’m honored to serve as the 14th National President of Blacks In Government (BIG). With my involvement with such a prestigious organization, I have had many opportunities and challenges that have enriched me both personally and professionally. For example, over my 28 years of involvement with BIG, I’ve had the opportunity to serve as Corporate Sponsorship Chair and collaborate with organizations, agencies, and businesses that have donated more than one million dollars to BIG’s programs, services, and initiatives. Kudos to them for investing in such a noteworthy organization! The invaluable experiences of being the program coordinator for numerous BIG programs such as the National Oratorical Program; Information Superhighway Student Competition; Future Leaders in America’s Government; and Darlene H. Young Leadership Academy have served me well. The skills I learned while working with BIG transferred into my many government positions as GS-15 Leadership Seminar Executive Course Director; Quality Advisor; Associate Editor, Air and Space Power Journal; EEO Counselor; Mediator; and AETC Quality Air Force Instructor. Certainly, if you ask my mother that question, she would tell you to look at the many photos she has of me with such outstanding leaders like our former President, Barack Obama; Attorney Johnnie Cochran; Actor Clarence Gilyard; and General Dennis...

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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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Finding Stability and Opportunity through Uncertainty

Posted by on Feb 14, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Finding Stability and Opportunity through Uncertainty

Last week, my colleague Debbie Eshelman discussed the ability of individuals to embrace the chaos in Federal organizations to move their career forward. For many workers, as Debbie rightly noted, it feels like we are living in a more chaotic world than ever before. Dramatic changes in leadership and associated policies, operating norms, organizational structures, and the workforce are creating tremendous instabilities in organizations. Fortunately for Federal personnel there can be benefits to the organizational instability created by uncertainties, anxiety, and rapid change. As Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel famously said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean [is] it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” Perhaps your organization or team feels like it is in the middle of a crisis with an uncertain future and shifting leadership, and is caught in the mire of the Federal hiring freeze. If so, here are a few things you can do to help take advantage of the “crisis” and use a planned approach to organizational change to bring stability to your work environment: 1. Understand your networks and those of your colleagues. In her article on “The Network Secrets of Great Change Agents,” Dr. Julie Battilana of Harvard Business School indicates that her research on hundreds of organizational changes clearly demonstrates the need for effective use of informal influence that comes from organizational networks to achieve successful change. Understanding how individuals in your organization are connected through their informal networks, and not just in the formal hierarchy of the organization, enables you to predict how information about the change will travel throughout your organization and maintain control of the messaging about the importance and value of the change. Additionally, identifying people in your organization who are closely connected to influential “fence-sitters” or those who are likely to be ambivalent about the change. Identifying individuals who are highly connected across the organization—who aren’t outright resisting the change but maybe are slow to adopt it—and influencing them to endorse the change effort can dramatically enhance the chances of success for your change initiative. 2. Find the meaning behind the change. To paraphrase American author and humorist Mark Twain, the two most important days in your change effort are the day you start and the day the organization finds out why. While Twain’s famous quote was talking about ultimate purpose in life, the sentiment holds true for organizational change efforts. It essential to tie your proposed change initiative to a higher sense of purpose that is driven by the mission and values delivered by the organization. Workers in the Federal government are often motivated by the opportunity to add value to public life. And while there are still many unanswered questions about the origins and impact of public service motivation, it is clear that tying an organizational change to positive impacts on mission achievement and citizen impact can provide a much needed uplift in the likelihood of adoption. 3. Create safe spaces for failure and the resulting learning. One of the things that can significantly drive up anxiety in unstable organizations is the fear of failure. The high performers in your organization that you need to have onboard for successful change are often those who have a high need for achievement. This achievement...

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To Overcome Anxiety in the First 100 Days, Coaching Is Clutch

Posted by on Feb 8, 2017 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 2 comments

To Overcome Anxiety in the First 100 Days, Coaching Is Clutch

Executive orders, cabinet confirmation hearings, and Supreme Court nominations are leaving many in the federal sector uncertain about how they’ll be impacted. This uncertainty can increase anxiety for Federal employees. This uncertainty, combined with how people feel about the uncertainty, affects people’s ability to tolerate ambiguity, increasing the intensity of their experience of anxiety. The experience of uncertainty can also in turn amplify a particular feeling you already have about what’s going on in your workplace. One of several factors that influence the human experience of uncertainty is the psychological safety they experience in their work environment. As someone’s boss, you likely influence the psychological safety a person experiences, even if you cannot change the objective uncertainty of the present moment. How you demonstrate transparency, trust, and yes, even care, for your employees can influence how they experience a sense of security at work. Your role is even more critical in steadying your team while they work through fears, anxiety, confusion, apprehension, and other negative emotions that can be brought on by significant transitions in the workplace. Emotional contagion, the phenomenon of a team’s attitudes and feelings—and thus, their decision making—being influenced by one another’s emotions, has gained increasing attention in recent times. If you’re a manager who isn’t paying attention to how your own emotions are influencing your people, you might be contributing unnecessary negativity to an already anxious group. Yet, you may not be experiencing a sense of stability from your own boss. So, you’re having to buffer against what’s coming at you from your boss, and prevent that from being passed down to your people… Enter coaching. Working with a coach (internal or external to your organization) can help you navigate your own feelings of uncertainty, while working on your capacity for self-control or empathy, holding difficult conversations, executive presence, and more. And, if you get serious about using coaching skills to help your own people, having your own coach can be critical in helping you understand what good coaching looks and feels like, and how it’s different from traditional supervisory conversations. According to our recent research report—Unleveraged Talent: Exploring Gaps in Federal Workforce Management—82 % of the Federal workers we surveyed feel that their managers are unresponsive or slow to address reported employee issues. A study by DDI (Development Divisions International, Inc.) found that in the U.S., 56% of frontline managers fail because of lack of interpersonal skills. Moreover, negative outcomes like loss of leader engagement, team members leaving the organization, and profit and productivity loss, were most commonly attributed to lack of interpersonal skills. Are you that manager? Are you uncomfortable handling important, if difficult, conversations? Are you perhaps even uncomfortable holding check-in conversations that aren’t part of the official “performance review” process? I’ve encountered several clients who hesitate to initiate informal conversations with their employees because it isn’t part of their organization’s “culture.” They get self-conscious. They think it will be too awkward, or worse yet, that employees will question their motivations. Without putting in the time and effort to build rapport, they’re surprised when they don’t know how to motivate or support individual employees. And now, both the relationship and how to deal with uncertainty, have to be addressed. If you’re a manager who hasn’t picked up coaching skills—you can develop those...

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How Your Career Moves Forward in Chaotic Times

Posted by on Feb 6, 2017 in Workforce Management | 2 comments

How Your Career Moves Forward in Chaotic Times

After the Presidential election, regardless of where your sympathies lie, it feels like we are living more than ever in a VUCA world. VUCA is a military acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity, and it is used to describe our environment during times of turmoil and change. There are so many different viewpoints and perspectives coming at us from so many different sources—the media, our coworkers, and our family and friends—that we often don’t feel like we are standing on stable ground and can’t clearly strategize our future. People have diverse reactions and mindsets during these times of uncertainty. Many people view these times with great negativity, sharing their doom and gloom mindset while wringing their hands—and some people just passively “go with the flow” instead of engaging in processing the moment. However, others view turbulent times as the chance to look for new opportunities for career growth. How you view the political climate is dependent on your paradigm—your mentality that governs your thinking and actions, as influenced by your experience and personal outlook. If you have a scarcity paradigm, then you will see scarce opportunities and limited possibilities. On the other hand, if you have an abundance paradigm, prospects for new opportunities will appear regularly. Therefore, if you’re proactive about your career, and the careers of your colleagues and teammates, this is a time to be creative in your thoughts and actions. So, what are some actions that you can take to further your career in this VUCA environment, beyond attending classes or training sessions to acquire new knowledge? We have several ideas about what helps and hinders talent development in the public sector in our latest research report—Unleveraged Talent: Exploring Gaps in Federal Workforce Management—but we’ll focus here on just a few of our tips. Consult Your Mentors In our report, over 50% of the respondents said they take advantage of coaching and mentoring opportunities. Do you currently have a mentor inside or outside your organization who you engage with on a longer-term basis to help with your career development? Some people have even developed a board of mentors. They have different mentors who focus on different aspects of their mentee’s career. For instance, one mentor can provide advice on how to be a more effective leader, while another mentor can share specific technical expertise. Work with a Professional Coach Have you considered working with a coach to address the development of a specific skill/behavior or assist with handling a job situation or relationship? Both coaching and mentoring are personalized approaches to helping you further develop your career. Make Time for On-the-Job Training Over 70% of Federal workers surveyed for our research report feel their organizations are facing critical skills gaps. Often when organizations need these critical skills, there is not the time or the money to put employees through formal training programs. So, organizations offer formal or informal on-the-job training—and if they don’t, it’s up to you to find job aids, webinars, and blog posts that help you expand your skills (and acquire new ones) in a short amount of time. Research has shown that on-the-job training is one of the most effective ways of learning and applying new skills in the workplace. Look for Opportunities, They’re Growing in Number During times of Presidential transition...

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Organizational Culture Clears the Way for Successful Change

Posted by on Jan 29, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Organizational Culture Clears the Way for Successful Change

Do opportunities exist to fortify culture when a big change occurs? Change is happening across the Federal government at all levels. Individuals are adjusting their attention, teams are shifting their focus, and organizations are responding to new priorities. The speed with which organizations must respond to change while maintaining effective and productive momentum is increasing, and the potential consequences will have a greater impact on agencies and the public served. Any change that is introduced to an organization has the potential to impact the existing culture. Change is happening, and a constructive workplace culture is needed for employees to meaningfully buy into the change effort. If people don’t buy in, then change becomes little more than a disruptive, disengaging force for everyone affected. The question is: When change is introduced, what opportunities exist for leaders to calibrate and make the necessary adjustments to sustain or improve organizational culture? As an organization embraces movement from the current to the new or desired state, there are four significant methods to create opportunities to improve or sustain organizational culture. These methods are used to ensure the best possible performance outcomes for the organization. 1. Assess the current state. When change is introduced, organizations often move quickly to implementation. However, dutiful observation and listening will allow organizations to identify what is needed to enable a successful implementation of the change event. The goal is to obtain an understanding of the as-is state to enable leadership to make informed decisions about what is needed to reach the desired state successfully. The current state can be assessed by conducting interviews or focus groups with key individuals who will be impacted by the change event. Questions to assess the current state: What cultural attributes exists today that will enable successful implementation of the change event? If the change is implemented today, what’s needed for it to be successful? What are our leaders doing to support the change effort? What do they need to do? 2. Identify the risks and opportunities related to the change event. Every organization faces challenges related to a change event. When change is introduced, initially organizations need to understand the impact(s) of the change event on the organization. For the change event to be successful, leaders must identify supporting systems, processes, and behaviors; as well as identify the inefficiencies the change event will address. Identifying the opportunities will allow an organization to preserve and reinforce the effective behaviors within the current state. Questions to explore risk and opportunity: How does this change impact or support your agency and operational division’s mission, vision, strategy? What are we currently doing that will enable a swift adoption of the change event? What are the best and worst potential outcomes of this change? In what ways are we unprepared to successfully adapt or respond to the change event? 3. Mitigate ambiguity. Change events are often followed by uncertainty by those directly and indirectly impacted. Leaders can mitigate the misunderstanding and concern by developing a clear and precise understanding of the road forward. Work to identify the message to communicate the who, what, when, and why story across the organization, specifically to the impacted individuals. When communicating information about the change event, an opportunity exists to reinforce elements of the existing culture that will remain in place...

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Improve the Hiring Process, Offer Realistic Job Previews

Posted by on Jan 24, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Improve the Hiring Process, Offer Realistic Job Previews

A couple of months ago, I decided to take a yoga class for the first time. I had done some yoga videos on my own, but I had never been to a class. I was a little nervous about what to expect, how I would fit in with others in the class, and if I’d actually be able to do any of those contorted yoga poses. When I found a nearby yoga studio, I was excited to learn that I could attend one class free of charge. This meant I could realistically answer some of my basic questions before fully committing. Wouldn’t it be great if a job applicant could do the same thing with a potential job? Well, short of actually performing the job duties before being hired, there is something that employers can do: provide applicants with a true sense of what a job entails and what the environment is like. It’s called a Realistic Job Preview. What’s in a Realistic Job Preview? A realistic job preview, also called an RJP, provides job applicants with an honest depiction of the job, including both positive and negative aspects. According to OPM, RJPs should include “information applicants are unlikely to know or are likely to have unrealistic expectations about.” This can include a variety of information: Specific job duties and expectations, such as learning to use a variety of computer systems What it’s like to perform the job duties; for example, there may be a lot of ambiguity, or you may have to make quick decisions with little information Job requirements such as working late, traveling, working outside in all weather conditions, or lifting heavy objects Aspects of the organization’s culture such as behavioral norms and values The key to creating an effective RJP is finding the balance between presenting the positive and negative aspects of the job. It is the balance between being honest, forthright, and upbeat, without concealing or over-emphasizing the negative aspects. So, when creating the RJP, to help with finding the right balance of information worth sharing, hiring managers should think about what aspects of the job have been problematic for new hires in the past: With what factors do people typically struggle? Why are people leaving the job within a few months? What didn’t new hires understand about the job that made it a poor fit? If you can identify those aspects, as well as the positive features of the job, then you will know what information to stress in the RJP. Another key to creating a good RJP is ensuring that the RJPs are presented to applicants early in the selection process. By giving applicants an honest and full description of the job and the organization, applicants can determine if the job is a good fit for them. Applicants can compare the information in the RJP to their own preferences. If the job is a good fit, then they can continue to pursue it. If not, then they can self-select out of the process before committing a lot of time and energy to interviews, personality tests, assessment centers, and other components in the hiring process. Finally, keep in mind that RJPs can take a variety of forms – a paper handout or downloadable brochure, a video, a tour of the work environment if...

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Making Friends with Risk: How to Be a Champion for Your Program During the Administration Change

Posted by on Jan 10, 2017 in Workforce Management | 1 comment

Making Friends with Risk: How to Be a Champion for Your Program During the Administration Change

“With Mick [Mulvaney] at the head of OMB, my administration is going to make smart choices about America’s budget, bring new accountability to our federal government, and renew the American taxpayer’s trust in how their money is spent,” announced President-elect Donald Trump in mid-December. There is still a lot of uncertainty around what is going to happen under the Trump presidency, but one change I feel confident predicting is that the new administration is going to be laser-focused on government performance and results. And the general sentiment of the president elect and his cabinet will be that “government should start acting more like a business.” This sentiment has many implications in terms of decision-making and performance management, most of which will not be clear for some time, but one implication that you can bet on now is the incoming leadership is going to expect program reviews to provide a level of transparency and data-driven analysis similar to that seen in the private sector. Further, the desired program management accountability and transparency will be closer to what a shareholder could expect in terms of reporting from a corporation on a stock exchange. In December, I partnered with Brodi Fontenot, former Assistant Secretary for Management for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, for a webinar titled Communicating Program Value Amidst an Administration Change that gives tips for communicating about your programs with incoming leadership in a way that establishes credibility and rapport. Each of the tips provided in the webinar are useful for you to consider as the administration change gets underway and program reviews start getting scheduled. There is one tip, however, that I think is particularly important because getting it right can make or break your ability to build trust and credibility with the incoming leadership—risks can be your friends. The phrasing of this tip is purposeful. Clearly, risks are undesirable and something we all try to mitigate and avoid in our programs. So, how can they also be your friends? If you do your homework and prepare to discuss them analytically, risks, and even program issues, can be your allies when it comes to building credibility during program reviews with incoming leadership. And, if you think about all of the comments the incoming administration has made about reforming and cleaning up all the problems in the Federal government, the new administration is going to expect to hear that there are issues within our government programs, so if you don’t discuss the issues within your programs with the incoming administration in a transparent and thoughtful way, you will quickly lose credibility. Here are some specific tips for ensuring you describe your program’s issues and risks in a way that builds credibility and trust: 1. Establish a framework or methodology for classifying and prioritizing issues and risks. Just as important as it is to resolve issues and mitigate risks, it’s important to be able to prioritize them among one another in terms of attention and resource allocation. When developing the framework, it is okay to leverage risk frameworks published by OMB, GAO, etc., but be sure to tailor it to the circumstances surrounding your particular program and be comfortable describing why you structured the framework like you did. 2. Work with your team to identify and vet a comprehensive list...

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How to Review 2016 and Gain a New Leadership Perspective on Your Organization

Posted by on Jan 4, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

How to Review 2016 and Gain a New Leadership Perspective on Your Organization

New year, new strategic planning. It’s a solid best practice. But as you plan for the new year at your organization, how do you know that you’ve truly understood the year that just happened?  Learning from past experience is something that occurs whether we’re intentional or not, but formal self-reflection (and organizational reflection)—to the tune of New Year’s resolutions, which often have  unique charms of timely inspiration, honesty, and introspection—can help you see things with even greater clarity. Aligning your organization to learn from mistakes, tackle new challenges and changes, and be resilient and adaptable will be crucial for 2017. We know from our professional development courses and consulting engagements that it takes a special time and a focused method to effectively reflect, understand, and learn—but we think, with the upcoming Presidential administration change, now’s as good a time as any for some positive, mindful (re)thinking. So, with that spirit in mind, here are two lists of reflective questions for you and your organization: one for processing the year you just had, and another for the year to come. 5 questions to help you and your organization learn from 2016 At your organization, who were the most indispensable or influential contributors? What enabled their behavior, and how can you help others learn that behavior? What did you do that may have caused you to get in your own way? Did your actions impede anybody else’s progress? What did you say Yes to, that you hadn’t said Yes to before, and why? And what did you say No to, and why? Did you accomplish what you set out to do at this time last year? What were the high and low points for you and your organization? What’d you learn from these experiences, and did the organization learn something, too? What specific skill gaps were found by your organization, and what steps were taken to improve? 5 questions to ensure personal and organizational success in 2017 What will you and your organization do for the first time? What will no longer be done? How will you think differently, and what do you hope to learn? How will you open others to different perspectives? What skills (your own and throughout the organization) do you want to grow? How will you do it? How do you plan to mature your organization as a whole to meet your new goals? How will your organization adapt to and manage changes you know are coming? How will you and others remain resilient? How will you know you’ve taken performance for yourself and your organization to a new level? It’s quite possible the best rewards for your organization’s work in 2016 have yet to be realized, and no less possible that your organization’s best success lies ahead—thankfully, wisdom tends to increase over time. Here’s to the end of a year, and here’s to taking on the opportunities of the next one. (And maybe this blog post will help you give everyone a head start on their next individual development plan.) To everyone who worked with our instructors and experts for training, coaching, consulting, guidance, and professional growth, we at Management Concepts thank you—and we whole-heartedly support you as you continue to pursue (and achieve) success for yourself and your organization....

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The Test Your Organization Might Not Be Using, but Should

Posted by on Dec 21, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Have you heard feedback that your training participants “don’t like” the tests used in your training programs? In the training industry, many foundational courses continue to use multiple-choice tests quite effectively to ensure participants understand course material. However, for hands-on courses where participants learn a skill, the evaluation type should match the content of what participants learn. For example, the best evaluation of a skill such as data management would require participants to complete a data management exercise. For a course teaching conflict management, participants would take part in a role play requiring them to mediate between two employees. Simulations and exercises such as these are often expensive and time-intensive to develop, administer, and score, so training programs mainly do without them. Knowing this, how should those of us in the learning and development industry proceed when we have competing interests of a high-quality, reliable, and valid testing approach that doesn’t involve excessive development time and budget? One effective approach is to use a situational judgment test (SJT). SJTs present test-takers with written or video-based scenarios, and ask them to respond in one of two ways: (1) choose how they would likely behave in a given situation, or (2) evaluate the effectiveness of possible responses to a given situation. In the first response type, test-takers can choose the best or worst response from a list of potential responses, rate how effective each potential response option is, or even rank the potential responses in order of effectiveness. To develop the “situations,” or scenarios, and the list of potential response options, test developers work with subject matter experts (SMEs) in the area they intend to test. For example, in an SJT of leadership skills, test developers would work with SMEs to gather information about situations where performance is particularly good, or particularly bad, and then develop a list of potential responses to the scenario. These types of scenarios are called “critical incidents”. It can even be relatively easy to write these scenarios, as those of us without explicit SME-level expertise in leadership have seen plenty of situations, good and bad. Because SJTs are a method of assessment, and not an assessment of a specific construct (e.g., personality, intelligence, or work ethic), SJTs are flexible enough to test many characteristics, such as: Critical thinking and reasoning Supervisory potential Judgment in work-related situations Interpersonal skills SJTs can be video-based or paper-based; video-based SJTs have been promising for assessing interpersonal skills, although the additional expense may make video-based SJTs prohibitive for most learning and development organizations. SJTs have immense value to organizations—they predict on-the-job performance, and in some cases, they predict performance 7-9 years later. They demonstrate less adverse impact against minority test-takers than typical tests of cognitive ability, and are less susceptible to faking than other types of assessments like personality instruments. SJT items that assess personality ask test takers to indicate the response option that most often reflects what they would do, as opposed to asking participants to self-report on their own characteristics, making it more difficult to fake. Finally, SJTs are more cost effective than high-fidelity simulations like role-play exercises, but have similar validity for predicting job performance. An SJT is a good training evaluation option because responses simulate judgment processes in the work context, and can serve as proxy measures...

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Developing the Next Generation of Government Leaders: TOC Panel Leads the Way

Posted by on Dec 15, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Developing the Next Generation of Government Leaders: TOC Panel Leads the Way

On December 13 at the Ft. McNair Officers Club in Washington, DC, a panel of distinguished millennial government professionals shared a wealth of wisdom and perspective, as well as a roadmap for overcoming generational differences and preparing the next generation for bright futures in public service. The panel event, put together by Management Concepts and the Training Officers Consortium (TOC), was moderated by Tim Bowden (Executive Director of People and Performance Consulting at Management Concepts), and the panelists included: Jovanka Balac – Director of Networking Events for Young Government Leaders (YGL) Melinda Burks – Youth Outreach Chair and Treasurer of the Carl T. Rowan Chapter of Blacks in Government (BIG) and Senior Program Officer at the U.S. Department of State Michael Dukes – Program Analyst, Diversity, Recruitment Work/Life Division Departmental Management, Office of Human Resources Management, U.S. Department of Agriculture Tim Bowden led the panelists through a series of questions, and then opened things up for a spirited audience Q&A. Here’s our paraphrased collection of the best advice and perspective shared at the event: What are some of the challenges the government faces in recruiting and retaining millennials? Melinda: There’s an image problem with how millennials perceive government work—it doesn’t seem like there’s technology in place or an appealing work-life balance. A lot of millennials aren’t exposed to or aware of the many career opportunities available in public service. Jovanka and Michael: Agencies should place more responsibilities earlier in the career path of millennials, give them better proximity to their directors and higher-ups, and flexible workspace and schedules. How do you think young professionals can effect positive government culture change that improves performance and career satisfaction? Melinda: Millennials fight cultures of risk adversity. Managers need to coach and mentor millennials on soft skills, and they can teach millennials how to take calculated risks. Listen and connect, and there’s a lot to be accomplished by this workforce. Jovanka: Any young professional needs clear exposure to opportunity, and needs to clearly see how leaders invest in their work. And if opportunity is not apparent, millennials will find a way to make it happen anyway. Michael: Through proper succession planning and engaging with the diverse thinking that millennials bring, more opportunities will present themselves. What advice do you have for millennials who aspire to leadership in the Federal government? Michael: Attach yourself to leadership. Find ways to make positive change, and before you decide your way of thinking is the right way, find out why others think the way they do. Take flexible approaches to steps in your career. Jovanka: Take your career into your own hands. Look for mentors, and look for leadership roles and opportunities (such as the government’s Open Opportunities program)—find or help create failsafe environments where you and others can experiment and grow with support from others. Millennials shouldn’t be stigmatized for considering moves between agencies, especially when it means they’re staying connected to public service and growing as professionals. Melinda: To exercise your leadership muscles, you just have to do it. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. And become comfortable experimenting and taking risks, no matter the critical feedback you receive. What can millennials do to meet other generations “halfway”? Michael: While other generations do need to cater to millennials, since they’ll be the next leaders and decision makers,...

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Federal Spotlight: Alexis Bonnell

Posted by on Dec 14, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Alexis Bonnell

Alexis Bonnell serves as Division Chief: Applied Innovation and Acceleration for the U.S. Global Development Lab, United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal Service, and what is your main responsibility in your role today? AB: I started at USAID as a contractor in 2010 as a Senior Advisor to the Chief Operating Officer focused on Business Transformation and Knowledge Management, then I became a direct hire as Chief of Engagement for the Office of Education in our E3 Bureau, then was the Director of the Office of Engagement and Communications for the new U.S. Global Development Lab, and a year ago moved to become the Division Chief for Applied Innovation in the Center for Development Innovation in the U.S. Global Development Lab of USAID. The main focus of my current role is to understand what innovations we have in our Innovation Portfolio, how they are performing, what is most promising, how we can help those innovators overcome their barriers to impact, and finally how do we focus on getting these innovations scaled and adopted in development programming around the world. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? AB: First and foremost, it is the people I work with. I feel so lucky to be in an Agency with the amazing mandate and focus of USAID to truly be changing and saving lives around the world, helping realize the potential of people currently facing extreme poverty. USAID and the Lab are filled with committed, brilliant people, and I think we manage to do amazing work while having fun, being inspired by our work, and consistently pursuing the evolution that we want to see occur in development around the world. Of course, USAID has always had a great history of innovation—what really excites me is seeing the appetite for innovation and evolution not only of USAID but across all of Federal government. There is a vibrant community across government that has been doing great work and has real enthusiasm to see the Federal government optimize the opportunities that the modern age provides us to maximize our impact and the lives of our citizens. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? AB: I think a recent one was the creation of the Global Innovation Exchange, an online system that brought together over 100 partners in our industry and really served as the one of the first totally open and democratic platforms collecting all development innovation, resources, etc. in one place. I think the element that I am most proud of in this project was really focusing on something that coordinated a shared value proposition across so many players, and that we created a vision for and executed the original beta in less than 100 business days. Proving that the government can move quickly and agilely within our constructs and develop something that is truly useful was awesome. Today there are more than 4,500 innovations, over $200 million in resources, and over 10,000 collaborators on the site. But most importantly, it serves as a business intelligence engine around innovation for our entire global development community. MC: What advice would you share on making public service a career and not a pit stop? AB: I...

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The Lines are Blurring: How Leaders Can Respond to the Ever-Changing Work Environment

Posted by on Dec 7, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

The Lines are Blurring: How Leaders Can Respond to the Ever-Changing Work Environment

Organizational life in all sectors is feeling a lot different these days, but it is hard to pinpoint exactly what is different about it, let alone what to do about it. What is clear is that organizational life has changed, and it’s still changing. I recall reading an article some months ago about how the lines are blurring between technology and the human element, causing us to rethink how we do our everyday work. Since then, I have been thinking about other lines that are blurring in organizations—such as the increasing need for multiple organizational structures, the rising demand for integrated leadership and management skills, achieving work-life harmony, shifting job roles and responsibilities, and the multi-generation workforce—and shaping the way we work (and live), where we work, and how we interact with others. While these examples of blurring lines offer some clues as to why organizational life is feeling so different, it leaves many organizational leaders with a big unanswered question: What do all these blurring lines mean for the future of organizations? Organizational leaders can make things simpler for everyone in their organization if they see the blurring of lines as signals of the need for change to reach their desired future. And then take it one step further—do something about it. Old ways of thinking will not work. It will require viewing these blurring of lines from an integrated perspective where flexibility and choice are the norm, rather than viewing each different blurring of lines as a linear problem to be solved once and for all.  In other words, it is about being proactive, rather than reactive. Here are four highly recognized values of organizational change that will help you get to the heart of real organizational change—shifting the way people think and feel about the new workplace realities and creating new behavioral norms and practices that make it easier to chart a course to the desired future. Be clear on your purpose. When people believe in the overall purpose of the organization, they are more willing to change their individual behavior to serve and support the purpose. Effective organizational leaders often use story to help everyone make sense of the desired change. Involving the executive leadership team in refining the story helps prepare the next level of leaders to write a supplement to the original story that is relevant to their direct reports. Depending on the size of the organization, each next level can further supplement the story to make it meaningful to those involved until it gets down to the individual worker who will then be able to see what they need to do differently to support the desired change. When the stories shared at each level include how life will be better, it helps create the collective energy and interest to make it happen. Build new skills to support the change. Many organizational leaders make the mistake of expecting individuals to behave differently without preparing them to make the relevant changes in behavior. When learning experiences go at the same pace as the change, individuals are better able to absorb the new information, test it out in their work environment, and integrate it with their existing knowledge to make it real. This type of skill building to change behavior is critical at all levels...

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Well-Defined Roles Are the Basis for Long-term Talent Management

Posted by on Nov 22, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Well-Defined Roles Are the Basis for Long-term Talent Management

In recent posts, we have discussed our experiences working on an assignment with a health care services organization to help them develop their organizational structures for job roles and job families. Until now, we have focused on the specific analytical diagnostics and processes for implementation of projects like this. In this post, we focus less on “how” we helped them and more on “why” organizations such as our health care services client are seeking assistance with their organizational structures. Truly well-organized and well-structured organizations enjoy many advantages that all flow from the strength of their talent management activities. Talent management includes everything that an organization does to recruit, develop, motivate and manage, retain, and replace its employees, and is integral to the organization’s ability to meet its mission. Every aspect of talent management is impacted by how we define our people’s jobs, specifically their job accountabilities, technical job competencies, and behavioral competencies. Without strong organizational structure (re: strong role and job family definition), organizational changes can take a heavy toll on the staff, responsibilities are muddled, accountability diminishes, and employees can be left feeling frustrated and confused about the integrity of their organization. Here are some of the specific ways overall performance is positively impacted by an organization’s talent management; all of which must be linked to well-structured job roles and job families. Workforce Planning: Workforce planning cannot be effective if the organization’s current state is not well evaluated and its challenges are not defined. Only then can managers measure and correct the divide between where they are today and where they need to be tomorrow. If we know what skills and expertise are needed, we can more efficiently understand what kind and how many people are needed to execute the strategic plan and meet the organization’s mission/objectives. Recruitment: An organized workforce structure provides the basis for all recruitment by enabling the efficient development of position descriptions which are complete and contain distinct job accountabilities, technical job competencies, and behavioral competencies. If managers can articulate who they want to hire, it increases the likelihood of recruiting the right people who will add the required skills and experience to the organization. Conversely, without well-defined jobs and roles, the likelihood increases that managers will make hiring mistakes such as designing jobs around a candidate they like rather than one with the required expertise. Learning and Development (L&D): For an L&D function to have the most impact, the organization needs to understand the skills and abilities it wants from its workforce. If not, L&D can become a passive and reactive group, working in an ad hoc manner to fulfill requests for training from individual managers that satisfy short-term knowledge gaps. With a comprehensive, documented blueprint for the job accountabilities, technical job competencies, and behavioral competencies of individuals and teams, the prescription for L&D is clear. By understanding what the whole organization needs, L&D can effectively evaluate the workforce, develop training programs to address all of the organizations needs, and evaluate training effectiveness against a refined set of criteria. Performance Management: Similarly to L&D, performance management requires straightforward criteria against which to evaluate and develop employees. By having transparency and setting clear expectations for what is required of them, employees are more likely to understand and positively respond to evaluations and focus on...

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Federal Spotlight: Christian Blackman

Posted by on Nov 21, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Christian Blackman

Christian Blackman serves as the Region 6 – Disaster Grants Branch Chief at the Department of Homeland Security – Federal Emergency Management Agency. Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview with Christian Blackman: MC: How long have you been in Federal Service, and what is your main responsibility in your role today? CB: If I were to start at the beginning, I had an internship during my junior year of college. I was a recipient of a Florida Georgia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation grant and interned at the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Tifton, Georgia in 2000. When I graduated, I became a Federal contractor at the Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia. From there, I went to state government and then returned as a Federal contractor from 2009 – 2011 with the USDA Forest Service and the Department of Interior. I became a permanent Federal employee of the State Department in 2011 and served as a warranted grants officer. I ended my time there working in the Bureau of Administration, International Programs Branch, where I developed, implemented, and managed Federal systems programs and signed up to $10 million per transaction. My family life changed in 2016, which brought me to Texas and my current position as Disaster Grants Branch Chief for FEMA. I manage a team of grant management specialists to help communities recover from natural disasters and implement hazard mitigation measures following a Presidential major disaster declaration. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? CB: My father was in the military; therefore I grew up with the mindset of working with the government. I like Federal assistance—which people primarily just refer to as grants—because I can see the direct impact it makes on people’s lives domestically and overseas. I’ve worked on all different kinds of programs, including Hurricane Katrina—a national emergency grant focused on assisting individuals get back to work after being displaced by Katrina; at the Department of Interior I also worked on restoring coastal areas, including wetlands in Mississippi and Alabama. Here at the State Department, I work on a vast array of projects ranging from cultural preservation in Bamako, Mali to countering violent extremism in the United Kingdom. As a civil servant working in the public sector, I’ve been able to work on a wide range of different issues that affect people, allowing me to see the impact. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? CB: I think I’ve done a good job throughout my career with continuously learning, making forward progression professionally, and finding mentors. I’ve been able to establish and maintain good working relationships that have been a great asset to me throughout my career and helped me to become highly proficient in my career in Federal assistance. To me, that’s an accomplishment—especially being a minority female with aspirations of obtaining a senior-level management position within the Federal government. I’m very proud of that. I graduated from Albany State University, an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), and that experience serves as my foundation for success in growing professionally and being able to recognize and take advantage of opportunities. MC: What advice would you share on making public service a career and not a pit stop? CB: Be flexible. I would have never thought that...

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Improve Your Workplace Culture: Visualize It

Posted by on Nov 21, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Improve Your Workplace Culture: Visualize It

A few weeks ago, I blogged about what it really takes to shift individual and collective mindsets in organizations—the capability to intentionally create new neural networks or pathways—to make real, desired change. Now, I share with you a great technique that uses mindset for culture change as a creative force to unleash something new or different, regardless of the current situation. The technique is called visualization. We all visualize, whether we realize it or not. Most often, we visualize experiences that have already happened, using our senses, feelings, and emotions to help us understand them better. Visualization can be even more valuable when we use it to create a picture in our mind of something that has not happened—exactly as we want it to be—with the intent that it will actually happen. This future-focused visualization is particularly valuable for organizational leaders who want to think in new ways about their organization to meet its evolving mission and include an often-missing piece—how to change and align their organization’s culture. If you already practice visualization, or if it’s new to you, these five tips will help you close in on your next breakthrough for the desired culture at your organization: 1. Put in the time to think, specifically, about what you want the organizational culture to be—what features it will have and what it can achieve. Take time out several times a day for several minutes over several days. Your ideas will get clearer and stronger as you go. (Tip: generate new ideas, and don’t get hung up on the same thought for too long.) 2. Write out as many details as possible about your desired culture to help you clarify your thinking—while full sentences are ideal, fragments, phrases, and themes can be just as helpful. Writing helps to shape your thinking and engage your subconscious mind, where intuition, new ideas, and inspirations come from. 3. Questions are a good way to collect the details. Some good questions to ask yourself: What cultural attributes will get you where you want to be? What contextual factors will influence what you want to have? When will you know that you have reached your desired culture? What critical information is missing for you to complete the picture? How do you visualize yourself in the new culture? What personal growth will be needed to be the best leader in the desired culture? What emotions will the culture change trigger? How will you bring the collective organization along? 4. If writing out the details is not enough, create an image or graphic that brings your vision to life. It can be photograph, a diagram, or a hand-drawn picture—whatever creates the best and most vivid mental picture. At some point, it may be important to have culture assessment data to back up your desired change, and a creative visual will be crucial to simplifying your ideas, your process, and your data. 5. The limits of visualization are entirely up to you. It is your own thoughts, beliefs, and knowledge that limit you. The more open-minded you are, the bigger you can think, the greater the possibilities, opportunities, and outcomes. When a shift is desired in an organization’s culture, visualization is a great way to help individuals and the collective organization understand the details of behavior change that...

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Why We Need Agile Performance Management More than Ever

Posted by on Nov 18, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Why We Need Agile Performance Management More than Ever

While presenting on a panel about Agile Performance Management at yesterday’s NAPA Fall Meeting (National Academy of Public Administration), a member of the audience asked a question that I think gets at the core of why we chose the topic for the panel. Paraphrasing, the audience member said, “When you talk about Agile Performance Management, it sounds like old ideas with new lipstick. What’s so new about it when it comes to managing your workforce?” First of all, as the panel member who proposed the panel topic to NAPA, I readily admit the audience member’s instincts are correct. A buzzword like agile makes its way into the marketplace all too often as a way for consultants to repackage old ideas and sell them as new. And to be perfectly honest, he was right that several of the examples of agile performance management that we gave are far from innovative. Having regular check-ins with employees and giving regular feedback, collaboratively setting goals and building professional development plans—these are things that we intuitively know are good to do when it comes to managing people. So, what is new about agile performance management, and why did we decide to talk about it on a panel? I think there are two significant changes in the workforce that make agile performance management a much more important model for managing the workforce of today compared to that of 30 years ago. Career Paths. The first major change is the fundamental shift in the way workers thinks about their career paths. We are way past the time when people committed to their first jobs for the duration of their careers. Over the last 30-40 years, we’ve seen a workforce made up of people who change companies every few years and/or move not only up the ladder, but laterally to new paths in different functions of the business.The impact of this new norm on organizations is significant—it’s no secret that employee turnover represents a huge cost to an organization. There are many things organizations can do to better retain employees, but in absence of successful solutions to the retention problem, another way to reduce the costs associated with turnover is to mitigate the productivity lulls that inevitably occur with new employees. And a good way to do this is by increasing the frequency of feedback so they can quickly make corrections and ramp up to fully operational. This is an agile concept. Information Processing. The second major change has to do with how employees process information. Several studies have shown that in the age of smartphones and social media, people consume information more frequently and in smaller chunks, and this behavior is in turn impacting the conditions in which people most effectively process information. So, if the workforce is used to consuming information more frequently and in smaller bursts, doesn’t it make sense to have a more agile approach to performance management with more frequent, smaller-scope performance check-ins and a scaled-down annual review? By definition, Agile Performance Management offers employers and managers the ability to pivot and adapt to environments that are in a constant state of change, and to a workforce that no longer advances linearly. And agile is gaining importance in performance management beyond managing people.  It’s increasingly important across many functions of the organization...

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Like Wearing Seat Belts, SES Reform Is Not Just the Law, It’s a Good Idea

Posted by on Nov 17, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Like Wearing Seat Belts, SES Reform Is Not Just the Law, It’s a Good Idea

The recent election results and upcoming change in administration cast doubt on the ongoing commitment to execute several of President Obama’s Executive Orders (EO). One EO in particular, about which we have written previously, relates to improving the Senior Executive Service (SES). We believe that the Executive Order was created to upgrade long-overdue Federal executive hiring and development practices to mirror common practices in the private sector. We encourage the new administration and its agencies to continue modernizing practices relating to SES hiring, onboarding, development, and succession planning. Here’s how SES Reform would help the new administration, which seeks to fill approximately 4,000 political appointment positions: Streamline Hiring: The Trump campaign ran on the platform of bringing new senior executive leadership into government service. This means creatively sourcing, recruiting, and hiring from resource pools different from where the government found its current civil servants. Potentially thousands of SES positions across government will need to be filled within the next few months, as the smooth transition of power occurs. For executive candidates from the private sector to feel attracted to public service, government must act quickly to streamline its hiring practices, by limiting the bureaucratic burden on executive candidates, reducing overall time-to-fill SES positions, compensating candidates fairly, and working to create an environment for new hires to be successful and productive. Onboarding: Particularly for executives new to working in government, hiring agencies must support incoming leaders and smooth their way to becoming effective as soon as possible upon arrival. Transitioning from the private sector to public sector isn’t easy under the best of circumstances. Departmental onboarding teams should support these worthwhile activities by doing the following: Develop and deliver orientation sessions providing the big picture of the department, its mission, structure, and its functions Build briefing books detailing the specific initiatives for which the incoming executives will be responsible Plan introductory events for executives to meet their teams Create networking opportunities for the cadre of newly-arrived and existing SES members to get to know each other and build a foundation for collaboration Development: Developing and retaining SES executives who have absorbed intimate knowledge of agency functions is critical. At a time when American citizens are looking for greater value to be derived from SES and government at large, keeping executives engaged, challenged, and growing new skills is of utmost strategic and operational importance. Using data gathered from multiple sources—the hiring process, periodic 360-degree feedback assessments, performance observation, and individual executives’ goals—executives can create a development plan that addresses current needs and helps pave the way for future career growth through the acquisition of new skills and greater exposure. This personal and professional development may include accepting temporary rotations into other departments or agencies. Succession Planning: Federal agencies must continue serving the American people without gaps in service caused by transition of personnel. This principle is what keeps our government running and delivering services during times of change. Understanding the strengths of current executives, identifying potential organizational risks or vulnerabilities, assessing executive bench strength, and creating development plans to grow skills of current and next-tier talent to manage those risks are desired best practices. Risking an agency’s ability to function due to a lack of leadership causes a multitude of risks. Failure to manage these risks effectively may potentially create gaps...

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A Salute to Veterans

Posted by on Nov 10, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

A Salute to Veterans

On November 10 in Washington, DC, the Department of Labor hosted a Salute to Veterans ceremony in anticipation of Veterans Day. The event began with opening remarks from Mike Michaud, Assistant Secretary for the Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training Service (DOL VETS), including a pair of video messages from Congressmen. Then, a panel of distinguished speakers shared their personal experiences, successes, and efforts as leaders, veterans, and supporters of veterans. Here’s a quick digest of what the panelists and speakers discussed: Celebration of the 5th-year anniversary of the VOW Act, which offers many forms of support to veterans, including: transition assistance, education and training opportunities, incentives for employers of veterans, and more Thanking veterans and reminding us of the importance of supporting our veterans when they return to civilian life Working tirelessly to reduce the unemployment rate for veterans: Making the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) mandatory; getting veterans in front of employers; getting employers to better understand the resumes of veterans, and to better understand how to support and develop veterans after hiring them; and collaborating with employers from both the public and private sector to create opportunities for (and better understanding about) veterans. What can we do better? Resolve unemployment issues for long-term unemployed veterans, and do more to get veterans employed immediately. Sustain the momentum gained in recent years in improving the unemployment rate (which is now below the national average)—the problem of veterans’ unemployment has not been solved, and it requires a sustainable long-term effort and strengthening of partnerships with employers and programs. As President Obama once put it, Veterans Day is not about how we treat Veterans on this day each year, but about how we treat them every day of the year, and how we can serve them as well as they have served America. There are many ways to support veterans, and Management Concepts honors and remembers all veterans for their service. Saluting and saying thanks is a good start, but if you’d like to learn more and do more, check out the following resources—programs from the DOL, DOL VETS, and Dept. of Veterans Affairs—for other opportunities to engage and support America’s military service veterans and veterans’ organizations: Volunteer with the HVRP—the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program, funded by the DOL. Share the DOL VETS resources for Women Veterans. As an employer, connect with the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) to find opportunities to employ veterans or to find resumes. Volunteer your time and skills with VAVS – the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Voluntary Service program. Connect with the Small Business Administration’s Boots to Business program for supporting veterans with entrepreneurial aspirations. Boots to Business offers information, training, tools, and more for transitioning service members. #SaluteVets #Vow2Vets...

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Making the Mark for Millennials in Public Service

Posted by on Nov 9, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Making the Mark for Millennials in Public Service

On November 3, 2016, Management Concepts participated in the third part of a four-part professional development series with the Young Government Leaders (YGL) – Atlanta Chapter and Blacks In Government NOW Generation (BIG-NOW). We have joined forces to create these events in an effort to increase the participation and engagement of underrepresented groups within public service. Over 80 participants joined us for our first event in Atlanta for breakfast and a lively discussion on how Millennials today are needed more than ever to fill the talent gap facing the government workforce. Based on PWC’s 14th Annual Global CEO Survey, it is projected by 2020 that Millennials will comprise half the global workforce, which means they will increasingly be in positions to hire, cultivate, train, and promote workers. Our keynote speaker was Kay Lawton of the Centers for Disease Control.  Ms. Lawton has spent her entire professional career in public health, first as a nurse at a local health department and then at the Federal level at CDC. Currently, she is the Management Officer for the Center for Global Health, overseeing a budget of approximately $3B, and 2,000+ staff working in 60 countries.  She shared key points from her own personal experiences as well as various articles, such as: Forbes, November 6th, 2015 – Millennials in the Workplace, They Don’t Need Trophies but They Want Reinforcement INC.com, July 30th, 2015 – Millennials in the Workforce: They’re More Different Than You Think Harvard Business Review, August 17th, 2016; Millennials are Actually Workaholics, According to Research   Additionally, the program included a panel moderated by Tim Bowden, Executive Director, People and Performance Consulting from Management Concepts. We heard from the following panelists: Naima Halim-Chestnut, EEO Officer, Environmental Protection Agency Melanie Johnson, Program Branch Chief, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Lola Kress, Regional Communications Director, Small Business Administration Eric Zdanowicz, Regional Manager, Peace Corps The panel agreed that all generations need to work together to change the culture and perception of Federal agencies. The voice of Millennials should not be muted but instead embraced and channeled to fuel innovation and creativity. They urged the audience to train supervisors and managers to communicate openly and frequently. No matter what generation you are, it is known that managers have major influence over employees’ desire to stay in a job. Millennials want feedback frequently and value relationships with others who take an interest in mentoring them. This panel of dynamic speakers dispelled many of the myths we hear and read daily. To those who attended in Atlanta: Thank you all for your participation. You are all truly #ChangeAgents leading our country, and I am truly excited to have met you and heard your stories. I feel that the more we talk in an open forum and lead in numbers our voices will be heard and change will be...

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How to Fix Your Organizational Structure, One Role at a Time

Posted by on Oct 31, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

How to Fix Your Organizational Structure, One Role at a Time

In a recent post, I discussed how a lack of a systematic approach to role definition and organizational structure design can create issues that reduce organizational effectiveness. In response to some excellent follow-up questions, I wanted to shed further light on the specific approach we used for a client in healthcare services that had experienced a period of rapid growth resulting in a muddled organizational structure. To resolve a problematic organizational structure, one of the first things to do is to perform detailed discovery work to assess the current state of the organization and the elements that need the most improvement. It’s crucial to quickly develop and define an accurate picture of the current situation, being sure to incorporate data from all stakeholders to compile a broad base of information. The foundation of our approach is to define and document clear job accountabilities as well as technical and behavioral competencies. These will be used to create job levels and job families, both of which contribute to job descriptions and defined job roles. Accountabilities are the specific outputs that an individual is responsible for completing in their role, and can be specific or general but must comprise of actual deliverables and measurable job results. Technical Competencies are the skills, knowledge, certifications, education, and experience required of individuals to complete their required accountabilities. Behavioral Competencies are the expected behaviors that an individual will demonstrate during the performance of their job that are critical to task completion. Examples of behavioral competencies include business acumen, communication, critical evaluation, and relationship management. Levels are specific expectations of a role as it relates to scope and span of responsibilities, behavioral standards, and leadership expectations. Levels should be defined by the scope and impact of the role’s accountabilities on the organization’s performance and should be comparable across functions. For example, an Accountant level 2 should have accountabilities consistent in scope and impact to a Marketing professional at the same level. Job Families are groupings of jobs that are usually defined by the similar accountabilities and technical competencies required to complete them. They generally have a natural hierarchy and similarity; examples would include accounting, marketing, procurement, sales, etc. Having documented the job accountabilities, job levels, technical competencies, behavioral competencies, and job families, the next step is job leveling. Job leveling requires a close examination of the different job families to determine whether the accountabilities and levels are comparable for similarly titled and compensated roles across the organization. For example, does a director in marketing have similar job accountabilities as a director in accounting? After determining and recommending necessary changes, the next step is to develop and promote an implementation plan for moving from the old to the new organizational structure. The key lesson we have learned from our experience with clients is that attention to stakeholder management is the major difference between a successful implementation and having our recommendations gather dust on a shelf. Change management should be part of the approach from day one, as well as collaboration across the organization with all key stakeholders. Effective and coordinated change management is critical; as the proposed changes often have broad implications for many stakeholders. Management Concepts has completed job leveling assignments across a range of organizations including commercial and government, as well as large and small work...

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Top Insights from the Ultimate Culture Conference: How to Nurture, Measure, and Shape Organizational Culture

Posted by on Oct 28, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Top Insights from the Ultimate Culture Conference: How to Nurture, Measure, and Shape Organizational Culture

I had the opportunity to attend the 2nd Annual Ultimate Culture Conference and the Schein Culture DNA Seminar on October 18-19 in the great city of San Francisco, CA. Many diverse viewpoints on culture and leadership were shared by an impressive lineup of innovative practitioners (from Zappos, Lyft, Inkling, Google, Intel) and thought leaders (including Edgar Schein, Robert Cooke, Josh Bersin, James Rodgers, Daryl Conner, and Bill Parsons). I, like many others in the room, engaged throughout each day in spirited culture conversations and left with a variety of valuable insights on how to nurture, measure, and shape organizational culture as we look ahead. Here are my top 10 takeaways from the conference. Your culture DNA drives daily behavior. It is the underlying assumptions and beliefs you have learned and take for granted. It is the shared experience of survival, success, and growth. When you hit barriers at work, it really is resistance to the culture DNA. Organizational cultures are nested in other cultures that influence behaviors and actions. Some examples of nested cultures are: founding organizational values and historical experience; changes in core technology underlying the work; functional subcultures like the executive function, managerial function, design and engineering; geographic subcultures; occupational cultures, and national culture. Before you attempt to measure anything in the culture, you need to be clear about the problem you are trying to solve. Involve senior leadership in identifying the business problem and owning the next steps of culture assessment. It is most effective to use quantitative and qualitative culture measures that help you identify the elements of culture DNA that help or hinder the problem you want to solve. It is good to get a pulse from 10 miles out as well as a more detailed look from 10 yards out. An internal research project can be a door opener for understanding values and associated behaviors that are serving or not serving an organization. Accept culture for what it is, then face the facts to change it to what you desire it to be. Diversity management is necessary to influence behavior, and it includes learning about diversity (human conditions) at all levels, building cognitive skills of managers, and taking a culture scan (how people respond). According to a Deloitte study, 92% of organizations are not organized properly to get their work done. A shift is needed from an industrial, hierarchical model to collaborative management through networks of teams. Such a shift requires shared values and culture, transparent goals and projects, rewards for people based on skills and abilities rather than position, and employees being viewed by senior leaders as a little more important than customers. Organizations that are systems of self-organization (rather than hierarchies) get better at what management of culture change is all about. Why? Because individuals own the decisions for their work, they have more clarity on what change is needed, and they know how the culture helps or hinders the change effort. Some effective culture change practices that can help to nurture and shape organizational culture include senior leadership team coaching, built-in feedback loops, and insight-based learning using short 2-to-30-minute applied learning situations. Culture starts with leadership and is owned by everyone. You can’t transform a culture if you don’t transform yourself as a leader. It is about shifting your mindset...

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Federal Spotlight: Max Finberg

Posted by on Oct 24, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Max Finberg

Max Finberg serves as the Director of AmeriCorps VISTA at the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that administers the AmeriCorps program and leads national service and volunteer initiatives for the nation. Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview with Max Finberg. MC: How long have you been in Federal service and what is the main responsibility for your current role? MF: At the end of this year, I will have served a total of 14 years in the Federal government in a variety of capacities. I started in the legislative branch on Capitol Hill, working with a member of Congress, followed by a position with the State Department. Next, I did a stint with the Department of Agriculture where I was able to do a detail with the White House. About nine months ago, I came over to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the Federal agency that administers the national service programs like AmeriCorps and Senior Corps. Currently, I am the Director of AmeriCorps VISTA—Volunteers in Service to America. This is the program that was created as the domestic Peace Corps to combat poverty across the U.S. in 1965. In 1993, when CNCS and AmeriCorps were created, VISTA joined the AmeriCorps family. Each year, CNCS supports about 8,000 AmeriCorps VISTA members throughout the country who serve over the course of the year in their various communities with different non-profit organizations, local government entities, tribal governments, and others—all focused on building the capacity to address poverty in their context. That could be housing. It could be employment. It could be economic opportunities. It could be around education. It could be around hunger. It varies a great deal, but all of them are focused more on building capacity rather than performing the direct service that other AmeriCorps members might do. My responsibility is to make sure that opportunity exists for those who want to serve—allowing them to contribute to efforts that uplift communities and create additional opportunities for residents in these communities to escape poverty. MC: Great. Could you talk a bit more about the VISTA program? MF: AmeriCorps VISTA is open to all Americans 18 and over. While a majority of VISTA members get involved immediately following or a few years after college, there are individuals who may begin their service a year before, or while taking a break from, their higher education path. In addition, many older Americans, such as retirees, may find that serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member allows them to put a lifetime of skills and experience to use in a new way. As director of the program, I’ve met a number of AmeriCorps VISTA members who have retired and decided to give back to their community in this way. We are excited it’s not just young people. The AmeriCorps VISTA programs provide an opportunity to springboard into public service in a variety of ways. That’s what the hallmark of this program has been for the entire 51 years of existence. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? MF: Government has a role to play in serving the community and the country, and I have been privileged enough to be part of that. I’m excited by opportunities for taxpayer resources to be stewarded and used...

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Shifting Mindsets: How to Make Culture Change Real

Posted by on Oct 13, 2016 in Workforce Management | 2 comments

Shifting Mindsets: How to Make Culture Change Real

One of the new roads I drive every day to and from work had been only partially finished for almost a year. There was a good-sized bump in one place. It became a habit to slow down every time I came to the bump. The road is now finished and the bump is gone, but I catch myself applying the brakes even though there is no need to do it anymore. Why does this happen? The twice-daily repetition and reinforcement created a “bump” mindset. As I learned at a coaching conference some years ago, once the interaction of our thoughts and emotions and the corresponding images we create become routine, a neural network forms, keeping our mindset on “autopilot” that gets stronger with repetition. When the road situation changed, my “bump” mindset needed to be knocked off autopilot so my foot would stay on the gas pedal when approaching where the bump used to be. It is easy to say, but not so easy to do. The good news: once I intentionally gave it some focus, my mindset began to shift. This simple story illustrates that shifting mindsets is about intentionally creating new neural networks on a personal level so that a desired change can be realized. Everyone needs to have this capability—even more so to keep pace with continual advances in technology and the changes it brings to how we live and work every day. For organizations to make real culture change, shifting the collective mindset is where the change work begins. On a personal level, some things you can do to make it easier to shift your mindset: When you feel resistance to change, recognize it as the strength of your neural network that makes you feel that way. Stop and notice what is going on in the moment without judgment or discomfort—it will help you prevent old habits from taking over. Give attention to the mindset you want to have, it helps to pull attention away from the mindset that no longer serves you well. Get emotionally engaged in the mindset change you want to make, it will help you learn faster and change your habits easier. Neural networks facilitate not only automatic thoughts and actions, but also emotional reactions. This means changing your mindset involves processing and shifting your feelings behind the mindset, too. If you have a major mindset shift to make, find a smaller and easier shift you can make to get a feel for the work involved. Share with someone the shift you want to make and get their candid feedback on how you are doing. Organizational leaders who achieve the greatest collective impact approach shifting mindsets in the following ways: Acknowledge that each person comes to an organization with their own thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and habits. Organizational change begins with individual change. Gather evidence in the form of data, stories, and lessons learned to help others better understand the shifts that are needed. Make sure the repeat behaviors seen in the workplace represent the organization’s expected behaviors. By changing the most critical behaviors, the mindset will follow. Help individuals and teams create new “now vs. then” stories through continuous learning, improvement, and growth opportunities. Use the power of questions to help shift conversations when they go off track or get bogged...

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Are you a #ChangeAgent: Be the Change You Want to See

Posted by on Oct 10, 2016 in Uncategorized, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Are you a #ChangeAgent: Be the Change You Want to See

It has been a year in the making but we have finally garnered the interest of key federal government officials to ask Management Concepts to help them tell their story about culture and change management at their agency. On September 29, 2016 we sponsored an event with the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) on the topic of  “Positive #ChangeAgents Transforming Work Cultures By Delivering Results Differently and Better”. This opportunity came about when Dr. David Bray, CIO of the Federal Communication Commission approached us to have a conversation about the Importance of change agents in Public Service. The discussion covered topics such as: Diversity Empowering the edge, and Embracing ecosystem approaches. We mobilized our contacts and created a great program where we were able to position ourselves in the marketplace as experts on these topics. In addition we developed a “fresh thinking” panel and they discussed how they are #changeagents in their respective agencies and what needs to be done to continue working with all generations in the workplace.  The various panelists were from the Federal Communications Commission,  U.S. Department of Labor, General Services Administration, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Carl T. Rowan Chapter of Blacks in Government, Senior Executives Association and US Department of Agriculture. One of the main take-a-ways from the event is that cultures are transformed by delivering results differently better.  If you tackle changing cultures directly you’ll not succeed, however if you focus on changing how you deliver results differently and better — then you’ll also change work cultures as a consequence. Be the change you want to...

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Federal Spotlight: Wanda Killingsworth

Posted by on Sep 28, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Wanda Killingsworth

Wanda Killingsworth serves as Senior Program Analyst with the IRS, and president of Federally Employed Women (FEW). MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? WK: I have more than 25 years of Federal service with the Department of Treasury, Internal Revenue Service (IRS). My current role is as a Senior Program Analyst. In this position, I serve as a Team Lead and Subject Matter Expert responsible for providing Risk Management infrastructure to various IT projects and ensure projects receive training on the Risk Management process and tools. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? WK: What keeps me motivated is my passion to help others. My parents instilled in my siblings and me the essences of hard work and volunteerism. My dad and grandfather were very active in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. But it was my mother that made the greatest impression on me. I am inspired by my mother’s dedication and commitment to public service. She was employed with the Cleveland Public School System and was president of two nonprofit organizations Union-Miles Development Corporation and Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People (ESOP); she was the founder of ESOP where she was president for 20 years. I draw on my passion from watching my mother; being a full time employee with the school system, president of a nonprofit organization, wife, and mother. She did her part to better the neighborhood in which we lived and eventually dedicated herself to eliminating predatory lending by banks. She persuaded many bank lenders to sign agreements reducing foreclosures, improving terms, and treating African-American borrowers equally. Some national bank lenders offered to change their habits just in Cleveland, Ohio, but my mother demanded that they make these changes nationwide. She had testified before congress about the impact of predatory lending and the foreclosure crisis that was sweeping the nation. She was just an amazing woman. I am very passionate to be an advocate for women’s rights to ensure that we as women have the same rights as men and have equal access to training and career opportunities, and have more women in senior level positions. I am also motivated by my involvement with Federally Employed Women’s (FEW) and its mission for the advancement of women in government. FEW has made a real difference in the advancement of women in Federal service through of its focus area of legislation by being both pro-active and defensive in monitoring Congressional proposals in order to assess the impact on women. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? WK: One of my biggest achievements was having the opportunity to raise more than $20,000 for two schools in New Orleans, LA. After Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans’s lower 9th ward a group of FEW’s National Officers donated our time and talent to lend a helping hand by painting houses and cleaning up New Orleans. I thought it would be a great idea to do more as we were planning to host our National Training Program in 2010 in New Orleans, so I created the “FEW: A Helping Hand,” initiative to give 100% of all donations collected to providing such items as uniforms and school supplies to students in two schools in New Orleans. I was...

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Defining and Refining Organizational Structure to Improve Performance

Posted by on Sep 21, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Defining and Refining Organizational Structure to Improve Performance

At Management Concepts, we are often asked to help clients rationalize and reorganize their organizational and functional structures when they reach a level of inefficiency that threatens to impact performance.  In a recent example, the CEO of a healthcare services company had begun to notice that a recent period of rapid growth had led to a muddled organization structure. The organization had gone through a period of rapid expansion with significant growth in staffing through organic growth, as well as through acquisition.  The organization had historically made hiring decisions based on immediate business needs, with choices made in isolation by individual managers and departments.  The organization had enjoyed some success with this approach and was able to find people with the necessary skills and experience it needed. However, without a systematic approach to job titling and responsibilities, structural inconsistencies were being created that would increasingly result in under-performance of individuals and the organization as a whole. The unstructured approach to job creation and hiring had resulted in major variations in people’s job titles, scopes of work, job responsibilities, and compensation. Across the organization, we encountered seven different supervisory job levels, a wide range of compensation and responsibilities across departments for corresponding job titles, and many people with unique job titles that could not be mapped to another position within the firm or benchmarked to outside comparisons.  As a result, the organization was facing several issues that threatened future growth and reduced their ability to respond to organizational change, these included: A lack of clearly defined job accountabilities and expectations, that made it very difficult to adequately understand and define what is necessary to perform roles successfully. No technical and behavioral competencies that could also be used for performance management, career path development, and to recruit the right individuals to roles. Difficulty in determining if individuals were being fairly compensated for the work they performed. Reduced opportunities for personal advancement within the organization as career paths were not defined, as the organizational structure was based on the actual individuals in place rather than the work that those people were supposed to perform. An inability of upper management to efficiently make necessary changes, since the organization structure was overly complicated and based around individuals already in positions. Inability to efficiently integrate acquired firms into the organization as there was no single standard by which to assess employees of the acquired organizations. Management Concepts was brought in to work with the organization to assess the situation, work through a process of job leveling and use this to develop a set of accountabilities and technical competencies by which all jobs could be evaluated. The end result was a framework used to place all positions consistently across all functions of the firm and that could be used as the basis for all company workforce planning, recruiting, learning and development, performance management, succession planning, and ultimately compensation. Without a framework to provide structure as the underpinning for roles with an organization, it is inevitable that managers will make hiring decisions in a vacuum that may or may not meet the long-term needs of an organization. With a comprehensive competency framework that all jobs can be aligned to, organizations have a rational basis for all hiring decisions, greatly increasing their ability to respond to all forms...

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The Power of Shared Learning and Experience in the Workplace

Posted by on Sep 15, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

The Power of Shared Learning and Experience in the Workplace

I remember as a child my mother saying to me, “most often two heads are better than one.” This phrase still pops into my head when I am contemplating whom to involve in an upcoming work project or initiative. On occasion, working solo is the right course of action, but in most situations, involving others produces better outcomes for everyone. The part that was left unsaid by my mother is what happens when the shared learning and experience involves two, three, four or more individuals. Here are some things I have learned about the power of shared learning and experience in the workplace. Change in people and in organizational culture is stimulated and inspired through shared learning and experience. It is easier to ask for or receive feedback, offer advice, and show support and encouragement when others are dealing with the same challenge or situation. One of the most memorable special action teams I was on required a wide range expertise from its six members, but we were the strongest when we collectively worked through highly visible fieldwork issues and made learning from each other intentional. The grounding I have today in using questions to engage others and open up discussions is the result of this team experience. When individual assumptions are suspended, it opens the door for genuine thinking and talking together, creating the possibility for shared learning and experience. Reflecting on and questioning the roles and practices of others helps to develop a deeper knowledge and understanding of your own role and practices. This practice is particularly useful when there is confusion among a group of people as to who is responsible for what. It is easy to make assumptions that may not serve you well. When individuals challenge their own thinking by listening to the perspectives of others, they are able to interact in new and different ways. Easy to say, but not so easy to do.  It takes practice to get comfortable with it.  In my professional leadership coach training program, I had many opportunities to practice using my listening skills and through this practice I could see myself get better and better at closing off everything but what should be my immediate focus. Shared human experience creates deeper relationships and meaningful learning. When shared as stories with others, it has even greater impact.  For example, while it has been 15 years since 9/11, the powerful Man in the Red Bandana story continues to connect people in new and special ways. Organizational leaders that recognize the power of shared learning and experience use many of the following practices to engage with others: Create connections. Identify individuals from different parts of the organization to work on specific organizational improvement initiatives so they can wrestle with new or different perspectives and try out various ways to work together and communicate with each other. Be intentional about making desired behaviors a key focus and provide opportunities to test understanding and concerns about the new behavioral expectations to help them take shape. Give focus to the habits, such as being curious, failing fast, and encouraging others, that are formed by groups working together so they can be applied to new and different situations. Identify opportunities for immediate interactions, such as teaching others or sitting alongside someone to share experiences....

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Federal Spotlight: Rebecca Rose

Posted by on Sep 7, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Rebecca Rose

Rebecca Rose serves as the Assistant Director of Communications at the U.S. Department of Energy. Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview with Rebecca Rose: MC: How long have you been in Federal service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? RR: I’ve been in the Federal service for close to 10 years now. I have two current roles: By day I lead a team of more than 20 geographically dispersed employees with a $5 million budget for strategic communications and outreach within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) that has close to a $2B Research, Development, and Demonstration (RD&D) portfolio. EERE leads the Department of Energy’s efforts to develop and deliver market-driven solutions for energy-saving homes, buildings, and manufacturing; sustainable transportation; and renewable electricity generation. The rest of the time I serve on the board of Young Government Leaders (YGL) as their Strategic Communications Director, which involves developing an overarching communication strategy to promote YGL to members (more than 8,000 across the nation) and the public at large. YGL is the only 501(c)3 non-profit professional organization founded and led by young government employees. YGL actively builds and maintains a leadership community for young public servants across the country through professional development activities, networking opportunities, social events, seminars, fellowships, and scholarships. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? RR:  Seeing the impact I make through my work for the American public is what keeps me motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector. I get to see my work in the news and social media on a daily basis.  MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? RR: Completing my master’s degree. I’m the only one in my family to have a four year degree or an advanced degree. I was also recently accepted into the Partnership for Public Service Excellence in Government Fellowship program. The program prepares leaders to be more than managers. They are innovators whose creativity in problem-solving stands up to the complexity of our 21st century challenges.  MC: What advice would you share on making public service a career and not a pit stop? RR: Don’t be afraid to change jobs or agencies to build the kind of work experience you want. Also, know when to leave – If you’re no longer challenged by your current position it’s time to move on to a new experience. MC: What advice would you share with young people on entering government? RR:  Be persistent. Getting into the government can be a challenging process, but it’s worth it.  If you’re new to government, learn as much as you can and take advantage of professional development programs offered by your agency, which can include academic lectures, leadership training, and mentor programs. *Answers reflect Rebecca’s own personal views and do not reflect those in her official capacity. — 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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BIG is Committed to Excellence: Think Big!

Posted by on Sep 1, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

BIG is Committed to Excellence: Think Big!

Management Concepts was a proud gold sponsor of the Blacks In Government (BIG) 38th Annual National Training Institute (NTI) held in Atlantic City, New Jersey from August 22-25, 2016. This was a very special year for the organization as it celebrated its 40th year as a national organization. This year’s theme was “Commit to Excellence: Think, Believe, and Achieve BIG!” and more than 1,600 attendees had access to 100+ workshops and agency forums addressing an array of critical topics to help them achieve excellence in their careers. The program led with a motivational speech by Denise Turner Roth, the 21st Senate-confirmed Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and ended with a teary eyed Honorable Darlene H. Young, National President of BIG as she passed the baton to the incoming President Dr. Doris Sartor. For those of you that don’t know, BIG’s NTI is designed to elevate the day-to-day work performance of government employees. With the increasing challenges and complexities facing all levels of government today, the BIG NTI focuses on providing critical management and supervisory training to enable and assist managers with developing highly capable and competent employees to perform at their maximum level of contribution. We helped them achieve this goal as we presented four training sessions for the first time at the conference. The following sessions were met with rave reviews from more than 150 attendees: Fostering a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace and Fostering Accountability, Adaptability, and Resilience both presented by Maria Morukian, Instructor at Management Concepts Mentoring for Millennials, presented twice  by Natalya Pestalozzi, Practice Lead, Coaching & Mentoring at Management Concepts and Marcus Brownrigg, Director, Program Impact and Operations, AmeriCorps VISTA, Corporation for National and Community Service Additionally, for the second year in a row we were able to present the Blacks In Government and Management Concepts National Leadership Certification Program, encouraging others to think big as we awarded two training scholarships. We received many stellar applications and selecting recipients was a truly hard decision. The winners were: Gerald Wilson, Supervisory Management Analyst, Food and Drug Administration, Department of Health and Human Services Fawntrella Thompson, Auditor, Office of the Inspector General, Department of Treasury We also had the opportunity to expand our relationship with BIG’s NOW Generation, their under 40 organization that strives to build up the leadership of the next wave of executives in government, by hosting a Munch & Mingle during the conference. It was standing room only and we had both current BIG President Darlene. H. Young and President-elect Dr. Doris Sartor stop by to reiterate their support of the next generation of leaders and encourage them to think big! Lastly, we sought to #thinkBIG and #winBIG with the exhibit hall attendees. The new addition of the Management Concepts prize wheel proved to be a big draw for the attendees. More than 300 surveys were completed and we were able to engage in great conversations as they stayed to find out more about our products and services. Looking forward to a repeat performance for Atlantic City 2017,...

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How Assumptions Impact Organizational Culture

Posted by on Aug 30, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

How Assumptions Impact Organizational Culture

We all make assumptions as we go about our daily life, with a good portion of them being made while at work. Many of these assumptions are made without knowing it or thinking about it. Assumptions are usually based on something we have learned previously and do not question.  As part of our belief system, assumptions help us form judgments, make meaning, and draw conclusions about what is happening and what others are thinking. When information is missing, they help us complete our own story. Assumptions are also an important part of daily life in organizations. They are the invisible, taken-for-granted beliefs and values that form the culture of an organization and impact how the organization performs.  In the words of Edgar Schein (2004), “organizational culture is a pattern of shared basic assumptions that a group working together for a common goal has created in learning to cope with the problems of external adaptation and internal integration.” It is about the correct way to think, talk, perceive, feel and act, in certain situations. Think about your own organization for a minute. What assumptions are you making about your organization? Do others in the organization share your assumptions? Is there a set of shared assumptions that guide how work gets done, how people relate to each other, and how decisions are made? How easy would it be for everyone to identify the shared assumptions and describe the collective meaning of each? Are the shared assumptions serving the organization well?  If not, how hard would it be to change them? Answers to all of these questions will help you begin to see the impact assumptions have in your organization.  Because the impact of assumptions is felt individually and collectively in organizations as outcomes, it is useful to know what actions will have the greatest positive impact on organizational culture. Ways to Strengthen the Impact of Individual Assumptions on Organizational Culture Know your ground truth — your beliefs and values. Know how you plan and think through every day situations. Know what information is relevant and accurate to making an assumption. Be open to the perspectives of others. Listen first. Seek to understand with questions before making an assumption. Test your assumptions to make sure you understand the intent of others. Use your critical thinking skills to break apart, analyze and improve your assumptions. By paying attention to how assumptions are made, individuals begin to notice what they and others are taking for granted.  This learning leads to new insights, different experiences, and ultimately improved assumptions. Ways to Check the Impact of Shared Assumptions on Organizational Culture Shared assumptions represent the most powerful aspect of an organization’s culture, but they are often not clearly articulated.  However, it is essential for organizational leaders to have a strong grasp of their shared assumptions.   Without this understanding, it is difficult to create and maintain a high-performing culture that encourages and rewards collective effort.  Some ways for leaders to check the impact of shared assumptions are: Observe what is going on around you Listen to the stories shared in and out of the organization See how others respond when acting as a role model or coaching others Notice what people pay attention to Check out the language and symbols commonly used Is purpose seen as bigger...

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SES Reform Implementation Tips

Posted by on Aug 25, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

SES Reform Implementation Tips

You may recall a blog piece from a few weeks ago describing President Obama’s recent Executive Order directing the Federal government to improve the performance and return on investment of the Senior Executive Service (SES).  The order highlights succession planning, streamline hiring, onboarding, and development and rotations as focus areas as areas for improvement. Federal departments are deploying phased changes over the next few years, and the early adopters are now busy creating and refining processes for implementation. I’ve had experience leading and supporting large scale organizational change initiatives. Recent experience with this SES Reform initiative allows us to share some best practices for implementing changes sustainably in your organization: Establish a clear vision for how your organization will implement and resource this initiative. Creating a clear vision at the top of the organization for addressing the requirements of the Executive Order is essential. SES members are tuned into the many ways an organization can show them they are valued. Being realistic about the amount of effort and support a change of this magnitude will require, and resourcing it appropriately, sends a strong message to the executive corps about how much they are valued. It also conveys how important this initiative is to the enterprise. Identify initiative leads to drive implementation of the changes. Designate skilled individuals to pull the team together that will plan for implementing the initiatives outlined in the EO. They can hold people accountable for creating the necessary policy, guidance, standards, and tools that will form the backbone of the process changes. Allow flexibility in crafting solutions for diverse sub-organizations within your department. If your department has a consistent culture throughout, a one-size-fits-all approach to complying with this Executive Order makes sense. But what if your organization is made up of sub-organizations with very unique subcultures? In that case, consider creating a department-wide solution that sets basic compliance standards, while providing room for agencies to tailor their solution to the requirements of the EO to meet the needs of the highly specialized subcultures. Emphasize Organizational Change Management activities in enacting the desired changes. People don’t typically embrace change easily. That may be true especially about senior executives who have grown up and become successful through the status quo. Soliciting input early and often from those who may be affected by the changes, and communicating frequently, positively, and honestly about the concerns they share will go a long way toward setting the tone for and selling the need for change to those who are most affected. This will foster adoption of new processes to help positively impact the culture of the organization in the spirit of the executive order. Ensure the implementation teams collaborate across work streams during the solution phase. The four topic areas offer high potential for overlap; for example, hiring and onboarding are great mechanisms to identify development needs and rotational opportunities, which feed succession planning. Aligning processes and activities strategically across work streams helps ensure that each SES member experiences an environment of continuity in which he or she is welcomed, supported, and empowered to model the mission of the SES Program within the Department in which he or she works. Publicize early “wins.” Communicate with individuals going through the hiring, onboarding, and development and rotations processes, and learn what has and...

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Federal Spotlight: Manny Ramirez

Posted by on Aug 9, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Manny Ramirez

Manny Ramirez serves as the Diversity Program Manager at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview with Manny Ramirez: MC: How long have you been in Federal service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? MR: I began working for the Federal government in June of 2010; this summer will mark my six year anniversary as a Federal employee. I was originally hired as a Program Analyst in the Child Nutrition Division. In 2013, I took a detail in the Human Resources Division to work on the Diversity and Inclusion Program, which led me to my current position with the agency.  I am the Diversity Program Manager for the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). I serve as the primary advisor to FNS senior leaders on workforce diversity and workplace inclusion by managing the Diversity and Inclusion Program. I am fortunate to work with management and staff in a variety of areas to spearhead the agency’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. I manage the Special Emphasis Programs, Diversity Leaders Council, and administer training that empowers employees with the tools to exhibit inclusive behaviors and build inclusive teams. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? MR:  I have worked in a variety of industries in my career, but being a public servant has been a very rewarding experience with a great purpose. My biggest motivation is striving to make a difference in an organization that has a wonderful mission of providing assistance to the American people in need. Each and every day I get to work with talented individuals, and they inspire me to have a positive impact in all aspects of my life. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? MR: I have been blessed to be part of individual and team success that I can be very proud of, but my biggest achievement is going back to school full time to graduate from George Mason University in 2013. To achieve my educational goals, I balanced work, school, and family life – which includes being a husband and father to three kids. While continuing my studies, I felt it was important to keep family as a priority without letting my work suffer. It was critical to coach my kids’ sports teams, be present for school events, and help my kids with their school work.  Finishing my studies has been a dream of mine that I never lost sight of throughout the years. But, I noticed that completing my educational goals were no longer just about me.  When I walked across the stage during graduation, I kept a childhood promise to my mother, and set the example for my children to follow and reinforced the importance of education. MC: What advice would you share on making public service a career and not a pit stop? MR: I am fortunate to have two family members that have more than 60 years combined service to the American people. The long standing devotion to being a public servant for many years has had a great impact on me and my family, and I would encourage folks to follow down the same path. The Federal government provides a wide variety of careers that require diverse skillsets which allow...

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DATA Act Implementation Impact

Posted by on Aug 8, 2016 in Grants & Assistance, Workforce Management | 1 comment

DATA Act Implementation Impact

If you’ve already read the two DATA Act reports issued by the GAO since late July, you already know that the government watchdog has documented its concerns about DATA Act implementation. It’s only eight months away. One of the things that surprised me is that OMB still does not have a complete list of the Federal agencies that will need to be DATA Act compliant. I understand the approach of starting with the 24 CFO agencies – but what about the goal of having transparency on every Federal dollar spent? Between this lack of clarity and the release of the DAIMS just in May 2016, it makes sense why we’re hearing, “I know about the DATA Act. But how is it going to affect me?” And if you haven’t, looking at data schema and dictionaries in an effort to understand what’s happening may make your eyes roll back into the back of your head. If you fall into this group, I recommend taking these initial actions: Keep the “So What” in mind. The Public, Congress, and Federal government should know who receives Federal funds from contracts and grants. In our day-to-day work of processing transactions and reports, it’s easy to lose sight that these funds are part of large investments in government services and policies to benefit the public. Find out more. Participate in our complimentary webinar on August 18. We’ll share with you the essential information you need to get started on your DATA Act journey, and share resources so you can keep current. Expect to use data more – because you’ll have more of it. The congressional team that drafted the DATA Act did so with the intention and expectation of receiving more and more accurate information on the government’s fiscal activities. We all need to increase our abilities to analyze and present data in support of our organization’s mission and goals. Ask around. The DATA Act won’t be successful unless all Federal agencies work together. Ask your colleagues if they’ve heard about this important law. If yes, inquire if they are working on implementation efforts and how they’re going. If you’re ready to go to the next step, I’d start with the data definitions. Why? Because for the DATA Act to work, we need to start speaking the same language (and ensure our systems do as well).  I like to think of this as we all understand what personal income is thanks to the fact we all complete our Federal income tax returns. It doesn’t matter what our background is or where we work. Using the same terms has the additional benefit of making it easier to discuss the impacts as the government continues to plan and execute the implementation. This is especially important as agencies work to catch up from earlier delays. It’s going to be a long journey.  Better information to base decisions on will be worth the...

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NAPA Culture Event: Changing the Culture of Government

Posted by on Aug 4, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

NAPA Culture Event: Changing the Culture of Government

On July 28th Management Concepts sponsored a breakfast event with the National Academy for Public Administration (NAPA), the theme was “Changing the Culture of Government.” NAPA brought together experts in organizational culture like Tim Kuppler, Director of Culture and Organizational Development at Human Synergistics, Inc. with leading Federal executives to talk about the unique culture that is government. NAPA’s President Dan Blair moderated a Federal panel that included: Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration Myra Howze Shiplett, Former Project Director on the Academy’s Centers for Disease Control Project Dustin S. Brown, Deputy Associate Director for Performance and Personnel, Office of Management and Budget Following the panel, the keynote address “Changing the Culture of Leadership – One Leader at a Time” featured Dr. Don Kettl, Professor, School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland. During one of the Q&A sessions, a question was raised about the best way for Federal agencies to keep culture in mind while navigating the multi-level leadership transitions that will happen as a result of the 58th quadrennial U. S. presidential election in November. Leadership transitions are a common occurrence in Federal agencies and how they are regarded impacts not only the new leadership, but also the entire agency. Making culture an integral part of leadership transitions is an effective way for agencies to focus and prepare current members for upcoming changes. It also provides a way to share valuable insights with incoming leaders about the organization they are joining. Paying attention to culture is about taking a broader view of leadership transitions and preparing the agency to tell its current story in a way that enables transitions to create value more rapidly. Some specific culture-focused leadership transition practices that will accelerate organizational change and speed up time to performance include: Before the transition: Pull together all existing quantitative and qualitative culture and climate data to create a picture of the current operating environment. If you have data from past years, use it to look at trends over time for an additional perspective. If you do not have any real culture data, take the time to do an assessment. You need insights about the current operating culture before any organizational change initiative launches. You will need an answer to the question, “how will our current culture help or hinder this change effort?” Select an interim leader with the skillsets that will help the transition. Interim leaders are not just placeholders; they are a new set of eyes with new perspectives on the organization. Strong communication and decision-making skills are a must, along with an ability to be flexible and adaptable to a changing environment. Communicating the selection to the rest of the organization and sharing the relevant objectives of the interim leader will keep others focused on supporting the transition activities. Do your homework and find out as much as you can about the incoming leader. The perspectives and experiences they bring will impact how they connect with others in their new organization. If possible, gain some insights into their leadership philosophy and how they approach both the strategic and operational aspects of their role. If you can begin to get an idea of the different “from-to” shifts they will need to make to be successful in their new role, you will be that...

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The Key to Successful Change – Focus on Motivation

Posted by on Aug 2, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

The Key to Successful Change – Focus on Motivation

For complex organizations like Federal agencies, undergoing change can be very difficult. As the recent report by Management Concepts and Human Capital Media, “Successful Change Management Practices in the Public Sector” found, Federal agencies have a mixed record of achievement as they struggle to deal with changes arising from organizational realignment, new technology implementation, and changes in the Federal workforce. Despite this mixed record, the major elements of a successful change management are now well understood, and require a comprehensive approach that includes having a vision of where the organization wants to go, making sure individuals are skilled in change management, providing sufficient resources to support change management activities, as well as creating and sticking to a detailed change action plan. Vision + Skills + Incentives + Resources + Action Plan = Change However, there is one additional area that is singularly important when it comes to executing effective change management initiatives; finding levers to motivate people to buy into and embrace the change. Too often we see organizations that fail to address motivation incentives early enough or at all. Motivation incentives can include: interesting and expanded roles and work responsibilities, pay, opportunities to advance quickly, training and development opportunities, etc. If the desired organizational change is in conflict with existing incentives, the organization risks creating unnecessary resistance, and achieving no change as people seek to protect the status quo. Vision + Skills – Incentives + Resources + Action Plan = Resistance In my experience, an effective structure of incentives is the single most important part of any change because if you create the desire for a critical mass of people and parts of the organization to pull in the same direction, motivation and momentum builds and issues are more easily overcome.  By motivating to become change agents, the organization can focus on moving forward without having to spend as much effort overcoming resistance. If people are motivated towards change everything else becomes easier, they will: Easily develop and stick to a vision for change because more people can see themselves in the new situation, and understand how it impacts them in an overall positive way Seek to develop and hone their own change management skills, rather than wait to be sent to training they don’t actively engage with More freely provide resources for change management rather than holding on to them to protect their own interests Create and execute Change Management plans easily because everyone is aligned and committed to delivering their assignments and sticking to deadlines. Changing the incentives removes resistance and helps everything else work better. However, I recognize that Federal agencies face challenges in providing incentives that private businesses often do not. In private business, compensation structures and organizational structures can be changed to align with business priorities. For the Federal government, pay and organizational structure are mandated by statutes and managers have limitations on changes they can make. However, Federal managers have a toolkit of potential things they can do to increase motivation and drive incentives for change. These include: Appeal to a sense of connection to the wider agency community by invoking  a public service ethic and overall agency mission Offer future opportunities to work using new technology tools that are more effective and efficient Develop opportunities to master new skills in the...

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Management Concepts FEW Recap

Posted by on Aug 1, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Management Concepts FEW Recap

Management Concepts was a proud Emerald Sponsor for the second year in a row for the 47th Federally Employed Women’s (FEW) National Training Program (NTP) held in Dallas, Texas from July 11-14, 2016. The week was packed with exciting speakers, workshops, motivational keynote speakers, thought-provoking panels, and many opportunities to meet a diverse group of people from all over the country who are seeking professional development opportunities. There were more than 850 attendees in Dallas, and we were excited to have Maria Morukian, an instructor with Management Concepts, teach two training sessions to 200 of those individuals. Her sessions included excerpts from: Fostering a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace: In today’s multidimensional society, organizations recognize that it is a business imperative to maximize the diverse talents of their workforce. This session will provide participants the opportunity to explore the many dimensions of identity that make our workplace diverse, and ways to create inclusive work relationships. Fostering Accountability, Adaptability, and Resilience:  Organizations are in a constant state of flux. This can create uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environments for the people who work within them at the individual, team, and organizational level. This course is designed to help participants develop the knowledge and skills needed to systematically conduct AAR on a day‐to‐day basis. Additionally, I had the pleasure of working with Ms. Naomi Bell and Ms. Linda Patrick to present the 2016 FEW/Management Concepts Leadership Certificate Program Scholarships. The winners of this year’s scholarships were: Helen Robinson, Program Support Specialist, Food and Drug Administration, Department of Health and Human Services Tamara Jackson, Administration, Carl Vinson VA Medical Center, Department of Veterans Affairs This year’s NTP theme was In the Spirit of to Excellence, and those who applied for the scholarships were given the theme as the topic for the essay submitted with the application. We received many stellar applications and selecting recipients was a truly hard decision. A couple of statements extracted from the essays are: “The value of education is something that I have understood since a very young age. The spirit of excellence is what my family instilled in me. ” “Excellence! I strive for the highest quality and continuous improvement by being thoughtful and decisive in leadership, accountable for my actions, willing to admit mistakes, and rigorous in correcting them.” What’s the underlying theme? Continuous improvement! It is apparent that these applicants are continually trying to advance their career by seeking professional development opportunities like these scholarships and the training at NTP. Our booth was a hit again this year with surveys, raffles, giveaways and a polling question about the need for HR certification in the Federal government where the voting process featured candy! More than 250 people completed the surveys and were completely engaged with our staff. Finally, I leave you with FEW’s President Michelle A. Crockett’s words mentioned at the event: “I am certain we can agree on two things: you are here because you believe this training is essential to your career; and, this small investment of time and money will lead to a more robust and profound Federal career.” We are happy to continue this partnership to support and provide the members of FEW with content, training opportunities, and resources to help them achieve excellence. See you next year, FEW!...

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Strengthening the Senior Executive Service (SES)

Posted by on Jul 29, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Strengthening the Senior Executive Service (SES)

On December 15, 2015, President Obama issued an Executive Order designed to improve the performance and return on investment made in the Senior Executive Service (SES), a government wide program managed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The SES Program consists of executives charged with driving the transformation of government. These leaders are specially selected for their range of experience and commitment to public service, and they help serve as a bridge between political appointees and their respective organizations. They serve at executive levels in 75 Federal departments and agencies, and, as members of this select corps, can move between departments and agencies to help spread the vision, strategy, and tactics of creating change in the Federal government. In the Executive Order, President Obama calls for reform of four major components of the SES Program to help develop this cadre of leaders, while at the same time improving the service it provides to the Federal government. The reform rollout is taking place in three phases over several years, so that some organizations can lead the way by piloting programs, while OPM and other organizations can benefit from the lessons learned during implementation. These four areas of Reform focus include: Succession Planning:  Succession Planning looks at the strategic needs of the organization in relation to the current and future executive corps. It identifies and seeks to develop “bench strength” and creates a formal plan that will enable seamless transitions and progress toward the organization’s goals, by tracking executive capabilities and developmental needs on an ongoing basis. It promotes long range planning to ensure the health of the organization over time, and directly impacts the engagement of executives, which trickles down to the rest of the workforce. Organizations that create a succession planning-based culture benefit by gaining a deeper understanding of its strengths, weaknesses, and ability to maintain continuity of operations if a planned – or unplanned – change in leadership takes place. Development and Rotations: At the Executive level, it becomes more difficult to find truly developmental activities; traditional classroom experiences may not suffice. Action learning as a developmental strategy offers the promise of learning in a protected environment while delivering value to the organization in the process. One element of the current SES Program is that by agreeing to become members of the cadre, executives agree to the possibility of rotating into 4-month assignments within or outside the Department in which they serve. Rotations can be a powerful developmental tool, in the right conditions. Executives would leave their current assignments for the express purpose of developing greater acumen in their new temporary assignment, while, at the same time, bringing their already-acquired skills to bear on the needs of the hosting organization. When they return to their original assignment, they bring the new skills and depth they acquired during the rotation, so everybody benefits from the experience and knowledge gained. The ability of an organization to cope with an executive temporarily transferring out is an indication of its maturity and reflects the strength of its succession plan. Many organizations simply throw money at trendy, high-ticket training or degree/certification programs, or worse, ignore the ongoing learning needs of their executives and risk having them stagnate or seek additional development elsewhere. This turnover creates significant risk, which, with some planning and...

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Five Reasons Your Organization Needs to Invest in Training

Posted by on Jul 27, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Five Reasons Your Organization Needs to Invest in Training

An organization’s workforce is its most valuable asset. It’s also the driving factor that shapes how an organization succeeds in the face of challenges or crises. Training is an effective way to build a top-notch workforce with all the right skillsets and its payoffs extend beyond the skills gained. In addition to the personal payoffs of investing in employees, organizations need to consider five business payoffs as part of any investment in the workforce: Increase productivity and efficiency. Whether by raising competency levels or filling competency gaps, a more knowledgeable and skilled employee translates to better job performance. If budgets are cut and you need to do more with less, make the most of each employee’s time and invest in their potential for more productivity. Save time and money on recruiting. It is often more cost-effective and faster to train employees to perform new tasks than to transition them out of the organization, recruit, onboard, and train new employees. Retain employees who want to learn. Training incentives are valuable to employees with in-demand skills, particularly in fields where there are critical skills gaps, and they support a holistic retention strategy. This saves on recruiting and transition costs, and keeps employees who seek to learn. Build on institutional knowledge. Even as the work changes, employees in an organization maintain tremendous institutional knowledge. Training builds on that knowledge and can transform seasoned employees’ experience into new skills and competencies. Establish a new baseline. A team in the workplace is like any sports team—everyone needs to know the same playbook. Training streamlines change implementation by establishing a baseline of knowledge and skills to get everyone working from the same playbook. Whether it’s the need to adapt to new mission objectives or adjust to budget constraints, successful organizations in the public sector identify training as an effective strategy to manage change, according to the Management Concepts 2016 report conducted with Human Capital Media, “Successful Change Management Practices in the Public Sector: How governmental agencies implement organizational change management” As budget season carries on, assess where training can provide payoffs in your organization. Training can be its own goal or one step in a broader strategic plan that integrates with consulting, process improvement, or other change management strategies. And if the training is on-point for the needs in your organization and well-planned, you’ll be able to see that ROI translate to cost-savings in areas that are strategically important for organizations to manage. Kim Coelho contributed to this blog post....

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Technology Modernization: A Good Test for Real Culture Change

Posted by on Jul 21, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Technology Modernization: A Good Test for Real Culture Change

Change in government doesn’t always happen at the fastest pace, especially when technology is involved. Each year millions of dollars are taken away from needed technology innovations to maintain outdated IT systems. With legislation like FITARA, expanding DevOps practices and tools, and new proposed IT funding legislation, Federal agencies have an opportunity to design a new and different kind of legacy modernization approach. Creating a sense of urgency around this opportunity will be even more important with Federal spending for IT projects expected to be flat over the next 5 years. Technology modernization means stepping into uncharted territory and countless things about it are not well understood, causing Federal agency leaders to feel uncertain about the best way forward. I’d like to offer a way to think about designing a new and different kind of approach to legacy modernization. The approach puts an organization’s internal operating environment and its people on center stage by making real culture an integral part of the technology modernization effort. It is a way to earn an “A” for real culture change and alignment that has sustaining power over time. Your current reality is what everyone in a Federal agency lives in day after day. Consider the following: What are three words that describe your current technology state? Your answers likely illustrate there are no real advantages for Federal agency leaders to deny the need for technology modernization. External forces are showing signs of support. New and more favorable legislation and emerging business practices are making it harder for Federal leaders to let external forces drive agendas and priorities or delay the complicated and messy technology modernization work any longer. What is holding technology modernization projects back is how Federal agencies currently do what they do to accomplish their missions. In other words, how an agency defines the technology problems, designs, and delivers the way work gets done is where new thinking, behavior, and actions is needed. What will this current reality require Federal agency leaders to do differently? Make Technology Modernization the Highest Priority Leaders will need to convey the decision to the rest of the organization, making sure the words and actual experience match. They will also need to create intellectual and emotional energy in others so they want to be involved in the priority technology work. Envision a Different Future for Technology No matter what the present circumstance may be, envisioning a different future is about creating a story of the power of technology to change the way of working. It goes beyond what the organization does to who the agency is as a result of the new technology environment. Leaders will need to clearly describe this new and improved scenario and repeat it often in order to create alignment in the future state. The type of leadership that is displayed will impact how the desired culture is shaped and the ease with which technology will be utilized to further the mission of the agency. The missing link in many organizational technology change initiatives is culture. Many agencies struggle with culture work, overlook it, or avoid it all together because it seems out of reach or is too hard to figure out. Perhaps these feelings have contributed to why the success rate of organizational change initiatives has hovered around thirty percent...

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IT’S CRUNCH TIME! Fiscal Year-End Spending

Posted by on Jul 15, 2016 in Financial Management, Workforce Management | 0 comments

IT’S CRUNCH TIME! Fiscal Year-End Spending

The end of the fiscal year is rapidly approaching…and you know what that means… Yep!  We’ve got a lot of things to get obligated – things we need but either haven’t been able to purchase yet, or things we haven’t had the funding for.  There’s hope that – as often happens – “they” will find some funding that’s available and we’ll get some of it.  It may be late in the year, but we’ll take it! Did you miss our complimentary webinar last week on the ins and outs of fiscal year-end spending? Don’t worry – an archive recording and the presentation are still available for download. In the meantime, here are the top 10 things to remember as we try to manage our year-end spending: The “Bona Fide Needs Rule.”  It says that you can only buy for needs that exist in the fiscal year to be charged.  That means, for FY16, you can only obligate for bona fide needs of this year.  You can’t use FY16 funds to buy next year’s needs (unless you follow some specific exceptions to be explained below). Have your priorities listed before the funding arrives so you can move fast and get them obligated before funding expires. Under the stock replacement rule, you can replenish stock (like office supplies) and purchase up to one year’s worth any time in the year (amount ordered has to be based on historical usage for one year). If there’s a long lead time for something that has to be ready early in the next fiscal year (like provisions for a ship that has to sail October 15), then you have a need to get the provisions ordered this fiscal year to meet the sailing date. You can register for a training class, or order a class to be delivered at your site, with FY16 funds and attend/take delivery of the training in FY17 (usually in the first quarter) as long as you (your agency) has no control over the timing and the length of time for attendance/delivery is not excessive. Severable services contracts (for recurring services like monthly copier maintenance) are legal even though they may cross fiscal year lines; i.e., you obligate the entire contract with FY16 funds even though some of the services will be rendered in FY17. Such contracts are limited to a maximum of 12 months. For non-severable contracts (those for taking delivery of some completed product or item at the end of a period of performance), you must obligate for the entire cost of the item with FY16 funds, and may still take delivery of the item sometime in FY17 or even beyond. If you have some type of subscription (new or renewal) that must begin on October 1, then you have a need to order it in FY16 in order for it to begin on October 1. For indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts whose period of performance crosses fiscal years, you obligate for the minimum order stated in the contract with funds available when the contract is signed. Then for orders placed after the minimum amount is ordered, you obligate them with funds current at the time the orders are placed. Don’t be tempted to “park” funds just to say they’re obligated so they won’t expire. This takes place...

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Embedded Change Management contributes to Organizational Resiliency

Posted by on Jul 13, 2016 in Workforce Management | 2 comments

Embedded Change Management contributes to Organizational Resiliency

The Oxford Dictionary defines resilient as “able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.” Recognizable behaviors that make a person resilient include a positive attitude, optimism, perseverance, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. A classic example of a resilient person is someone with the fortitude and mental toughness to repeatedly withstand personal or professional challenges, and who inevitably comes out ahead each time. But is resilience is a learned skill or an inherited trait? Current research suggests that resilience is primarily learned and is often developed out of the challenge to maintain confidence and self-sufficiency. Additionally, what researchers are learning about resilience is that it’s a characteristic embodied not only by individuals, but also by teams and organizations.  Organizational involves being adaptable, agile, responsive, and robust. One tried-and-true method organizations can use to cultivate organizational resiliency is the development of Organizational Change Management (OCM) capabilities (including Leadership Alignment, Governance, Stakeholder Analysis & Engagement, Change Analytics, Communication Strategies, and Project Management) that become embedded in the organization’s culture. In the recent Successful Change Management Practices in the Public Sector Report developed from the 2016 Changing Government Workplace Survey, we found that successful organizations employ similar embedded Change Management strategies to mitigate effects. Organizations should: Recognize and learn from past organizational change initiatives:  Identify what worked, what didn’t, and why from past initiatives. Regard future organizational change as both a challenge and an opportunity. Develop an OCM Center of Excellence (CoE): Create an active community that collects and shares OCM experiences, knowledge, and best practices and whose purpose is to advance OCM organizational awareness and capabilities. Integrate, coordinate, and communicate across the various operational disciplines and organizational divisions: Make it a normal practice to engage and share information broadly so that effective communication practices (both push and pull) become an organizational asset long before difficult change happens. Operationalize an enterprise-wide OCM approach: Adopt or develop a standardized methodology and toolkit that will be taught throughout the organization and used during change initiatives. Establish high-level critical success factors for change. Identify potential OCM risk factors and develop mitigation strategies. Leverage Change Agents before, during, and after change initiatives: Identify a pool of employees representing a cross-section of the organization who are recognized as evangelists of their own innovative practices and problem solvers who have the answers. These will be the go-to influencers helping to build grassroots momentum for future change. The benefits of developing a resilient organization far outweigh the effort to develop organizational change capabilities.  An organization that is capable of rapidly adapting to change will benefit from a workforce that is better equipped and prepared to support the organization’s strategic priorities, adapt to technological advances, adjust to leadership transitions, and respond unfettered during times of conflict. What additional methods should organizations use to build...

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The Presidential Transition as a Change Driver

Posted by on Jul 8, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

The Presidential Transition as a Change Driver

In 196 days the next President of the United States will be inaugurated, marking a major milestone in what is one of the most significant and predictable cycles of change in the Federal government. The 2017 change of administration has been the focus of a number of efforts aimed at improving the effectiveness and continuity of operations for Federal agencies undergoing potentially significant leadership transitions.  Organizations including the Brookings Institution, the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), and the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC) offer recommendations for a smooth handoff, even the current administration has established a White House Transition Coordination Council to “undertake all reasonable efforts to ensure that Presidential transitions are well-coordinated and effective, without regard to party affiliation.” The sheer volume and frequency of attention being paid to the process for this monumental shift in Federal leadership point to the complexity and importance of the pending change in administration. Adding to the complexity of the Presidential Transition is the pace and volume of change already occurring in public sector organizations. Earlier this year, Management Concepts, in partnership with Human Capital Media, surveyed 473 public sector employees to understand the drivers of change and strategies for successful change in the near and mid-term future.  Somewhat surprisingly, according to the survey, less than 1/3 of respondents believe the Presidential Transition will be a major driver of change for their organization in the next three years. Here are three reasons why I think the impending change of administration may not be top of mind for many Federal workers: Many, perhaps most, Federal workers have more immediate issues to tend to: According to our survey budget uncertainty, the pace of technology change, challenges in recruiting and retaining talent, generational shifts in the workforce, and expectations for improved or increased services are all identified as high impact drivers of change for public sector employees. The impacts of these changes are already being felt in Federal organizations today. The need to adapt and respond to the current changes facing Federal employees is significant enough that planning for the future shift in administration is just not a top of mind priority. The impacts of the administration change will be limited until 2019: The new administration will inherit the 2017 budget and has limited flexibility in the 2018 budget. Because of this, significant shifts in investment priorities and the changes those bring are two, or more, years in the future. With the pressing challenges facing Federal personnel today (see #1), anticipating and planning for changes from a new administration shouldn’t be the focus of large portions of Federal employees. The mission matters most: Many Federal employees join and stay with the Federal government because of a motivation to serve and help their agency achieve its mission. While changes in priorities and areas of focus will most certainly come with the change of Administration, sweeping changes to the mission of an organization are much less likely to occur. Maintaining a focus on delivering the high quality citizen experience that is the mission of Federal agencies is a primary focus of Federal employees and that focus will remain no matter who is in the White House. There is no question that the pending Presidential Transition will drive a significant amount of change...

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Federal Spotlight: Honorable Davita Vance-Cooks

Posted by on Jul 6, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Honorable Davita Vance-Cooks

Davita Vance-Cooks serves as the Director of the Government Publishing Office (GPO) and the 27th Public Printer of the United States. Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview with Davita Vance-Cooks: MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? DVC: I started Federal Service with the Government Printing Office , which is what it was called back then, in August of 2004. I was hired to be the Deputy Managing Director of Customer Service, and at that time I was responsible for providing print procurement products and services to all of the Federal agencies across the United States. You see, the GPO is the official printer of the government, and that includes all Federal agencies. When they need printing jobs, like the Census or different products for their mission, they come to the GPO and we use printing companies across the country to procure those services for them. Over my 12 year career at the GPO, I have been fortunate to work in multiple business units across the agency with increasing responsibilities. After the Deputy Managing Director of Customer Services, I became the Managing Director for Publication Information Sales, Chief of Staff, Deputy Public Printer serving as Acting Public Printer, then Public Printer in 2013. In 2014, the name of the agency changed to the Government Publishing Office in recognition of our transformation to a digital publishing operation. The title for the head of the agency changed from Public Printer to Agency Director. I am responsible for leading the strategic direction of the agency. Our organizational strategy is a transformation from a print-centric functionality to a content-centric publishing operation. I oversee a workforce of 1,750 employees at the GPO. Back when the GPO was print heavy, maybe 20, 30 years ago, we had as many as 8,000 employees. Today I’m the person who sets the strategic direction and the tone for the agency – that’s what I do today, and I’m loving every minute of it. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? DVC:  Well, I really believe in the GPO’s mission and I believe in my GPO employees. The mission of the GPO is to Keep America Informed, and that’s because when we were created in 1861, our job was to tell the American people about the business of the government. We publish information products for all three branches of government, and you can really see it in products such as the Congressional Record and the Federal Register. I believe very passionately in the importance of producing these documents, and I’m also very passionate about our employees because they believe in that mission. They’re committed to it and that keeps me motivated, because I watch them every day bring excellence to what they do in serving Congress, the Federal agencies, and the library community, so I really enjoy it. I’m excited about the transformation of us shifting into that digital information platform. We are here to make a difference. I’ll give you two examples. First, with the Congressional Record, as you know it is issued every day when Congress is in session, and it describes what happened the day before. When Congress’ lights go out for the day, they start to send their...

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Technology, Risk and Change Management

Posted by on Jul 1, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Technology, Risk and Change Management

Sometimes it feels like technology can solve all of our organization’s problems.  Organizations of all sizes regularly make major technology investments in an attempt to realize productivity growth and performance improvement as well as conform to regulatory requirements. Organizations have transformed their accounting, customer service, marketing, human resources, web-content and many other business functions by adopting new systems, the results of which have been highly variable and often necessitate even more change in the future. Today the pace of technological advance continues to accelerate and organizations feel like they need to respond to take advantage of the potential productivity gains.  Competition is fierce and organizations that do not invest fear they could be left behind. The risks of missing out on opportunities created by technology can appear larger than the risks of implementation, though the reality is not so clear. The one thing that is not changing as quickly as technology is people.  Within organizations, the ways that people are organized and the knowledge, skills, and abilities they bring to their jobs do not always keep up with the implementation of new technologies. Not all technology adoption projects go smoothly, and the downside risks are significant.  Just because it can work somewhere doesn’t mean it can work in every organization, and often large systems don’t always allow for easy customizations needed to work in all business or other organizational environments.  If you want to effectively manage these risks, you need your people fully on your side. Depending on what technology is implemented, it has the potential to fundamentally change or even eliminate people’s jobs.  And yet for technology implementation to be successful organizations depend on the support and adoption of this change by their workers. Within organizations we often find people who are suspicious of change, who don’t see the need for it, or who are worried about how it will impact them personally.  If these concerns are not properly addressed people can easily turn against the change, and what could have been an organization’s greatest change assets can become active resistors. Large scale change that is often experienced with the adoption of new technology platforms is never an easy undertaking for an organization.  To increase the likelihood of a successfully change, organization’s must plan for effective risk management that includes an understanding of the technology risk but also the people and organizational risks.  Just because it is possible to get the technology in place does not mean the organization will have a successful implementation. As evidenced in the Management Concepts Report, Successful Change Management Practices in the Public Sector, change management that addresses the needs and priorities of the organization’s people is an essential element of any technology project and should be included from the beginning.  Some best practices that can be used to accomplish this include: Support from senior leadership is critical. Senior leadership can make or break a change project depending on their level of engagement and commitment. They control resources that are necessary for effective change management, but more importantly, they can also influence people throughout the organization to embrace the change and motivate them to actively work for the project. Build in change management from the start. Change management that meets the needs of your workforce cannot be simply bolted on as an afterthought....

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Generational Shifts: A Change Lever to Align Culture

Posted by on Jun 23, 2016 in Workforce Management | 1 comment

Generational Shifts: A Change Lever to Align Culture

For as long as organizations have existed there has been a need for people from different age groups to be part of the workforce, with some entering, some advancing, some scaling back, or some departing over time.  Similar movements are occurring among the four generations currently in the workforce, creating new opportunities for organizational leaders to tackle escalating levels of uncertainty and change (size, type, speed, complexity) across their organizations. A lot of media attention has focused on the labeled differences among the four generations. This focus does not help organizational leaders determine how to get the most from the changing mix of generations or how to define the collective behaviors needed to deal with the unprecedented uncertainty and change. By viewing generational shifts as a change lever to get everyone working well and moving together in the desired direction, it will increase the possibility of making real organizational change happen.  At the same time, it will help to redirect the conversation on generations away from differences to “how to” achieve desired organizational outcomes through shared learning and experience. Acknowledging that generational shifts can be a valuable lever to impact change is an important first step.  In a recently released report on Successful Change Management Practices in the Public Sector published by Management Concepts and Human Capital Media, generational shifts were identified as a high-impact change lever by 37.7 percent of government respondents who completed the Change Management Workplace Survey. This type of acknowledgement allows organizational leaders to shift their focus to understanding what the generational shift currently looks like in their organization so it can be used as a lever for desired change.  Gaining an understanding of the current generational shift is not about knowing how many of each generation makeup of the total workforce.  It means understanding the people that are part of the mix of generations in an organization from an individual, team, and collective organizational perspective. Some effective ways to gain an understanding of what the current generational shift looks like in your organization include: Recognize how the external and internal contextual factors (i.e., technology, information, diversity) affecting the current generational shift are influencing how everyone in the organization learns, works, and connects with each other Identify the individual values held in common within the organization to give you a view of what brings the organization together Look at the assumptions and behavioral norms that impact how the mix of generations makes decisions, takes action, and achieves results Engage the collective organization in understanding generational shifts occurring and how to best leverage the strengths of individuals and teams Pay attention to the common language and way of communicating. Does it help or hinder how work gets done? It is one of the easiest ways to build or breakdown trust and respect among generations Take a look at current rules, practices, processes, and procedures. How do they support the needs of the collective generations to increase effectiveness, improve performance, or be innovative? How is performance tracked? Are behavioral expectations clear? Is ongoing feedback provided? Answers to these questions impact the everyday operating environment of an organization and influence the individual and collective mindsets, behaviors, and actions Once there is an understanding of the generational shift that is present and influencing what happens in an organization, the...

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Planning is Critical in Successful Organizational Change

Posted by on Jun 17, 2016 in Workforce Management | 2 comments

Planning is Critical in Successful Organizational Change

One of the contributing factors to project and program failures within public organizations is the lack of organizational change management planning. This is well documented in Management Concepts recent report, “Successful Change Management Practices in the Public Sector.” While project and program managers often focus their plans on the technical aspects of what needs to change in order to realize project success, they may often underestimate the impact of changes on personnel and the level of planning it takes to mitigate this impact. The risk is that if the people impacted by change are not on board, sustainable change cannot be achieved and mission-critical objectives may not be realized. Several negative consequences to the organization can result from inadequate planning and neglecting a change’s impact on personnel, including productivity loss, employee disengagement, turnover, and resistance. Those negative consequences and risks will often result in financial consequences. It will take longer for employees to get on board and begin using the new system, process, etc., longer to master, as well as longer for the agency to see a Return on Investment (ROI). By using effective change management processes and planning, you can mitigate some of those issues and meet program goals successfully on time and on budget. Here are a few tips that will help to contribute to overall success: Executive Sponsorship: Ensure that the sponsor is effective and is actively engaged throughout the entire process. Data shows that the number one contributing factor for a successful change management project is how visible the sponsor is. Communicate, communicate, communicate: Communicate early and often throughout the entire process. It’s important to make sure employees fully understand what the change is, the business need for the change, what the change will mean for them, what will be required of them, how the change will occur, and one of the most important items, the risk of not changing. If employees are told only what the change is, without the why, a common response will be “so what?” If they don’t understand why a change is needed and the benefits of the change, there will be no desire to conform. Important role managers play: Managers must understand how important their role is throughout the entire change process. To be most effective, managers must first fully understand the change and how it impacts them prior to communicating it to their teams. They should remain positive about the change and “lead by example.” Additionally, they should facilitate feedback between the project team and employees and vice versa. Managers should also coach employees through the change, as not all employees handle change in the same way. Managers then must reinforce the change. Resistance Management: Resistance is a natural human reaction to change, so it’s important to expect and plan for resistance at all levels of an organization. The primary reason for resistance is lack of awareness of the need for change. To address resistance, there are several approaches you can use, but it’s best to try to understand where the resistance is coming from first. A few suggestions include: listening and understanding objections, focusing on the outcomes, removing any roadblocks, and providing clear choices and consequences related to adopting the change. Change management planning is an integral part of successful change in organizations. It isn’t performed by...

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ACQUIRE Conference Recap

Posted by on Jun 14, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

ACQUIRE Conference Recap

The first ever ACQUIRE Conference and Expo started with an excellent presentation by Joshua Cooper Ramo on his book The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune and Survival in the Age of Networks. His overall premise was to tie the term “networks” to mean interpersonal, sociological, and information networks. His theory is that everything is tied together and will only become more and more complex over time – definitely a thought provoking topic to start the day. Another interesting session dealt with the millennial generation – how they think, what motivates them, and how to market to and retain this segment of the workforce. Gabrielle Bosche provided some interesting statistics – for instance, the average longevity at an individual company or agency is currently 11 months. The exhibit hall keynotes and expo sessions were well attended, with particular focus on sessions that speak to Agile project management in the Federal environment. A small but spirited group of attendees made our “Contracting for Modular Development in IT” training session an informative and interesting experience. Paul Lohnes delivered another Management Concepts sponsored session, “Disciplined Agile for IT Project Success.” His expo session was standing room only, largely due to the Federal focus on adaptive/Agile development and the challenges this presents for the acquisition workforce. As Federal agencies move toward Agile development methodologies the ability to execute Agile contracts and the need to understand Agile development is driving interest in Agile acquisition. Day two kicked off with the incredibly inspirational Mark Kelly providing opening remarks. His wife, former Representative Gabby Giffords, made a triumphant visit to the stage and said a few words as well. Their thought provoking story of courage and persistence sent a strong motivational message to the crowd. Finally, the smell of hot buttered popcorn drifted over the crowd and brought hungry attendees to the Management Concepts booth for a welcoming break and a chance to connect with current and future clients and students on offerings in Federal acquisition and contracting, FAC-P/PM, and IT project management. See you next year, ACQUIRE!...

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Culture: What’s Your Story?

Posted by on Jun 13, 2016 in Workforce Management | 2 comments

Culture: What’s Your Story?

Every organization creates stories. Whether intended or not, these stories reflect who you are. These stories tell the tale of your organizational culture and what others inside and outside your organization think, feel, or accept as true about you. Does your culture inspire connection, innovation, energy, or agility? Does it incite uncertainty, confusion, negativity, or frustration? Or is it a mix of these attributes? We all have a unique lens through which we see and experience organizations. When individuals share stories with others about your organization, these stories become “your organizational story. ” If you want to change the stories that are shared, it may be time to look inside your organization to better understand what is going on. The good news is, whatever your current story may be, you can consciously create the organizational culture you desire. Consciously Creating Your Culture Alignment Story Consciously creating a desired culture is about aligning the expressions of culture (mission, vision, values, and every day habits) with the work of the organization to create the story you want shared. Organizations that achieve the strongest alignment between the work and expected behaviors and the mission, vision, and values of the organization make it a priority to focus on culture in two distinct ways: EXAMINING the impact of culture. At the heart of examining the impact of culture is identifying and measuring how culture supports the organization over time. Both quantitative and qualitative tools and techniques are needed to answer such questions as: How do we know and feel what is really going on? How does the current culture enable or restrain the work of individuals or groups? What is our common language and way of communicating about our culture? Is there clarity on the desired culture? How wide is the gap between the current and desired culture? What do we do if something goes wrong or does not go as planned? Is there willingness and ability to change as needed? CHANGING the impact of culture. Once there is an honest and true accounting for who and why your culture is the way it is and what you want it to be, the focus turns to changing the impact of it by defining and shifting cultural attributes. It is important to note that: Attention should be given to cultural attributes that have the most immediate impact on performance The hardest work will be internalizing the expected behaviors for each cultural attribute across the organization. Culture change is real when new behaviors are successful after working for a while and become a “norm” in the organization Individuals change when they want to. It happens on an emotional level through new insights that shift thinking and prompt a change in behavior Role models in the organization can help others learn and change more quickly. When shared learning and experience are valued, others in the organization are there to support, encourage, reinforce, and show empathy through the change and beyond so it lasts It takes reinforcement and results for expected behaviors to become real. When behavior issues are not addressed, it slows down, or prevents the behavior change process from working as intended. Engaging individuals, teams, and the collective organization is critical to examining and changing the impact of culture because of the shared and emergent learning...

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Succession Planning as a Change Management Strategy

Posted by on Jun 8, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Succession Planning as a Change Management Strategy

Succession planning is becoming a valuable strategy for organizations to undertake when looking to minimize the impact of changes on its workforce. Although still not widely utilized across Federal agencies, it is becoming recognized as an important talent management and change management strategy for retaining leaders at all levels and thus reducing disruptions caused by continual turnover. Here are two reasons this rings true: Management Concepts recently partnered with the Human Capital Media Research & Advisory Group (the research division of Human Capital Media) the publisher of Workforce, Talent Management, and Chief Learning Officer magazines to launch “The Changing Government Workplace Survey.” By exclusively surveying government employees, we were able to gain deep insight on how the public sector practices successful change management at the Federal, state and local levels. When asked what strategies or actions their organizations are undertaking to minimize the impact of change in their workplace, more than 41% of the respondents said that one of their key strategies is to formalize and implement a succession planning process. A second reason why succession planning is gaining more traction in the public sector is evidenced by an Executive Order (EO) on Strengthening the Senior Executive Service (SES) issued by the White House on December 15, 2015. The Executive Order is focused on strengthening the recruitment, hiring, and development of the Federal government’s senior executives. A key component of this EO speaks to establishing an annual talent management and succession planning process to assess the development needs of all SES members and to inform readiness decisions with regard to hiring, career development, executive reassignments, and rotations. Therefore, the objective of the succession planning effort is to ensure every organization has the highest quality talent ready to fill planned and unplanned SES vacancies, thus reducing the stress caused by leadership positions being vacant for prolonged periods of time or by filling the position with someone who is not totally qualified and thus unsuccessful in the position. Every organization will have job vacancies due to attrition or people retiring from their jobs. We all can remember a time we suffered some stress and anxiety while waiting to learn who the new leader(s) of our organization would be and what impact it would have on us and our colleagues. We know the management of this type of change is always smoother and less disruptive when the leadership replacements are quickly identified, in place, and effectively performing their role. This happens when organizations institute succession planning (or even better, succession management) on a regular basis; it helps to keep the organization healthy by ensuring the right leadership is in place at the right time. It is encouraging to see that public sector organizations are recognizing this and using succession planning as an important talent management and change management strategy.  ...

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Federal Spotlight: Karen Rainey

Posted by on Jun 7, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Karen Rainey

Karen Rainey serves as an Information Technology Specialist at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview with Karen Rainey: MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? KR: I can’t believe it’s been 10 years of Federal Service with the Department of Treasury. Throughout my career I was afforded many opportunities in leadership. Currently, as an Information Technology Specialist, I provide dedicated server support to the Internal Revenue Service infrastructure and ultimately our nation’s taxpayers. In this role, I work with a team that is responsible for operations and maintenance of servers including patching, installation updates, security standards, and overall consistency throughout virtual environments. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? KR: What keeps me passionate about the public sector are the vast amounts of memorable opportunities I’ve received in my career. One recent example was when I worked on a detail as a manager overseeing filing season projects. It was a huge challenge, but through it all, we worked as a team and I was motivated by colleagues. Joseph Campbell said that “Passion will lead men beyond themselves, beyond their shortcomings, beyond their failures.” I found that Feds are results driven and their passion comes from providing the best service they can to the American people. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? KR: One of the biggest achievements I’ve had is on a personal and professional level. I was fortunate enough to join Federally Employed Women (FEW) in 2011 and had the honor of being selected to serve on the National Board of Directors. FEW is an employee organization that promotes a diversified workforce that includes women and their masterful ability to add value to every agency. In 2015, I was chosen to lead a highly successful National Training Program for FEW which provided training to women who sought excellence in their career. Last year we took a “Journey to Excellence” for self-development and improvement for a stronger Federal workforce. Though training, we provided information on how to utilize process improvement methodologies to help attendees with their everyday work life and how to establish best practices. MC: What advice would you share on making public service a career and not a pit stop? KR: The Federal service offers great career opportunities in a variety of positions. President John F. Kennedy said it best: “You, the Federal employee, provide the mind and muscle for carrying out national and international policies, commitments, and programs. . . . Our country counts on you to meet the special challenge with a special effort.” My advice would be to make your career in public service a true investment in yourself and this country. Most Feds work a minimum of 20 to 30 years and never leave until they retire. It is my belief that we invest quickly because of our sense of loyalty, respect, and dedication to public service and this country. FEW has done a six month study on how “Federal Workers Keep America Running.” Take some time to read how every hour of every day women impact this county. Choosing a career in public service is a decision no one will regret. MC: What advice would you share...

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What the Federal Government and Toyota Have in Common

Posted by on Jun 1, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

What the Federal Government and Toyota Have in Common

Budget crunches, recruitment challenges, and knowledge loss as experienced employees retire—these together can sound like a recipe for disaster, yet history shows they can be a groundswell for innovation and increased productivity. The automotive industry—the Toyota Production System in particular, which influenced the famous NUMMI plant—demonstrates how pinching resources drives creativity and spurs innovation. In our recent Federal government change management survey completed in partnership with Human Capital Media, participants indicated that the three biggest factors driving change—budget uncertainty, challenges retaining and recruiting talent, and retirement—indicated a common squeeze associated with the drivers: increased workload for individual employees. A familiar example is the IRS, whose leadership has long voiced concern over budget and staffing cuts and the strain of increased workloads. Budget cuts, staff reductions, and retirement all contributed to increased workload which employees—and taxpayers—felt in very real ways. Increased workloads due to budget and staffing constraints places pressure on leaders and individual contributors alike. This strain decreases morale, productivity, retention, and productivity. It doesn’t have to be bleak, however: agencies who successfully manage increased workload find efficiencies, invest in employee knowledge, and ultimately become more lean. “Lean” organizations do more with less, building processes that are more efficient which is key to effectively managing the increased workload employees face. A classic model of lean operations, the Toyota approach eliminates waste in areas such as: Overproduction Unnecessary transport Excess inventory Worker motion Defects Overprocessing or overengineering Wait times Small opportunities to be lean include placing commonly used resources (supplies, filing cabinets, forms) in a central location to make them quicker to access, or finding out what time of day your team’s productivity peaks and avoiding meetings during that time. Bigger opportunities should be systemic—allocating decision-making to those closest to the work, or redesigning processes that have become too complicated over the decades. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is revising hiring practices to become more efficient—drawing on the Toyota philosophy in concrete ways such as collecting input from coworkers most impacted by the hiring process. The misconception sometimes persists that lean applies to manufacturing or software development. As a Harvard Business Review analysis demonstrates, lean operations deliver results in knowledge or service industries, too (which is much of the Federal government). Federal agencies can and should use multiple strategies to manage change. In addition to collaborating with HR, leaning on your HR business partner to design your organization effectively and implement a good succession plan, use budget and staffing change drivers as an opportunity to innovate and create ways to be lean and come out ahead of the change. As the saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” we can adapt this adage for change management and budget cuts: “When the going gets lean, the lean get going.” A smaller staff or tighter budget might initially raise concerns about decreased services, but they present pivotal opportunities to innovate and develop new, improved processes for Federal...

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DATA Act – Federal Countdown to May 2017

Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Analytics, Workforce Management | 0 comments

DATA Act – Federal Countdown to May 2017

Last week my colleague Kim Coelho brought us up-to-date on the data standards updated by Treasury last week. This hopefully will allow movement on DATA Act implementation. Several agencies reported to the Government Accountability Office prior to April that their progress was hindered due to the lack of a final DATA Act Information Model Schema (DAIMS). Any delays are concerning at this point as the statutory deadline for most requirements is May 2017. It may be that the release of the DAIMS will enable those people in the weeds of DATA Act implementation to make definitive changes in the business systems and processes that many Federal employees interact with daily. For some, there will be definite differences, like changing the structure of an agency’s award numbering system to meet the governmentwide requirements. So what should you do now? Educate yourself. The GAO released this infographic in January 2016 to provide the 50,000 foot level view of the DATA Act. It starts with the point of the law – “Citizens want to see how Federal money is spent.” Determine if you are involved. Many of us hear data, and immediately think that the people involved are mainly going to be someone from the department’s IT team. After all they design and build the systems. While that may be the case, we recommend reviewing the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ManagementProcedures Memorandum No. 2016-03. You may find that your office may need to adjust its award making processes to meet the requirement of matching financial assistance awardee names identical to those entered on SAM.gov. Budget time, people, and resources accordingly. Because the DATA Act is not new, most agencies should have included implementation activities as part of their annual budget requests. Now that Treasury has published the DAIMS and Congress is still working on FY 2017 appropriations, agency officials can take time to reassess if these requests have changed. Still feel like you’re deep in the world of technical mumbo-jumbo? Then it’s time to take the long view of the goals of the DATA Act – transparency on how our taxpayer dollars are spent. We expect that as a result of these changes, Federal departments and agencies will need to meet increased expectations on what information they can and should report. That means an increased proportion of the workforce needs analytics skills so they approach, analyze, and visualize their data effectively for the public. This summer, Management Concepts is hosting a webinar on the DATA Act and data transparency in the Federal government. Stay tuned to learn about how the DATA Act will impact your role and the wider Federal...

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Flipping the Engagement Curve

Posted by on May 24, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Flipping the Engagement Curve

There is an old saying that “what goes up must come down,” and when it comes to employee engagement in government organizations, the idiom is accurate. Last year in a report issued by the GAO, it was reported that OPM’s Employee Engagement Index (EEI) dropped from a record high of 67 percent in 2011 to 63 percent in 2014. When you think about the turmoil government employees endured in that four-year period—notably, an extended government shut down, stagnant pay, and massive budget cuts—this quick drop in employee engagement seemed like a reasonable reaction to some very difficult circumstances. Hold on though. There’s another old saying that “the devil is in the details” and if you read beyond the headline, you will find the GAO report also uncovered that despite a falling governmentwide EEI figure, many agencies managed to maintain or slightly increase employee engagement during this same period of time. Fast forward a year and results from the 2015 Best Places to Work rankings show that the trend is, indeed, reversing. “Governmentwide, Federal employee job satisfaction and commitment increased 1.2 points” from 2014-2015. No, 1.2% isn’t a dramatic shift, but it does shed light on many efforts already underway in government organizations to improve engagement and retain top talent despite nearly constant change. Our current government leaders have a very important role to play in keeping the momentum going and driving engagement scores back up and closing the gap between public and private sector engagement levels. In our report on Successful Change Management Practices in the Public Sector, we asked current government leaders about the biggest workforce challenges they’ll face because of change efforts. 54.4% of respondents felt change will have a negative impact on workforce morale. Translation: Employee engagement is at risk if efforts to support current employees in navigating change are handled poorly. Our respondents were even more concerned about increased workloads for employees and addressing critical skill gaps. When you look at these top three concerns, where should leaders put their attention to make sure employees stay engaged while participating in change efforts? Leaders should not lose focus on two key areas: Building a Diverse Team In addition to planned change efforts, issues like budget cuts, retirements, and changes in technology will undoubtedly create skills gaps and stretch the bandwidth of employees. As these changes occur, focus on building a diverse team so you maximize creativity, innovation, and the collective talents of employees. Diversity is often thought of in terms of visible attributes like age, race, gender, and ethnicity. It also includes dimensions such as individual personality, work styles, and educational experience. Government employees already do more with less but in order to establish a sustainable pace and foster resilience, you will need a team with complementary skills, strengths, and styles. Supporting Work-Life Fit Recognizing individual work styles is vital to organizational success. In an environment where you’ll need to ask more of your employees to achieve change, it’s critical for you to understand individual preferences around quality of life and where work fits into that equation. Schedule time with each employee to discuss how they want to balance life at work and life outside of work. Once you understand the individual preferences, work as a team to build a plan or schedule that maximizes everyone’s...

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Federal Agencies: Still Do More with Less

Posted by on May 19, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Agencies: Still Do More with Less

Just last week I was doing some research for a project I’m working on when I came across this lead quote from a story in the Washington Post about the challenges facing the Federal government: “Now more than ever, Federal workers are being told that they will be expected to do “more with less” for the foreseeable future.” The article describes the steps many agencies are taking to increase efficiency and maintain critical citizen support functions in the face of shrinking budgets and fewer staff and it includes this line from an employee at the Department of Commerce: “If it were possible to do more with less, eventually we would be doing everything with nothing.” The article is from 2011. For more than half a decade Federal agencies have been challenged to meet increasing expectations for citizen services, improved citizen experience, and effective performance with declining resources. And the results from our survey captured in our report on Successful Change Management Practices in the Public Sector suggest that the trend will continue for at least the next three years. In fact, 85% of respondents from public sector organizations expect retaining talent to be a major driver of change over the next three years. However, 70% of those respondents also say they don’t anticipate negative impacts on productivity or performance due to shortages of talent, suggesting that those organizations have, indeed, discovered the secret to doing more with less. But, given the long period of time when Federal agencies have had to navigate the complexities that come with fewer resources but greater expectations, it’s not a stretch to believe many agencies may be approaching a breaking point. So, how can you avoid going over the edge and maintain productivity and performance with fewer resources? One key may be building organizational resilience. Resilience is the ability to effectively recover and thrive after facing stress, challenges, or adversity. Resilience is fostered by maintaining balance physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, and by keeping a strategic view of the work of the organization. Here are a few tips for building resilience in your organization: Clarify goals, expectations, and priorities – When the organization is clear about where you are heading and has guidance to help in making difficult decisions on priority work, there’s less stress and uncertainty. Focus on the positive – Identify and put energy towards the things the organization has power to influence. Maintain awareness of outside influences and environmental conditions that may impact the work of the organization, but don’t dwell on things you can’t change. Be realistic – Communicate openly about the reality of the situation and what limitations exist. Set reasonable expectations, and be clear when impediments to success exist that may ultimately limit the ability to achieve goals. Take time to invest – Pay attention to what’s happening in your organization and do frequent “pulse checks” to detect changes and risks early. Ask questions, listen, and critically examine what you hear. By gathering valuable information about what the organization, and in particular its workforce needs to be successful, you can head off potential risks before they impact results. There’s clearly some fallacy built into the notion of asking agencies to do “more with less,” particularly after five (or more) years of the same mantra. But Federal agencies can...

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Changing Government Event with NAPA and Federal Change Agents

Posted by on May 10, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Changing Government Event with NAPA and Federal Change Agents

You may have seen or heard some of the buzz about our recent event on “Changing Government.” We celebrated Public Service Recognition Week by bringing together current and former Federal leaders who have guided their organizations through significant change, ranging from operational and public relations issues, to making difficult and potentially unpopular decisions with lasting effect on their organizations and the people serving in them. The half-day event was broken into three segments: A brief review of 2016 Changing Workplace Survey Results and Changing Government Report A panel discussion about leading change in the Federal environment A keynote address detailing how the re-visioned GPO met the challenges caused by technical disruption in the form of the Internet. The event kicked off by an overview of the results of the 2016 Changing Workplace Survey by Tim Bowden, Executive Director, Consulting Delivery, People and Performance Consulting at Management Concepts. This survey, co-sponsored by Management Concepts and Human Capital Media’s Research and Advisory Group, explores how governmental agencies implement organizational change management. The panel discussion, moderated by Janice LaChance, former Director of OPM, featured four distinguished NAPA guests: USN ADM (Ret.) Lewis W. Crenshaw, Jr., Rafael Borras, recently of DHS, Dan M. Tangherlini, former GSA Administrator, and Renee Triplett, Assistant Director, US Secret Service. Each guest recounted how they dealt with some of the significant change opportunities they faced during their time in Federal leadership roles. These challenges ranged from: Driving the introduction and acceptance of new technology Managing through circumstance-driven change vs. initiative-driven change Understanding the need to solicit and attend to the voice of the workforce when contemplating and enacting change agendas Acknowledging the importance of having executive sponsorship and “championship” to support the changes being enacted, managing to milestones of achievement, and addressing organizational or individual resistance clearly and quickly. The thought-provoking panel engaged in a vibrant exchange during the ensuing Q&A, as attendees probed some of the ideas being presented and applied the concepts to their own contexts. Our keynote speaker, Davita Vance-Cooks, Director, US Government Publishing Office, recounted the challenges of reframing the mission of the former Government Printing Office to adapt to the digital world following the introduction and growth of the Internet, without compromising its ability to deliver the services for which they are chartered. She recounted how she has led the organization to: Move from a print-centric to a content-centric mission Expend its funding more efficiently, reducing its reliance on Federal appropriations Transform the workforce from predominantly blue-collar to white-collar Create a network of satellite printing contractors to provide scalability for overflow demand in times of special need or crisis. Throughout these multiple major shifts in the GPO mission and emerging technology used for the delivery of products and services, Ms. Vance-Cooks recounted the importance of staying connected to the people being affected by the changes, listening to and incorporating their ideas, while at the same time supporting those who fear being adversely affected by the changes. The event, hosted at The University Club in downtown Washington, DC, offered an opportunity to hear from these battle-hardened veterans about their real experiences managing through change, and seeded great insights among the attendees.  ...

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AMA: Mentoring

Posted by on May 6, 2016 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 0 comments

AMA: Mentoring

This Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW), we wanted to provide Federal employees with some helpful information on mentoring. Whether you’re a millennial, baby boomer, someone who wants a mentor, or thinking about mentoring yourself, this information can be useful throughout your career. Below please find our take on a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) with our Coaching and Mentoring Practice Lead, Natalya Pestalozzi. What’s the best way to find a mentor? Potential mentors are everywhere. Finding the right one for you and entering into a mentoring relationship depends on what you’re seeking to get out of it, so get clear on that early on so you know what you’re looking for. If you would like to be “matched” with a mentor, a formal mentoring program might be the right place to start. Reach out to your HR team; they may know which departments in your organization are running a formal program, possibly in the context of leadership development. Also, a number of professional organizations provide value to their membership by matching mentees with professionals from other organizations. Check out the national association for your profession, or other professional or community groups with which you affiliated. Your alma mater is also a place to look since alumni often love to help one another. If you’re looking for something informal or a formal program isn’t available, ask around. Speak with a few colleagues whose opinion you respect and who know you fairly well. Tell them what kind of assistance you’re looking for and ask if they’d be willing to make an introduction to someone who might be a fit. Remember, mentoring relationships are developed over time. You probably won’t ask a stranger to be your mentor the first time you meet them, so ask for an informational interview without expectations of anything more. It may, though, lead to ongoing conversations and rapport building, and even referrals to other resources for professional support. If you feel a strong affinity for one another, it might just turn into a mentoring relationship, which you can craft as you go. What boundaries should you have with a mentor? Boundaries are personal. Certainly, adhere to the professional standards and ethics of your organization. That said, check in with one another. What topics are you comfortable discussing? Do you want to meet socially, strictly during office hours, or somewhere in between? How frequently? On the phone? In person? Is texting okay? Hash this out together. Boundaries can also mean getting clear on what kinds of help your mentor can provide. They might have a boundary about making introductions to their contacts before they’ve gotten to know you well. They might not want to share about their personal life. If your relationship becomes stronger, what you’re each comfortable sharing or asking for can change, and that’s okay. The important thing is that you both honor each other’s boundaries, and you won’t necessarily know where those boundaries are unless you ask. Can a mentoring relationship go wrong? Mentoring relationships can go wrong for a variety of reasons, on account of either the mentor, mentee, or both. I’ve written about some of those reasons, but oftentimes it’s the conversations you don’t have which can lead to a disconnect. Make a point to articulate your needs, hopes, and expectations (and readdress...

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Millennials in the Public Sector: We Want You!

Posted by on May 5, 2016 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Millennials in the Public Sector: We Want You!

If you Google “millennials and public service,” the search results paint an interesting picture. You will see clear references to a widening millennial talent gap alongside articles about how millennials actually love their government jobs and want a career in the public sector. Where is the truth, you ask? As always, it is probably somewhere in the middle. However, the important takeaway from this far from scientific observation is this: The Federal Government Needs Millennials. As we celebrate Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW), it is a perfect time to reflect on what this generation brings to the workplace and talk about ways millennials can find more meaning and opportunities to grow and lead in their public sector work. Transforming the Status Quo The 2015 Millennial Leadership Survey reported that 63% of millennials surveyed aspire to be a “transformational” leader. That means the majority of those seeking leadership roles are not motivated by money or power, but instead want opportunities to challenge themselves and inspire those around them to find purpose and energy in the work they do. I can tell you the issues my colleagues and I help government employees build the skills to untangle are increasingly complex and have far-reaching implications for our country. The Federal workforce needs people with inclusive leadership skills, who can tap into the collective wisdom of diverse groups and lead cross-functional teams with ease. Reality check: No, this won’t happen overnight, but today’s government leaders can take steps to give emerging leaders the tools they need to create new patterns of behavior and build resilience in organizations. Given the density of issues facing government organizations, being a transformational leader must also involve entrepreneurial thinking—another hallmark strength of the millennial generation. If the issues government organizations face are stickier than ever, approaching them with an entrepreneurial mindset produces the accountability, flexibility, and ingenuity needed to ignite and sustain lasting changes. Once again, current senior leaders play an important role in helping this next generation of leaders tap into their entrepreneurial genes by being transparent about what’s going on in an organization and authentic in how they can engage millennials in being part of the solution. Finding Meaning and Opportunity If you are a millennial working in the public sector, here’s four tips to help you more fully connect with your organization and find a path that fits your values and talents: Find a Mentor: You should understand “standard” career paths in your organization but you should also seek a mentor to learn how your talents as an individual can support organizational goals. Your mentor cannot only help you find ways to stay engaged and plan for the future, but learning from their experiences can literally place you years ahead of your peers. Your organization may not have a formal mentoring program, but building a network of informal mentors is just as (if not more) effective. Seek Feedback: It’s a common complaint that millennials in government organizations can’t hear enough about their performance from their supervisors or others in leadership roles. Rather than wait and let frustration build about someone’s communication style or performance management skills, ask for the feedback you want. And, be specific. Target the skills you want to refine and use the insight they provide to reflect on your performance and set...

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Federal Spotlight: Michelle A. Crockett

Posted by on May 4, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Michelle A. Crockett

This Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW), we are especially proud to highlight out latest Federal Spotlight. Michelle A. Crockett, serves as the Acting Director of the Civil Rights Office at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Here’s our Federal Spotlight with Michelle Crockett: Moderator: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? MC: As Acting Director, Civil Rights Office, at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), I serve as the principal advisor on all matters of Civil Rights and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO). I am responsible for developing, directing, and coordinating organizational programs, policies, and activities to ensure the accomplishment of EEO and civil rights responsibilities, and evaluating the implementation of these actions. Most importantly, I am responsible for administering efforts to support and explore activities that promote, recognize, and value diversity in the workforce. My life has been shaped from experiences I had growing up in the small southern town of LaGrange, GA. My parents instilled in me the importance of a strong work ethic and education, cultivated in a faith-centered home. My parents experienced discrimination and they were always aware of its existence, but they would never allow me to use it as an excuse for not working hard to achieve success. My father’s favorite quote was, “hard work is its own reward” and I have to agree that these words have served as the catalysis for my success. I received my bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Georgia Southwestern University and my Certification in Equal Employment Opportunities Studies from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University. I began my Federal career within the Department of Defense, Defense Commissary Agency as an Accounting Specialist, but my true passion for equal rights and opportunities lead me to my position here at NOAA. It may sound like a cliché, but I truly love my job. No two days are the same and every day I have the ability to foster and generate a greater awareness for organizational diversity. People are diverse in many ways. We all have a number of differences that offer substantial opportunities and possibilities to make organizations successful and our world a better place. When we accept our differences and learn to work with them, we enrich our lives and improve the creativity and productivity of the organization. Hence, when we are able to fully embrace and implement an effective diversity strategy whereby everyone feels validated, the need for enforcement policies are diminished. Moderator: What is one of your biggest achievements? MC: Beyond fostering diversity, my job also allows me to support employee affinity groups and non-profit professional organizations that seek to eliminate barriers for members of underrepresented groups in the Federal workplace. One such group is Federally Employed Women (FEW). FEW is a 46 year old grassroots organization with a mission to end sex and gender discrimination, to encourage diversity for inclusion and equity in the workplace, and to advance the professional growth of women in Federal service. In 2012, I was elected as FEW’s 22nd National President and I was re-elected on May 2014 to serve a second term. Moderator: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? MC: My work for FEW fuels my passion...

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Report: Successful Change Management Practices in the Public Sector

Posted by on May 3, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Report: Successful Change Management Practices in the Public Sector

The quest to improve management of change in public sector agencies is by no means a new one. In 2006, Frank Ostroff, writing in the Harvard Business Review comments, that “the greatest challenge in bringing about successful change and significant, sustained performance improvement in the public sphere is not so much identifying solutions, which are mostly straightforward, as working around the unique obstacles” that are found in the public sector organizations. These unique obstacles – the profound differences in the missions, purposes, cultures, and contexts for government versus those of private sector business, mean that achieving sustainable change in government organizations requires building a new model for change that is informed by, and organic to the organizations that need to change. To better understand how individuals inside public sector organizations are navigating the complex changes they face on a daily basis, Management Concepts partnered with Human Capital Media to survey nearly 500 employees in Federal, state, and local government organizations about the challenges, strategies, and approaches that define successful change in those agencies. While many of the things we found in the study simply reinforce recognized best practices for managing change, I thought I’d share two items that were left on the cutting room floor when we wrote the full report. Be aware of outside experts who want to run your change program One of the things we asked respondents was to tell us if their organization has a track record of successful change, and the strategies they’ve used to manage change. When it comes to using outside consultants, only 3% of successful organizations report using consultants while 35% of organizations who have struggled with change in the past indicate that they use outside consultants. For traditional change management consultants this could a discouraging number. But, as Andrea Lee, Managing Director for Organizational Change Management at Management Concepts notes, “Successful change should be owned and executed by the organization itself, not by outside consultants driving it. This is why change agent networks tend to work so well and that’s why we emphasize designing change management programs that focus on organizational ownership of not only the change strategy but the change execution as well. The right role for a consultant is in the background, providing advice, support, and evaluation, not leading the change effort.” Culture matters, probably more than you think it does. When it comes to building an organization where sustainable change is possible, and is in fact, expected, the culture of the organization needs to be a central area of focus. More than half of successful organizations in our survey indicate that they will work to improve culture as part of their change efforts. Research has shown that organizations with constructive cultures are more adaptable and experience less stress. With norms that focus on achievement, affiliation, and encouraging behaviors, constructive cultures foster the pursuit of higher level individual and organizational needs that are required for successful change. A 2011 study published in the Strategy & Business magazine found that increased spending on R&D failed to drive results in the absence of a culture that is appropriately aligned with the organization’s strategic objectives. Similarly, increased spending on change management strategies likely won’t drive results without an accompanying investment in creating a constructive, well-aligned culture. Government agencies must simultaneously deal...

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Public Service Recognition Week 2016

Posted by on May 2, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Public Service Recognition Week 2016

Thank you for your daily contribution to deliver on the promises of government. Without the dedication and commitment of the men and women who serve our nation as Federal, state, county, and local government employees, our country would simply not function. We join the Public Employees Roundtable (PER) in celebrating Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW). The first week of May each year we will have special recognition for students who attend classes in the education centers. With more than a million public sector employee alumni, we are proud to serve the government for the past 43 years. If you haven’t looked at Management Concepts lately, we are growing and changing just like our customers. Take a look at our Consulting offerings that complement the training so many people have attended. Thank you! Tom Dungan...

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TOC Recap: Sea Change – Ocean of Opportunities

Posted by on Apr 28, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

TOC Recap: Sea Change – Ocean of Opportunities

The Training Officers Consortium (TOC) 2016 Annual Institute was held in Ocean City, MD from April 17-20, 2016 And Management Concepts was honored to be a gold sponsor. There were more than 175 attendees and the theme this year was “Sea Change – Ocean of Opportunities.” The institute provided the attendees with a range of speakers and sessions on such topics as: Keys to Leadership Accountability, Adaptability and Resilience Talent Management Coaching Diversity and Inclusion Competency Best Practices Over the course of three days we conducted two sessions. One of our instructors, Maria Morukian, presented “Fostering Accountability, Adaptability and Resilience” where she discussed how individuals should hold themselves responsible for behaviors and actions, be willing to change as needed, acknowledge setbacks, and find creative ways to move forward. Dr. Shelley Kirkpatrick, Director of Assessment Services and Kriste Buchanan, Senior Assessment Consultant (both from Management Concepts) presented “A Return to Best Practices, Developing the Workforce to Efficiently Meet Agency Missions.” They led a lively discussion on how to avoid common competency pitfalls and best practices for overcoming them. On a side note, the debate in the room on competency modeling was riveting – and why offsites like this institute are necessary for great dialogue! The organizers this year planned activities specifically targeted at driving traffic and participation in the exhibit hall. As a result the booth traffic was flowing and we were highly engaged with the attendees throughout the event. Some of the key ideas discussed at TOC were: Emotional intelligence: Be self-aware. Self-manage yourself. Build relationships. Practice social awareness. Manage differences that lead to conflict: Even though conflict is a normal part of organizational life, unmanaged conflict can lead to reduced levels of teamwork, diminished employee commitment, and lower levels of productivity. Building capable leaders:Continue to build more capable and effective leaders that help organizations become high performing. Analytics: There were a variety of discussions around what data-driven practices should be implemented to assess workforce skills and identify gaps that need to be filled. Accountability: Delegating authority and responsibility without attaching accountability and consequences for failing to perform is a barrier to achieving missions and organizational goals. Competency best practices:Create a strategic process for developing competencies that will reflect what is needed in the future and not what was needed yesterday. Finally, I was thrilled to be selected to introduce the dynamic keynote speaker, Dr. Cheryl Ann Seminara, Director of Employee Development in the Office of Chief Component Human Capital Officer (CCHCO) within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Her presentation was on “Changing the Culture of Leadership – One Leader at a Time.” My four key takeaways from her presentation are: Know your culture Identify your champions Know why you are trying to change Inspire others to change The TOC community provided Management Concepts with great nuggets of information to take back to our teams and discuss the workforce and performance improvement concerns government employees are dealing with today and in the future. Thank you for a great institute. See you next year TOC!...

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Roles Young Professionals Play in Recruiting Diversity, Leading Cultural Transformation

Posted by on Apr 8, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Roles Young Professionals Play in Recruiting Diversity, Leading Cultural Transformation

Last month Management Concepts, Young Government Leaders, and Blacks In Government (BIG) NOW Generation partnered to host a panel focused on the impact millennials in government can have on recruiting diversity and shaping culture. Our panelists, Christian Blackman of BIG NOW, Manuel Ramirez of USDA FNS, and Rebecca Rose and Miguel Joey Aviles of YGL, offered their advice on how young professionals can lead from their current positions to help their agencies move toward a constructive culture. The far ranging panel discussion, with great inputs from the audience, covered a variety of topics from which three key themes emerged. Specifically, to influence culture in Federal agencies, millennials should: Embrace Your Voice – As a young professional in the Federal government you may find yourself surrounded by more experienced colleagues who can feel more authoritative on issues and challenges facing your organization. However, each individual brings a unique perspective to solving agency challenges based on their background, experiences, and expertise. When you have a unique and well-informed point-of-view, don’t be afraid to speak up. Seize the opportunity to contribute. Remember, you can lead from any position, but you have to be willing to take the risk of putting yourself out there to demonstrate your value to others. Be Outcomes-Focused – At the end of the day, to have an impact on the culture of your agency, you must tie the things you advocate for to the things that matter to the organization. It’s vital that young professionals think, act, and speak in terms of how what they are doing and that the change they want to see relates to the mission-driven outcomes of the organization. Using culture to influence the effectiveness of your organization is a much shorter path to change than focusing on culture change alone. Find a Sensei – Effecting in an organization requires a keen understanding of politics and influence networks in the organization. As a younger worker who may not have been in the organization for a long time, understanding the landscape of your organization can be a challenge. Seek out a trusted advisor who has a long tenure in the organization that can help you navigate the often treacherous waters of influence. Look for someone who is a willing guide, who offers a different perspective and approach than your own, and who isn’t afraid to offer difficult feedback when it’s warranted. Having a sage guide that understands the influence networks and taboos of your organization will increase your chances of successful change. As the number of millennials in the workforce grows, the group will have an ability to significantly influence the culture of Federal agencies. Following these three simple tips can help multiply that influence. Finally, thank you to the United States Department of Agriculture for hosting the event. And special thanks to Ms. Bianca Oden, USDA Deputy Chief of Staff, Mr. Elvis Cordova, Deputy Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, and Mr. Marcus Brownrigg, Deputy Director for the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships for sharing their insights with the attendees.  ...

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Federal Spotlight: Elaine Ho

Posted by on Apr 5, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Elaine Ho

Elaine Ho serves as a Fellow in the White House Leadership Development Program. Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview with Elaine Ho: MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? EH: Right after law school, I started my career in the Air Force JAG Corps in 2001. I was actually at JAG School on September 11th. I served four years on active duty until 2005 and, in fact, I’m still in the Air Force Reserves today. After active duty, I took some time to go into private practice. In 2007, I then rejoined the Federal government and have been serving in various places through government ever since. My most recent landing place is really a unique and awesome opportunity. The White House has started a new fellowship called the White House Leadership Development Program. The fellowship called for senior members across government to come together to see how we could tackle some really challenging problems and at the same time determine how we can get government to work more collaboratively. There are sixteen of us in this inaugural fellowship. My assignment is working with the Office of the First Lady and the National Security Council and a number of Federal agencies to help coordinate and implement the First Lady’s initiative called Let Girls Learn. This fellowship started in November and it’s been a fascinating experience so far to work with her office and the other Federal agencies involved in this important work. MC: A quick follow up regarding this Fellowship: what qualities do you embody and demonstrate to your peers, your team, and young women that you think will help them have a similar trajectory in their careers? EH: I think I have been exposed to so many different leaders along the way, and one thing I’ve been intentional about is observing, absorbing, and seeing what works for you. I would say, first and foremost, to be authentic. You may see someone who is successful and demonstrate a certain leadership characteristic, but it may or may not work for you. You may need time to figure what it means “to be yourself,” but it’s one the best pieces of advice that people have given me. I also think being resilient is really important as a leader because you’re thrown so many different curve balls. You’re dealing with so many different personalities, you’re trying to build relationships, and sometimes you’re in a really stressful environment trying to make significant progress. Inevitably things will happen that will get you down; it’s really important to figure out for yourself how you can bounce back. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t identify being inclusive as an important leadership quality. While I’ve done a lot of different things in my career, a large part of it has been in the diversity and inclusion space. Not only have I studied and researched the principles of diversity and inclusion, but I have also had opportunities to practice, guide, and convey to others the value of inclusion – the importance of leveraging the different strengths and talents around you, allowing different perspectives to be heard and engaging individuals for who they are. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector?...

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Leadership Presence: Harnessing Our Personal Power

Posted by on Mar 16, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Leadership Presence: Harnessing Our Personal Power

“Your body shapes your mind. Your mind shapes your behavior. And your behavior shapes your future. – Amy Cuddy Notice your body posture right now as you’re reading this blog. Are you hunched over at your computer, shoulders turned in, head lowered close to the screen? Are your hands folded, are your legs crossed? If so, straighten your spine, push your shoulders back, lift your chin up, open your arms and drape them on your desk or at the sides or your chair. Or better yet, raise your arms in a V of triumph and throw your head back! Notice anything different in how you feel? It turns out that your body language has an immense impact on not only your physical health but also your emotional state, performance, and even tolerance for risk and ambiguity. In her highly acclaimed book, Presence, social psychologist Amy Cuddy delves into the research examining the connection between the mind and body when it comes to personal power, and the influence of personal power and “presence” over our behaviors. What is Presence? Cuddy defines presence as, “the state of being attuned to and able to comfortably express our true thoughts, feelings, values, and potential.” She argues that presence is not a permanent state, rather a moment-by-moment experience that occurs when we feel personally powerful, when we feel most authentically ourselves. Presence allows us to manage even the most tense and challenging conditions, and leads not only to lower stress levels but to more effective decision making and accurate problem solving. Presence is About the Authentic You Numerous studies indicate that “self-affirmation” reduces anxiety and yields higher performance. You may be immediately thinking of Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live, who used a slew of “affirmations” to feel better but ultimately felt horrible about himself. Cuddy argues that in this context, self-affirmation refers to practices that connect people with their core values and beliefs that ground them in their truest sense of themselves. In one particular study with participants given very stressful and challenging tasks, one group performed better and had lower levels of cortisol, the hormone released when we experience stress. That group of participants was simply asked to reflect and write about their core values prior to the stressful situation. So by simply getting in touch with our personal core values, not even values related to the task at hand, we can lower our stress levels and allow ourselves to perform at higher levels. Presence is About Personal Power Cuddy talks about power not in terms of social or positional power over others, rather in terms of personal power, or control over one’s inner resources. When we feel a sense of personal power, we feel more confident, at ease, and safe. We are thus more likely to think clearly, to engage in rational decision making, and perform tasks accurately. Studies showed that priming participants by simply recalling a powerful or powerless experience or even looking at words like “control and authority” versus “obey and subordinate” impacts performance: those who were primed with powerful imagery or words made significantly fewer mistakes. Be Authentic…but Fake It? Cuddy argues that in order to achieve presence, especially during stressful conditions, we have to “fake it till we make it,” which seems counterintuitive considering her definition of...

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Federal Spotlight: Mary Davie

Posted by on Mar 8, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Mary Davie

Mary Davie serves as Assistant Commissioner, Office of Integrated Technology Services (ITS) at the General Services Administration (GSA). She was recently named a Federal 100 award winner – her third to date. Mary was also named the Meritorious Executive Winner in the 2015 Presidential Rank Awards, which recognize SES members for their exceptional service. Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview with Mary Davie: MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? MD: I actually started working for the Federal government (GSA) in college as a summer job. So 26 years later, here I am. I’ve held a number of different positions at GSA and I currently serve as the Assistant Commissioner for the Integrated Technology Services (ITS) Portfolio in GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service. In this role I develop and manage IT and telecommunications programs providing access to private sector solutions to Federal, state and local agencies worldwide. These programs include IT services, hardware, software, telecommunications and IT infrastructure, cyber security, identity management, data center, cloud, mobility, and wireless – $23B is spent through ITS annually through thousands of contract vehicles. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? MD: I absolutely love the work we do and what GSA delivers. Throughout my career, I’ve worked with just about every DoD and civilian agency and have been involved in delivery of solutions that impact everything from our environment, to homeland defense, to improving citizens’ and veterans’ access to services for things like housing, healthcare, and transportation. In addition, I’ve been able to help shape and implement governmentwide policy and laws for IT and acquisition. Some examples are the Open Government Directive, Cloud First Policy, Strategic Sourcing, Category Management, 25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology Management, Data Center Consolidations, FITARA, Cybersecurity Sprint and Implementation Plan, to name a few. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? MD: Not sure that I’d characterize it as an “achievement,” but I think the collaboration and relationships we’ve developed across government and with industry in almost all of our programs is most significant. We partner with agencies and with industry on everything we do. We have very strong partnerships with many agencies which have resulted in higher quality and more effective solutions and contracts for them. As a result we are seeing more demand for and adoption of the governmentwide solutions GSA puts in place which reduces duplication and cost for everybody. MC: What advice would you share on making public service a career and not a pit stop? MD: The government is a big place and there are so many opportunities for people to make a career of it, whether it’s the agency, the location, the type of work, how you work, etc. I think the government provides the most diversity in giving people choices for career paths. You can follow your passion and make a difference – anywhere in the world. I’ve traveled across the US and overseas supporting delivery of a host of missions and am thankful for the opportunities and experiences I’ve had. MC: What advice would you share with young people on entering government? MD: Take advantage of those opportunities and experiences public sector service has to offer. It’s up to...

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Internet of Things – Web of Policies

Posted by on Mar 2, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Internet of Things – Web of Policies

I’m lucky. I’m embarking on the quintessential project management example of life: The house remodel. The options of what I could have connected to WiFi blows my mind. I think I could buy a fridge that would sense that I just took four Thin Mints out of the freezer and logged it to my fitness wristband. The possibility of this is cool. And I’m not sure if I’m ok it. This is the Internet of Things (IoT) as an individual consumer. But what happens when we’re spending government dollars? The ones pooled together from a diverse public, divided on privacy and other issues? A web of policies. Before I move on, let’s agree to leave the thought, legal precedence, and ethics to people more astute than me. I encourage you to form your own principles on these issues. Let’s focus on some of the questions you need to ask to be policy compliant when purchasing items that exchange information (IoT). Understand the Lifecycle. I read an article in the Economist last month about the advent of 5G wireless. If I’m a government official who finally just got 4G/LTE devices into all of my staff’s hands, I need to start thinking about replacements. Which could mean for your organization to plan well, you need to assert that the investment in information-exchanging tool A over five years will benefit the community more than keeping tool B around until it fails. In other words, conduct a cost-benefit analysis to evaluate the trade-offs between new vs. maintenance and operations. Include Privacy Impact Assessments of the “Thing” and its Processes. DHS has a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) template that applies when Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is exchanged. Federal agencies have a responsibility to inform the public when PII is exchanged. If you’re a non-Fed, confer with your organization’s leadership on privacy policies, especially if you receive grant funds. More importantly, evaluate how the “thing” contributes and risks the information exchanged. Some risk may be acceptable to meet the policy goals, objectives, and compromises. Don’t Forget the Accessories. I’m not talking cords. Think about the antennas and servers – the other “stuff” – needed to make your new thing work. That new cache in devices may require a special antenna on a building connected to servers. Cue at least a phone call to your trusted environmental and historic preservation Build Customer Service into the Purchase. Who will provide you and your staff service when the thing fails? When new staff arrives? When it’s interoperable with the old things? If you see a proposal to buy a product – whether through a grant or a procurement – without a plan for post-purchase service, ask questions. No one, especially Congress, likes finding out about boxes of things sitting behind someone’s desk gathering dust. These are only some of the considerations you will run into when using Federal funds to buy IoT products and services. Your challenge is to find a way to get the innovative products and tools to those who need them while navigating the web of...

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Want a Smarter Workplace? Focus on Diversity

Posted by on Feb 26, 2016 in Leadership, Uncategorized, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Want a Smarter Workplace? Focus on Diversity

Diversity efforts are often perceived as solely focusing on compliance with Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws or enforcing political correctness. Yet in reality, there are scientific and business reasons for leaders to take action to create more diverse and inclusive working environments. For today’s organizations, diversity and inclusion are crucial for organizational success, creativity, innovation, and talent maximization. This is Your Brain on Diversity Creating diverse environments is not only important for building stronger communities and organizations, it also impacts the way our brains function. Studies comparing groups with ethnic, gender, and sexual-orientation diversity to more homogeneous groups time and again find that the diverse groups are more innovative and creative, and demonstrate better decision making and problem solving than less diverse groups. Differences Prevent Groupthink and Expert Overconfidence Homogeneous groups with similar experiences and ways of problem solving will tend to agree with one another more readily, and may fall prey to “groupthink,” a phenomenon where individuals consciously or unconsciously feel inclined toward consensus rather than challenging the status quo. Groupthink occurs when individuals develop an inaccurate sense of surety in their ideas, or refrain from dissenting due to concerns about their reputations within the homogeneous group. Diverse groups are less bound by this “expert overconfidence” complex or pressure to maintain a sense of sameness. In fact, the mere presence of divergent experiences, viewpoints, and approaches to problem solving within a diverse group provokes more active thinking. To put it plainly, working in diverse groups puts people’s brains on alert and engages them in more neural activity. Stir Up Some Dissonance Word of caution: it’s not enough to just get a bunch of different people in a room together. Successful and innovative organizations foster environments in which every individual feels valued and able to fully contribute. Organizational leaders who build inclusive environments don’t focus merely on building “kumbaya” cultures, either. In his book, Originals, Dr. Adam Grant advises organizational leaders seeking to build more innovative and successful organizational cultures to: Hire for cultural contribution rather than cultural “fit” by looking for diverse backgrounds, skill sets, and personality traits rather than hiring those who think in similar ways. Unearth the devil’s advocates who will offer well-reasoned dissenting opinions and challenge the status quo. Invite and listen to criticism from all corners of the organization rather than only inviting the opinions of individuals who typically share their ways of thinking. At first glance, homogeneity looks easier. Diversity brings challenges. Decision-making is messier and takes more time. Individuals have to let go of their traditional views and ways of thinking. Teams have to stretch themselves outside their comfort zones in terms of their beliefs. However, leaders who commit to building strong foundations of diversity and inclusion, who invite divergent ways of thinking while fostering cohesive and caring teams, will be rewarded with high functioning, innovative, and engaged...

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Unofficial Rules of Change

Posted by on Feb 17, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Unofficial Rules of Change

If you’ve ever been stuck waiting in the lobby of a dentist office or standing in line at the market, then you’ve no doubt had a chance to flip through pages of pop culture magazines. You may have even surveyed the ever-popular “Do, Don’t” section featuring A-list celebrities in compromising situations or donning attire that should have never made it off the hanger. What draws our attention to these pages is, among other things, a desire to avoid making similar unalterable blunders. As a professional, at some point you’ll experience an unalterable blunder, or you’ll observe someone you respect experiencing their own blunder. (Hopefully, never to be published.) This is where the “Do, Don’t” decision factor comes into play for many of us. The concept of exercising “Do’s and Don’ts” became apparent to me as I worked with executives to help them implement major organizational change management programs. I began to see a pattern in executive decision-making during the planning stages of major programs that frightened me because their decisions erred on the side of inevitable blunder. Over the years, I’ve cataloged a spectrum of my recommended “Do’s and Don’ts,” some heralded as best practices while others can only be described as professionally derailing for the leader who insisted on carrying the decision forward. These Do’s and Don’ts have formed the basis of what have become my Unofficial Rules of Change; fundamentals of what to do, and not to do, in order to implement a successful change program. Here are just a few: Rule #1: DO factor Organizational Change Management into projects. DON’T wait until halfway through the project to do it! I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been airdropped into a project that’s well-underway in order to “get the project back on track”. This all-to-common practice is a worst case scenario for most change managers. At this stage of the project there are major symptoms of resistance, lack of clarity of end-state vision, lack of visible leadership and accountability for success, and critical project milestones are at risk of being delayed. Sound familiar? Most of this can be avoided if change management is factored into the project plan, resources, and budget up front. Rule #2: DO have an end-state in mind. DON’T multiply the end-state by a factor of 200! When implementing complex change that involves multiple stakeholder groups, it’s not unusual to encounter disagreement about what the change should entail and what the future should look like. Invest the time up front in aligning leaders and stakeholders around a shared vision that each of them has had a role in shaping. The clear vision and stakeholder alignment will prove invaluable down the road. Rule #3: DO have a motivated and inspiring leader in charge. DON’T forget to hold her/him accountable! Let’s be clear about one thing. Leadership, or lack thereof, will make or break programs involving major change. (Read more about that here from my colleague) Whether it’s one, two, or a cadre of leaders being held responsible for transforming the business, there should be a ‘buck-stops-here’ leader capable and willing to marshal the project, delegate responsibilities, engage stakeholders at all levels, and enable swift and sound decision making. Rule #4: DO communicate about the change. DON’T stop with one communication! I repeat…don’t stop...

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Federal Spotlight: Darryl E. Peek II

Posted by on Feb 10, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Darryl E. Peek II

Darryl E. Peek II serves as a Senior IT Specialist in Department of Homeland Security (DHS), National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), Office of Cybersecurity and Communication (CS&C), Federal Network Resilience (FNR) Division. Here’s our interview with Darryl. MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? DP: I have been in Federal service two and a half years. I started my career off supporting the Intelligence Community (IC) and after doing that for a number of years I then worked as contractor support for the Department of State (DoS) Information Assurance office performing cybersecurity-related activities. Currently, my primary responsibility is associated with cybersecurity strategy, policy and planning, which entails me performing outreach for DHS Network Defense Capabilities, cyber strategic planning, and providing input to cyber legislative mandates which include Executive Orders, OMB Memorandums and FISMA requiring DHS review. I’m also the lead for process improvement for the FNR Division, and the FNR SharePoint lead; I helped in re-branding the division’s internal and external websites in order to make it more user-friendly for our employees and more informative for our stakeholders and visitors. Further, I am the CS&C Employee Advisory Council president, which is the intermediate between the Assistant Secretary and the CS&C employees, voicing employee concerns, as well as spearheading employee morale building activities, or team building activities. Finally, I am the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), dealing with the majority of the human capital performance-related activities within the organization. I coordinate with the CS&C Chief of Staff, as well as with my position’s leadership in order to ensure that employees’ needs are fulfilled and that we are hiring, maintaining, and retaining the best and the brightest. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? DP: The DHS mission is very intriguing to me because it directly impacts me and my quality of life. I not only work as a government employee, but as a concerned citizen who wants to ensure that my family and my friends maintain the quality of life that the United States offers its citizens. That’s what really inspires me to wake up and give my best every day in order to reflect the fact that we have a big mission – our mission is to protect the homeland from a cyber perspective and that’s what I enjoy. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? DP: Well, meeting the President was very cool. It was only for a brief amount of time, I was actually escorting him for a briefing on cybersecurity. I could just see the confidence in him which was awesome. He was very gracious to the DHS staff. He talked to me and said “Thanks for having us, what’s your name, thank you for what you do.” It was the extent of the conversation but it was memorable, definitely. I was also on what I call the dream team panel for cybersecurity technology and information technology. I was on the panel with Vint Cerf, who is noted as an inventor of the Internet; Dr. Ron Ross who leads the development of IT security standards and guidelines for the Federal government; Chris Inglis, who was the former Deputy Director of the NSA; Dr. David A. Bray...

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How Does the Strength of Culture Make a Difference?

Posted by on Feb 8, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

How Does the Strength of Culture Make a Difference?

A recent Nextgov blog highlighted that while some specific areas of satisfaction actually increased, the American Customer Satisfaction Index shows a continuing downward trend in citizen satisfaction with the Federal government for the third consecutive year. As I read this blog I couldn’t help but think about what the biggest contributing factor might be for this continuing drop in citizen satisfaction. After a quick mental exercise of naming some factors based on over three decades of working with Federal organizations, “the human experience” seems to be the best expression of what citizens are seeking from the Federal government, but not regularly getting. There are many ways for Federal organizations to create and shape a citizen’s human experience. The most powerful being when there is organizational clarity at all levels around the vision and value of the citizen experience. In our work with public sector organizations, we have found that the most successful ones use the strength of culture to create shared learning and mutual experiences across the organization to enhance what those external to the organization say about them. Leaders of these organizations do these three things to be successful: Model the expected behaviors of their organization’s citizen experience vision and values Use feedback and insights about citizen experiences from employees and citizens to translate and align expected behaviors within the organization Measure the behaviors and actions that matter most knowing that what you measure is what changes In turn, these leaders also support their employees, enabling them to do these three things to be successful: Look inward before looking outward to check their spirit of helping others succeed Connect to the true purpose of the organization’s mission work, knowing that if you feel a part of something bigger, you perform better Reflect on your commitment to delivering the desired human experience by forming new or different habits of thinking and behavior when a shift in culture is needed These are just a few of the success factors of organizations that use the strength of culture to influence their level of effectiveness. How does your Federal organization stack up? As an organizational leader, how are you helping others to see the value of a constructive culture? As an employee, how are your everyday practices impacting the human experience of...

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Color Inside the Lines: It Helps Your Brain

Posted by on Feb 5, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Color Inside the Lines: It Helps Your Brain

Coloring books saved my life last week. Okay, that is a slight exaggeration but next time you are browsing on Amazon, do yourself a favor add one to your cart. Here’s why. While the “DMV” was piled under an epic amount of snow, much business went on as usual—only from our homes. And, if your situation was like mine, that means trying to get work done with two kids and a dog begging to go sledding, and a husband who was on one conference call after another within earshot. Snow days are not what they used to be and by mid-week my head was spinning. So, late one afternoon between meetings, I reached for the adult coloring book that was an impulse purchase during the Holiday season shopping frenzy and tried desperately to focus myself. I know. The term “adult coloring book” in and of itself sounds questionable, but it is a hugely popular trend and for good reason: coloring books are another tool that can help us become more mindful as we navigate life at a frantic pace. I’m not suggesting you can color your way to a perpetual Zen state, but it worked to slow my mind and allow it to wander so I could then tackle the rest of my meetings with more clarity. I’m late to the mindfulness party, but I finally felt what so many of my colleagues and friends have been trying to help me to understand: That’s what all of this talk of mindfulness is about—to generate in the moment awareness of what is happening in our body and in our environment so we can be more present, aware, and focused. By the way, if you are a doodler, you might be happy to learn that you enjoy the same benefits from sketching patterns, people, or whatever you tend to draw when your doodling mind takes over. Get Into Your Head Learning how to be more mindful is a personal exploration, so no worries if coloring or doodling aren’t your thing. Here’s a few other ways to become more mindful that might be more your style: Go outdoors. Simply strolling in the outdoors can induce a meditative state that helps to calm your mind and generate awareness of what’s happening around you. If you live in the city, find a park or other space away from the cacophony of (charming yet distracting) urban noises. Or, if getting lost in nature evokes panic for you, seek out a new experience. When you get out of your typical patterns and do something different, it forces you to live in the moment and be aware of what you are feeling and experiencing. Pay attention to your breathing. Your Fitbit or Apple Watch can tell you a lot about your physical state throughout the day, but perhaps the easiest way to be mindful is to ignore yet another device tethered to you and listen to your body. Focusing on your breathing helps to tune out the noise that clouds our mind and leads to hyper-emotional or knee-jerk reactions in situations. You can try a series of slow breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, but just paying attention to your natural rhythm for 1-2 minutes is usually enough to still your mind. Stop,...

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Change of Administration: Leadership Transitional Year

Posted by on Feb 4, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Change of Administration: Leadership Transitional Year

With the presidential election and change of administration happening in less than a year, there will be a huge focus on political and career leadership transitions within the Federal agencies. Obviously positions designated for political appointees will be most impacted by the political changes. However, the skilled and committed civil service leaders will likely remain in place. So before these transitions occur, this is the perfect time to implement a disciplined approach to leadership succession management. I’ve been involved in succession management activities with senior leaders at various agencies and saw firsthand how invaluable it was to have them engaged in this process for their personal insights and broad perspectives. Their energy and focus on creating a sustainable pipeline of current and future leaders equipped to perform agency missions and achieve their strategic goals was viewed as a major responsibility of their role. A sustainable pipeline ensures the right leaders are ready, when and where they are needed, now and in the future. Succession management is an important element of the agency’s overall talent management strategy. It focuses on identifying high-potential leaders, developing them, determining their readiness for a specific role, and supporting their move in a thoughtful and comprehensive way. Succession management isn’t a rigorous assignment, but because the efforts of the process aren’t often revealed until a key leader leaves, many organizations don’t take the time to create and implement a succession process until it becomes a critical requirement. The succession management process includes a fairly linear sequence of events (but some steps in the process can be customized to the unique needs of each organization): Identify mission critical roles that exist within the organization Agree on what requirements are necessary for success – both professional and technical competencies and past experiences; these are often referred to as “success profiles” Identify where the talent lies within the organization – Individuals need to be assessed for their potential to lead in roles with a broader scope and level of complexity. Specify what development gaps exist with the talent identified and actions needed to close those gaps. This can include new assignments/projects, coaching and mentoring, and targeted formalized learning opportunities. The President’s Management Council (PMC) and the Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCO) Council launched a PMC Interagency Rotation Program in 2011 to bolster cross-agency exposure for high potential GS 13-15s. Through six-month developmental assignments, this program enables emerging Federal leaders to expand their management skills, broaden their organizational experience, and foster networks they can leverage in the future. Additionally, the recently launched White House Leadership Development Program is another innovative effort that strives to create and sustain a strong cadre of Federal leaders. There are many benefits to be gained by implementing a succession management initiative. It ensures there is a strong leadership pipeline to fill mission critical roles so the agency can continue to effectively focus on its strategic objectives despite any political upheaval. It also helps with retention and motivation for employees identified as high potentials. Additionally, with focused development plans, they will be more prepared and more successful in their new roles. Lastly, evaluating the workforce in preparation for succession management gives the organization a great perspective regarding the current and future talent needs within the organization. What do you think we’ll see as our transitional...

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Employee Wellness

Posted by on Jan 25, 2016 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Employee Wellness

Last week I lost my house key. And then a replacement house key. And then my wallet. Yesterday I dashed out to do an errand and upon returning to my car, realized I had left my phone in the car. In the computer bag with my laptop. Next to the car keys. With the car running. I was equally angry and amused by this complete and utter flake out. Amused by my almost cinematic absent-mindedness, and angry because I had recently made significant changes in my professional and personal life to be more healthy and well-balanced. Here I was, having taken the plunge to live my life with complete purpose and intention. I had a visual in my mind of myself, tranquil and free of anxiety, full of positive energy and wisdom. Instead, I felt like a disheveled, forgetful, impatient mess. What was happening? What was happening – and is still happening – is that my brain is trying desperately to keep up with the immense change events I have initiated. Even when we welcome change in some aspect of our lives, that change has a significant ripple effect. Traditionally in our society, when stressful situations arise – be they professional or personal change events, demanding deadlines, high profile projects, or crisis situations – the reaction has been that everyone must work harder, put in more hours, and be chained to their desks or the conference room until the event ends, the problem gets solved, or the crisis passes. The consequence to this response is that creativity, energy, and morale disintegrates. We are left fatigued. Our immune systems are compromised. And most importantly, our brains are no longer functioning at a level where rational, strategic, creative decision-making can happen. In my situation, during a major life changing event, I was so focused on checking off the many boxes on my “to do” list, I failed to pay attention to something equally, if not more, important: my “to be” list. I didn’t give myself the space to acknowledge the new identity I was accepting, to get acquainted with the new person I was becoming. The “to be” list allows individuals to mentally and emotionally focus themselves on what is most important to them – their core values, their goals and aspirations, and their sense of balance and well-being. Effective leaders recognize that allowing time for individuals to re-balance themselves actually leads to higher productivity, better decisions and problem solving, and more efficiency in the face of major turmoil. Neuroscience research indicates the immense benefits of engaging in behaviors that establish this balance – whether it is physical exercise, meditation and deep breathing, or engaging in creative or playful activities. Our bodies are more able to counteract stress and focus our minds, and even increase the production of new brain cells and have better memory retention. To write a “to be” list, consider the following: What are my core values that drive my life? What is my personal mission statement (what are my professional and personal goals that I am aspiring to?) What are the most important things I need to do today to feel fulfilled? How am I going to build in time today to connect with my goals and values? How am I feeling in this moment and where...

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Federal Spotlight: Kevin Baker

Posted by on Jan 5, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Kevin Baker

Kevin Baker serves as the Associate Chief Information Officer (CIO) for Enterprise Planning and Performance at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview with Kevin Baker: MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? KB: I have been lucky enough to serve the nation for 22 years in a variety of roles, both at the FCC and prior to that, in the Department of Defense (DoD). I currently serve as the FCC’s Associate CIO for Enterprise Planning and Performance. My most significant responsibility is ensuring that the FCC makes sound investments in Information Technology (IT). While transforming to a cloud-centric organization, we have lots of opportunities to improve our capabilities and reduce our costs, but only with careful planning do those results become reality. For example, the FCC has a goal of reducing the total cost of ownership of the FCC’s IT system portfolio by 30% by October 2018. We have already seen savings as a result of moving a number of applications to Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? KB: Really, it’s the everyday opportunity to see that what I do returns something tangible to the American people. I believe that working for America, whether as a service member in the DoD or a supporting a civilian agency, gives each of us a chance many in the private sector don’t experience. Of course, it’s the public and private balanced partnership that makes this country great. Staying passionate about what I do requires two things, first never accepting that the status quo is good enough, and second, continuing to grow my ability to lead by finding new challenges. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? KB: I’m not someone who is big on citing personal achievements because I think nearly all of the successes we have are the result of teamwork – whether in the workplace, among family, or with friends. Certainly the thing I am most proud of is the privilege to lead such great teams both now at the FCC and before in DoD. Being able to bring together a diverse group, with folks of every talent and background, and work toward a common goal really makes me tick. From 2007-2012, I led the IT Operations team in a defense agency and had about 25 government staff and more than 150 contractors. During that time we moved the entire agency to a new headquarters, which required thousands of man hours and incredibly close teamwork. Without question, I learned more from that experience than any other in my career, and it was the great people that made it possible. MC: What advice would you share on making public service a career and not a pit stop? KB: First, understand that you are part of something bigger. Much like true fans don’t abandon their favorite team when the season is not going well, public service requires flexibility and constant adjustment. You have to seize opportunities to be part of change and not an obstacle to moving in a different direction. Second, don’t be afraid to need a change based on your personal growth. The days...

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Linking SES Performance and Organizational Performance

Posted by on Dec 22, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Linking SES Performance and Organizational Performance

Last week the White House published an executive order aimed at strengthening the senior executive service. The Obama administration has made a priority of identifying ways to improve government performance through increased leadership effectiveness and this order is the latest move to establish agency-level requirements that look to contribute to building a SES cadre that can lead agencies to improve their overall performance. The wide ranging order calls for: Agencies must “establish an annual talent management and succession planning process to: 1) assess the development needs of all SES members, and SL and ST employees as appropriate and 2) inform readiness decisions about hiring, career development, and executive reassignments and rotations.” Agencies are also required to establish formal executive onboarding programs that provide support through their first year of service within 60 days of issuance of this order. Reform the SES application process to eliminate or reduce the requirement for essay responses to make the process more attractive to a broad range of candidates. A cap on the total dollar amount for SES bonuses at 7.5% of aggregate SES salaries for each agency. The order takes effect in waves – with seven agencies adopting for 2016, seven in 2017 and all others by 2018. However, what’s missing from the order is a requirement for a systematic and holistic approach to understanding the link between SES performance and organizational performance and for measuring the impact of the Order on meaningful outcomes such as mission performance or citizen experience. Achieving the desired results of the EO will require a comprehensive measurement and evaluation strategy to ensure that the initiatives are achieving their desired outcomes. Here are a few quick steps agencies can take to begin the process of developing a comprehensive evaluation strategy for these SES initiatives: Identify desired outcomes – Get specific about the effects that an enhanced SES cadre will have on organizational level performance objectives by taking a look at the agency’s strategic plan and performance measurement process. Understand the data that is currently collected and generate hypotheses about how strengthening the SES will impact the strategic priorities of the agency. Link behaviors to outcomes – Once you’ve identified the outcomes that the SES improvement will have on your agency’s priority goals, you should explicitly identify those behaviors (individual and organizational) that, when changed, will drive results in the targeted outcome variables. Ask yourself this question: What must people do differently if we want to see an impact in our target metrics? Then, specify how the SES initiatives will contribute to changing those behaviors. Document and share what you develop – For the improvement initiatives to succeed, transparency and participation will be required. It’s not enough for the proposed changes and their effectiveness to be understood and embraced by the agency’s senior leaders. Because of that, as agency leaders specify desired outcomes and identify behaviors that need to change, both for the SES members themselves and for the rest of the organization, that information needs to be shared proactively, and completely. The SES is, no doubt, a lynchpin in enhancing the effectiveness of Federal agencies. And the administration is right to introduce methods and mechanisms for addressing challenges that the group faces. However, without a thoughtful and meaningful evaluation strategy, an agency’s ability to demonstrate their effectiveness could...

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HCMG Recap: Are You Accountable, Adaptable, and Resilient?

Posted by on Dec 15, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

HCMG Recap: Are You Accountable, Adaptable, and Resilient?

Management Concepts was one of the three lead sponsors of The Human Capital Management for Government (HCMG) Training Series event, “The Next Generation of Federal & Defense Human Capital” held in Alexandria, Virginia from December 1-3, 2015. More than 100 government and industry professionals gathered to talk about topics such as employee engagement, leading across generations, executive coaching, culture change and performance, the future of the workplace and much, much more. On the morning of Tuesday, December 1 we had the pleasure of having Maria Morukian, Practice Director for Leadership & Management at Management Concepts and KerriLaine Prunella, Senior Advisor to the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources at the Department of Health and Human Services co-present on the topic of “Adaptability & Resilience: Fostering A High Performance Culture”. During this presentation, attendees learned about building AAR – Accountability, Adaptability, and Resilience and the top ten techniques to building it: TOP TEN TECHNIQUES FOR BUILDING AAR Accept ownership over your own actions and attitudes. The only person you can control is yourself. Clarify goals and expectations for yourself and others. When the team is clear about where you’re heading and who is responsible for what you will achieve results and also foster commitment for the future vision. Focus on the positive. Identify and put energy towards what you have the power to influence. Be realistic. At the same time, be true to yourself and others about the reality of your situation and what limitations may exist. Obtain others’ perspectives. Ask for input and feedback often, and seek diverse opinions to challenge your own assumptions and collectively create the best solutions. Learn from your and others’ mistakes. Acknowledge failure with a constructive mindset. Productive failures help to create an environment of innovation, and can renew focus and rebuild motivation after a setback. Trust your intuition, especially in stressful situations. Recognize and listen to your inner wisdom. Then share with others to identify best results (See Technique 5!). Hit pause. Pay attention to how you’re doing and take time to refresh physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. It’s crucial to take a step back in the midst of challenging times to care for ourselves and others to enable sustained high level performance. Take time to invest. Pay attention to what’s happening with your workgroup and take time to check in with each individual. Ask questions and listen. You will learn valuable information about what people need from you and what they can provide. Avoid latching on to opinions or decisions. Move over, Ego! Be curious. Assess why you’re resisting certain options, and figure out where you may need to consider a different perspective or path forward. Competency in AAR allows individuals to hold themselves responsible for behaviors and actions, be willing to change as needed, and to acknowledge setbacks and find creative ways to move forward. The AAR model allows participants to further develop their AAR skills—through self-awareness and mindfulness, proactivity, and efficiently managing issues as they arise. Additionally, on Tuesday our client the Veteran Affairs Acquisition Academy (VAAA) won first place in the HCMG Category 2: Best Workplace Development Program Award for its VAAA Program Management (PM) Fellows Program. It is a 14-15 month program specifically designed to build and reinforce critical PM, leadership, and business skills beyond the competencies required for...

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Choosing the Right Consultant for the Right Results

Posted by on Dec 9, 2015 in Workforce Management | 1 comment

Choosing the Right Consultant for the Right Results

Every now and then, I encounter professionals that appear to have a love/hate relationship with contractors and/or consultants working with organizations in their industry. Interestingly enough, one of the most significant challenges cited by the executive buyers of consulting services was defining and managing the scope of consulting projects. Many would agree the success of the project is critically defined prior to launch of the consulting engagement, yet only 58% of executive buyers lock in the strategic direction ahead of time. Despite these statistics, more than 100 billion dollars are spent on management consultants annually, with projected growth of 6% per year. Since it doesn’t appear the use of management consultants is on the decline, it’s worthwhile to pursue an understanding of what it takes to realize better return on investment in this temporary talent resource. Particularly during this time of year, we tend to pay special attention to the many possibilities available to help us become smart shoppers. Once we identify for whom we want to purchase gifts and what we want to buy, we begin our research of the best features, benefits, shopping resources, and best value. Is it better to buy this gift online or in the store? Does it make sense to purchase the gift from a source that will provide additional benefits like instant rebates, free shipping, or bonus points redeemable for future purchases? Well, there’s an industry adage that says, if you want consultants to deliver optimal performance, you’ll need to learn how to become a savvy consumer of consulting services. Similar to our approach to holiday shopping, it’s in our best interest to define our desired organizational outcomes, research potential consulting providers of services needed, and establish the best value prior to signing the contract to start the work. In some cases, researching consulting providers can be easier than gaining clarity on what it is our organization really wants to buy. The more ambiguity that exists about what our organization needs and wants to buy, the harder it is to determine the appropriate consulting provider and how to measure if they are successful. Is there any wonder that successful consulting engagements can be hard to come by? What can realistically be done to choose the right consultant for the right desired results? When pairing the right consultant, optimal organizational environment, and desired results, consider the following criteria: Does the consultant: Demonstrate a proven, credible track record in the desired outcome? Model a high level of professionalism and emotional intelligence? Engage in and welcome ongoing dialogue to include pushback from the client regarding consultant assumptions, recommendations, or implementation scenarios? Provide a high level of responsiveness and client engagement? Suggest success indicators aligned to client organization’s metrics? Does our organizational environment support: Realistic expectations based on current circumstances – Will potential options work within the confines of law, statutes, and policy? Conditions of a high probability of success in decisions, strategy, or implementation of desired behavioral change? Involvement of an executive sponsor – Are other influential team members modeling believable behavior on board with desired way forward? Will they proactively clear barriers and remove obstacles within their span of control/circle of influence? Timing in which proposed changes stand the test of an imminent change in administration, transition period or acting tenure of senior leadership...

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Millennials: Are We Really Any Different?

Posted by on Dec 8, 2015 in Workforce Management | 3 comments

Millennials: Are We Really Any Different?

I’m a Millennial. There, I admitted it…but just barely. As most determine this generation to be born roughly after 1980 and brought up in the new millennium, I was born in 1983 and I’ll be honest, it’s not always great to be looped in with kids who were texting at 10. My favorite toy growing up was called playing outside. If a teacher called home, you better believe my mom did NOT give her the third degree about unfairly blaming me for something. I spend my teen summers working (mostly internships, but I also did my stint in character-building retail). I worked hard in college, graduated with a job, and spent the first two years of my work life putting in massive hours at a PR agency. I was one of the first ones in, and often one of the last ones to leave. Did I want a promotion? Sure. But I was entry level, paying my dues, just getting started. After a few years, I noticed the new employees starting out didn’t quite have the same motivation my friends/co-workers did. Without a doubt, they seemed to exhibit the characteristics – or perceptions – Millennials can’t seem to shake: acting entitled, overly-confident, not being willing to take time to learn, etc. Was I immune to these behaviors? I’m sure I wasn’t. But, even I saw things where I just wanted to say: “Oh….come on guys!” In July, I attended the Federally Employed Women (FEW) National Training Program. There, a colleague of mine, Jamie Neidig, presented a session titled “What All Feds Need to Know about the Workforce: Analyzing the Data.” Once the generational discussion started, I was a bit fearful as the majority of the room was self-identifying as Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. Sure enough, when participants listed attributes of Gen X we heard: Motivated, hardworking, go-getters…but we also heard yuppies, entitled, and safe. Millennials got: Impatient, entitled, spoiled…and educated, bright, and eager. See any similarities? What’s more, Jamie showed Time Magazine covers from the 90’s complaining about how awful Gen X was…and then showed a similar disparaging cover about the Millennial “me me me” generation. Her point? How a generation seems in their youth is not who they will grow up to be. Already we’re seeing misconceptions of Millennials: A lot of that eagerness we have? It may be tied to the fact we hit the workforce during a recession; we want to do well quickly so we won’t be part of the unemployed faction of Millennials. In fact, Deloitte University Press debunked four myths about Millennials in the Federal government, specifically: Millennials have higher turnover rates than prior generations. Nope. Well, yes, there are high turnovers, but not any more so than with other generations. Millennials are less passionate about their jobs in government. Not really. “The perception that young government employees are less engaged may be an artifact of the overall decline in government employee engagement of all generations.” Millennials don’t stick around—they’ll decamp to the private sector in a heartbeat. Most likely no…at least when asked their likelihood of looking for another job in the next year, fewer Millennials said yes than did Gen Xers at that age. It’s harder to recruit Millennials for public service than previous generations. Well…The truth is, Millennials do...

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Federal Spotlight: Isaac E. Hernandez

Posted by on Dec 7, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Isaac E. Hernandez

Isaac Hernandez serves as Director of IT operations at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview with Isaac E. Hernandez: MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? IH: I’ve been in Federal service for six years and about 9 years in the Marines. In my current role I am the Director of IT Operations. That means… that I “keep the lights on.” I make sure that all the IT systems and services that we provide for our customers are up and running (from an employee calling the service desk for assistance to insuring that the network infrastructure is reliable and secure) all in support of FERC’s mission. I manage an IT workforce of about 12 Federal employees and approximately 90 contractors. With such a diverse workforce, I consistently work on a variety of IT and business issues. But I find as long as you make sure people know that you have confidence in what they’re doing it puts them more at ease to do their best. That’s one of the main things I emphasize with my teams and make sure that they understand that I have confidence in their ability to get the job done. That’s important not only from my customer’s standpoint in receiving our services, but also for my team’s continuous professional development as well. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? IH: What keeps me motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector is really my people. It’s the team that I’m working with. I have a really good team, some great leaders that I’ve worked with for the past six years. I tell them all the time, they’re the ones that keep me here. They’re the ones that keep me motivated to continue and I love watching them grow professionally. Culture is also very important to me. I often talk about how people’s careers steps exposes them to different areas. For example, I’ve worked in different areas in my career including the airline industry, the telecommunications industry, and more. Each experience exposed me to various approaches and cultures that I have grasped over the years. I tell every team member, “Listen, we all bring something to the table and there’s always going to be something that you have done in some part of your career that you could bring to this team to help us move forward.” This is what I call your “work profile.” Every individual’s work profile can contribute to the workplace’s culture. No idea should be automatically turned down; you have to least consider it. I always like to look for people with very diverse backgrounds to try to achieve that kind of environment. We should try to change stagnant culture and ask “Okay, why we always do it this way? Do we have to do it this way? What is there that we can do to progress? If something takes six steps, why can’t we do it in three?” It’s that type of thinking that brings progress and innovation. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? IH: One would think that I would state a technical achievement like moving the agency to a cloud email service or...

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Getting to the Root of Federal Employee Engagement

Posted by on Dec 3, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Getting to the Root of Federal Employee Engagement

Each year when the Office of Personnel Management releases the results of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) agencies across the Federal government get a window into the health and status of their workforce. For Federal leaders, the FEVS provides an opportunity to understand how employees feel about their jobs, their agency, their ability to grow, and their overall employee engagement levels. Since the surveys’ inception in 2004, Federal Human Capital (HC) and Human Resources (HR) practitioners have had a solid tool for understanding and quantifying the organizational challenges faced by their agencies, and many have used the results as a springboard for initiatives aimed at improving the Federal employee engagement. In recent years, though, despite focused effort on moving the needle on engagement, sustained improvement has proven elusive for the Government as a whole. One potential reason why the various FEVS-inspired engagement initiatives have failed to show sustained results could be that the initiatives are addressing climate rather than culture. The Difference Between Climate and Culture Organizational culture and organizational climate are complementary but different psychological aspects of every organization. According to the Handbook of Psychology organizational climate is “the perception of practices, policies, procedures, and routines in the organization.” Climate is the generalized description of “the way it is around here” and reflects a shared understanding of how things are or how things were. It includes perceptions about reward systems, structures, leadership, autonomy, and job design. Like measures of the physical climate (such as temperature and humidity), measures of organizational climate (such as the FEVS) provide a snapshot of the current state of the organization and offer insight into the day-to-day experience of the organization’s workforce. In contrast, organization culture encompasses the norms and expectations that shape workplace behaviors. According to Edgar Schein, professor Emeritus at MIT’s Sloan School of Business and a leading expert on organizational culture: “Culture is the pattern of shared assumptions that has worked well enough to be considered suitable, and as such should be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, behave, and feel in response to the problems and challenges the organization faces.”   While climate reflects organizational conditions that members experience, culture reflects the shared values and beliefs that generate and reinforce behaviors that create climate and shape organizational outcomes. As such, achieving sustained improvement in an organization’s climate (to include employee engagement) requires interventions aimed specifically at changing the underlying behavioral norms that govern overt behaviors. Changing an organization’s culture requires an investment of time and effort and a commitment to seeing change initiatives through. If your agency needs to transform its culture here are a few things leaders should consider to get the process started. Start by measuring the current culture Former publishing executive and marketing expert, Michael Hyatt says, “Culture is largely invisible to those inside of it. It’s like water to a fish or air to a bird. It’s simply the environment we live in.” Because culture is so embedded in the organization, describing and understanding the culture is an important first step in charting the course for change. Validated inventories can provide a common language and assessment of your organization’s current culture. Human Synergistics International’s Organizational Culture Inventory (OCI)®, provides tools to assess current organizational culture and identify gaps between the current...

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Inclusive Workplaces Care for Caregivers

Posted by on Dec 1, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Inclusive Workplaces Care for Caregivers

A recent flash poll conducted by the Government Business Council found that 51% of Federal employees surveyed have been, are currently, or plan to be a caregiver for a loved one who will need long-term care. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), unpaid caregivers provide about 90% of the long-term care in our country, mostly for those ages 50 and older. For many members of the Federal workforce population who are either currently or expecting to care for elderly family members, the financial, physical, and emotional toll can be immense. In fact, the CDC has identified the stress of caregiving as a major public health issue. Studies show that caregiving can have significantly negative impacts on one’s physical and mental health, with elevated blood pressure, compromised immune systems, back pain, and depression. Many Federal workers feel caught between the immense demands of managing one’s professional priorities while navigating the complicated process of caring for an ill or aging family member. Thus, it is imperative for organizational leaders and managers to ensure that their teams have the support they need to properly care for their loved ones and at the same time stay engaged in meaningful work if they so choose. Early in my professional career, I learned that my aunt had dementia. She lived alone, and there was no one nearby to tend to her needs, so I found myself caring for her from several states away as her memory declined. Although I was not physically her full-time caregiver, I bore the responsibility of finding professional care to keep her safe while still maintaining her dignity and pride. I was her power of attorney, financial manager, health advocate, emergency contact, and source of familiarity in a world that had become frighteningly unidentifiable. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) only covers the care of one’s spouse, children, or parent. The culture in which I was raised is very family and elder-oriented, and caring for one’s aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins a deeply held value. Thus, it was vital for me as the eldest child to take personal responsibility for my aunt’s care. I was fortunate to have a manager who showed great empathy and openness. He knew my career was important to me and that I wanted to stay actively involved in our team’s work, yet needed to devote time to my aunt’s needs. He pointed me toward a resource through my agency’s Employee Consultation Services that gave me access to an information portal with referrals for professional caregivers, assisted living, and nursing facilities in my aunt’s vicinity. Beyond that, he made sure I had the flexibility in my schedule to attend to my aunt, to fly home often to check in on her and ensure the care she was receiving was appropriate for her ever-increasing needs, and to be a present force of love and care for her in a sea of strange faces. He and I had an agreed upon strategy for how I could best be on call in case of emergency, even in the middle of a staff meeting or course I was teaching. This was invaluable, considering the calls I would receive when she would go missing and I would have to start calling her friends, her church,...

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Federal Spotlight: Rebecca Ayers

Posted by on Nov 19, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Rebecca Ayers

Rebecca Ayers serves as the Manager for Performance Management Solutions at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Here’s our interview with Rebecca Ayers. MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? RA: I was fortunate to join the Federal government through the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program in 2003. In fact, we were the last class from when it was called the Presidential Management Intern program. My entire career has been with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and in the division that provides reimbursable services to other agencies. Today I get to work with some of the best and brightest in the Federal government from the comfort of my home in Raleigh, North Carolina. I manage a geographically diverse team of HR Consultants who provide performance management and strategic planning services to other agencies. I am also the program manager for USA Performance, OPM’s automated performance management system. Every day we work with different Federal agencies to address individual and organizational performance matters necessary to properly create and sustain a healthy and effective results-oriented culture. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? RA: Foremost, I am motivated by the knowledge that our work at OPM makes people and agencies even better, and better able to meet their missions. We bring real change. Some days I can’t believe I have the opportunity to shape and transform how agencies manage performance. I have an Outlook folder full of emails from customer agencies exclaiming, “You made a significant improvement to our agency,” or “You have helped us with performance management problems we have had for so long.” Second, I get to be associated with other men and women to share my motivation and passion for public service. The Federal government is full of hardworking, smart men and women who care about our country and have made a career serving the American public. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? RA: Leading the program to develop an HR IT system (USA Performance) that will revolutionize how individual performance is managed across the Federal government. We are taking a key human resources function into the 21st Century with technology that streamlines the process, increases transparency, ensures accountability, and ultimately saves agencies millions of dollars. USA Performance offers agencies a cost-effective and federalized solution to move away from the paper process to an integrated automated system to manage individual employee performance. Leading the development also opened up a completely new career path for me in information technology and innovation. MC: What advice would you share on making public service a career and not a pit stop? RA: There are so many diverse careers in the Federal government and yet they all ultimately serve the same mission and purpose: to serve the American people. If you are driven by public service motivation, there is no better place to find a fulfilling career – not just a job –than the Federal government. Change does not happen overnight in the public sector, if you want to be a change agent and be part of a bigger transformation effort that impacts the public, you have to stick with it. In my type of work I’ve had opportunities to do...

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FEVS: Finding Your “One Thing”

Posted by on Nov 10, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

If you are like me and were a teenager in the early 1990’s there’s a good chance that you are also a fan of the movie City Slickers with Billy Crystal and the late Jack Palance. For those of you who may not recall the film, the story revolves around three middle-aged men from New York who head out on two-week cattle drive as part of a ranch vacation. Over the course of the cattle drive the characters deal with a series of mishaps and adventures that challenge the men to connect with themselves and make key decisions about where they are in life and where they want to be. The classic scene from the film unfolds as the weatherworn old cowhand, Curley (played by Palance) and Mitch (Billy Crystal) set out to find a lost cow that is due to give birth at any moment. As the two ride through the barren desert, Curley encourages Mitch, who is in the midst of a mid-life crisis to, “Find his one thing.” When the 2015 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results were released in September I was reminded of this scene from with Curley and Mitch in the desert. In 2014 when President Obama added the goal of strengthening employee engagement to the President’s Management Agenda, leaders across the Federal government began to make plans for improving organization level engagement scores as measured by FEVS. Bloggers, consultants, and even Federal Human Capital professionals churned out numerous prescriptions for what organizations could do to move the agency toward the desired levels of employee engagement. The 2015 survey results indicate that some agencies have made strong progress towards their goals, and agencies including HUD, NASA, and OMB (among others) are to be commended for creating environments where employees can be engaged in their work. Ultimately, though, it will take more than organizational level interventions to make sustained improvements to engagement in large Federal agencies – individual employees chose, each day, how they show up for and contribute to the work environment. Employee engagement is a 50/50 proposition. Organizations must create the framework for employees to be engaged in their work – this includes having strong leadership, effective systems and processes, and a culture that encourages and supports individuals as they strive to be their best. But, individuals also must contribute to their own engagement – choosing to bring their best self to work each day. While bringing your best self to work each day may not always be an easy proposition, it can be a lot easier when you follow Curley’s advice and find your one thing....

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Federal Spotlight: Tony Scardino

Posted by on Nov 5, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Tony Scardino

Tony Scardino serves as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview with Tony Scardino: MC: How long have you been in Federal service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? TS: I have been in Federal service for 20 years and spent an additional five years supporting the Federal government in advisory and grantee roles. As the CFO of a Federal agency now, my main responsibilities are to ensure financial viability for an agency that is fully fee-funded. We are responsible for charging our customers fees for the services we provide, but we are not allowed to make a profit or run a deficit. In addition to the customary roles of a federal CFO – budget, accounting, financial management systems, annual audit, and performance – I am also responsible for all procurement and acquisition related activities for the agency. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? TS: Primarily, it’s the opportunity to make a difference. I am much more engaged as a leader when I know that my efforts are helping to shape the direction of an organization and the job satisfaction and engagement of the team I oversee. As compared to my roles in the private sector, which I found laudable as well, I found that more emphasis was placed on increasing market share and profitability. In my current role I am very interested and motivated to provide the best services possible for the least cost, while also ensuring that these services are truly ones that only the public sector can or should provide. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? TS: In 2011, the Congress enacted the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, which reformed the patent system in the U.S. As part of this landmark legislation, USPTO was given authority to set fees by regulation for the first time in its 220 year history. Previously, Congress provided taxpayer funds or set the fee rates, which resulted in inefficiencies due to the typical challenges of the legislative process. These inefficiencies led to a significant backlog of work at the USPTO and our stakeholders waited years to get patents awarded. In order to help reduce this backlog and provide better service to our customers, USPTO, under the direction of the Office of the CFO, undertook an 18-month process of setting new fee rates for the first time ever. We did so by employing a very collaborative process, working closely with partners in the Administration, Congress, and our stakeholders. This partnership resulted in new fee rates in 2013, representing roughly a 15-20 percent increase in revenue that enabled USPTO to more readily address long-standing operational, hiring, and IT challenges, which ultimately led to a reduction in the backlog and processing times for patent applications. MC: What advice would you share on making public service a career and not a pit stop? TS: Stick with it! What I mean by that is, no two jobs are alike. If you are not satisfied with the impact you are making at one agency or one particular job, find another one! The level of responsibility that government employees get at relatively young ages is noteworthy and unlike anything I have seen in other sectors....

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Building an Emotionally Intelligent Team

Posted by on Oct 26, 2015 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 1 comment

Building an Emotionally Intelligent Team

Why is emotional intelligence so important for teams? Quite frankly, organizations need teams to get the work done. Historically, the most consistent and effective efforts come from groups of people who over time developed trust, group identity, and efficacy to become teams. Who has the responsibility of building the emotionally intelligent team? One might argue the responsibility rests with individuals with the positional authority and influence to translate the organizational vision into goals and objectives for the team to achieve. Why then, is such disproportionate effort placed on getting the “right individuals” on the team? Despite best efforts – including a thorough vetting process with specific criteria, a comprehensive list of qualifications, responsibilities, and the validation of an internal interview board, hiring managers select new hires that on paper appear to be the best candidate, yet often don’t work out as originally planned. Anyone can look good in a party of one, but the proving ground of emotional intelligence can best be validated within the context of interpersonal relationships. An individual effectively modeling emotional intelligence has the powerful combination of self-management and the ability to relate to others. They figure out how to strike just the right balance of independence and interdependence within a team. Numerous studies indicate teams are more effective when they are able to foster participation, cooperation, and collaboration among team members. Given what we know about the importance of high performing teams and the investment of time, energy, and commitment it takes to sustain them, the nature of efforts used to source new team members could substantially shift. What if hiring managers, continued their due diligence during the hiring process, but added the focus of long term team impact to the list of criteria? The shift of perspective has the potential to affirm the value of the existing team, and challenge the new hire to deliver individual achievement and viable team contribution. Here are a few questions, managers can consider as they build and sustain an emotionally intelligent team: Does the new team member model confidence (self-awareness) as an individual contributor? Would the presence of the new team member likely foster interpersonal understanding (social awareness) within the existing team? Is there evidence to support the new hire would initiate a transparent and collaborative (self-management) work style? What examples does the new hire provide to describe scenarios when they were able to work through conflict (relationship management) as part of a team? Managers can advance the cause of emotional intelligent teams, with thoughtful consideration, one team member at a time.  ...

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We Asked the CHCO

Posted by on Oct 22, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

We Asked the CHCO

For the past six months, Management Concepts sponsored the “Ask the CHCO” radio interview series, hosted by Lauren Larson of Federal News Radio. Every Wednesday Federal Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs) shared priorities for their agencies, goals for the future, successful programs, and areas in which they strive to improve. As a trusted learning development and workforce improvement partner to the Federal government, Management Concepts appreciated the opportunity to hear from these Federal leaders on trends in human capital. We heard from the following 13 CHCOs: Bridget Bean, CHCO and Deputy Chief Operating Officer at the Small Business Administration Ambassador Arnold A. Chacón, Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources at the State Department Dr. Reginald F. Wells, Deputy Commissioner for Human Resources and CHCO at the Social Security Administration Paige Hinkle-Bowles, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Civilian Personnel Policy) Deborah Kircher, Assistant Director of National Intelligence for Human Capital and the Intelligence Community’s CHCO Catherine Emerson, CHCO at the Department of Homeland Security Antonia Harris, CHCO at the General Services Administration Mary Pletcher, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Capital and Diversity at the Department of the Interior Dr. Joanne Tornow, Head of Office of Information and Resource Management and CHCO at National Science Foundation Jeri L. Buchholz, the CHCO and Assistant Administrator for Human Capital Management with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (former) Elizabeth B. Kolmstetter, CHCO for the U.S. Agency for International Development Vicki Barber, Human Resources Director and Chief Human Capital Officer with the Federal Labor Relations Authority John Gill, Deputy Assistant Secretary and CHCO with the Department of Health and Human Services A recap blog accompanied each radio interview, and the most popular radio interview (tracked per Federal News Radio) was Mary Pletcher of Interior! We’ve loved hearing from Federal CHCOs on what we can expect in 2016 – in fact, we’ve created a new blog series, Federal Spotlight, capturing a more personal side to Federal leaders. Our inaugural post came from a blog interview with Gary Washington, CIO at USDA APHIS. The new series will follow an informal format, in which we learn about each leader’s Federal service tenure, what keeps them motivated about public service, advice to the next generation, and their greatest accomplishment. Do you have ideas or recommendations on Feds you’d like to hear from? Please leave us their name in the comments section below and we’ll reach...

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Federal Spotlight: Gary Washington

Posted by on Oct 8, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Gary Washington

Gary Washington serves as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Here’s our inaugural Federal Spotlight interview with Gary Washington: MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? GW: I have been in the public sector for more than 28 years. Ten of those have been in the military, with the U.S. Air Force. But, my entire career has been in the information technology (IT) field. My main responsibility as the CIO at APHIS is oversight of our IT infrastructure; this includes planning, investment, security, customer service, and application development. I personally manage 151 people out of a total of 281 IT professionals in the agency so I have to ensure we all work together seamlessly. In addition, USDA has a goal to save $100 million in five commodity areas, two of which are under my purview – IT hardware and IT software. I am participating on a team along with some other IT executives to work to save funds and work effectively and efficiently. MC: What is APHIS’ training strategy for its employees, beyond technical skills? GW: We work with our managers to work on developing all employees’ soft skills, including –presentation, writing, communication, listening, speaking, and management skills. It’s a big issue and we encourage managers to work with their employees to ensure fully developed skills. APHIS is primarily insourced, so there are more government employees than contractors. In addition, our workforce is very committed to longevity at APHIS; people have been here for a long time. When I came on a little over two years ago I inherited a mature workforce, so we are very committed to investing in the people we have and continue their growth, helping prepare them for the future. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate about working in the public sector? GW: I am a self-motivated person and I strive for excellence at all times. I also expect a lot out of myself and I expect a lot out of people. I am always motivated to do the right thing and do my best. So we try to construct a team around us that feels the same way. I am passionate about excellence and great performance and I have always been willing to do whatever we can to put our employees in the best situation to be successful. I love the public sector. I get a sense of satisfaction when I accomplish something. I know I am doing something for the American public. I enjoy what I do and I enjoy who I do it for. I have a sense of purpose. And I do not take this job lightly. For instance, I had the opportunity along with a few other CIOs to speak to some children in the area who had these phenomenal agricultural project presentations. So we spoke to them about who we are, where we came from, and how we got to do what we do, and we gave them some encouragement to keep trying. We don’t want them to give up. Science, technology, engineering, and math skills are very important so I like to be involved in projects that expose and encourage youth to...

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Ask the CHCO: SBA’s Bridget Bean

Posted by on Sep 30, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Ask the CHCO: SBA’s Bridget Bean

When you hear the term “Main Street” it characteristically conjures up the image of a retail hub in a small town where residents shop and socialize about the day’s events. Whether in a small town or a larger city, with several Main Streets, historically the term denotes a brick and mortar location of small businesses. Today, businesses are as diverse in presence as the entrepreneurs who have established and run them; and SBA is committed to have its workforce be reflective of that diversity. Here are four things SBA is doing well, through the direction of the Chief Human Capital Officer, Bridget Bean, who states that her job is to get the “right people in the right jobs with the right skills and at the right time.” SBA CHCO Bridget Bean has taken a diverse approach to the recruitment, professional development, retention and engagement, and succession planning for the individuals that make up the SBA and serve the entrepreneurs on Main Street. One underlying and important focus is inclusiveness of the workforce. Recruitment The U.S. Small Business Administration has cast their net to attract talent as diverse as the entrepreneurs they serve. The net is cast on military hiring and specifically Veterans. There is research to support Veteran success as entrepreneurs due to their unique and extensive military training. The reach extends to the disability community, The Peace Corps, and professional organizations to connect with those with industry-specific skills, such as accounting. The SBA is also committed to getting the word out via social media and word-of-mouth. Professional Development It’s a rare yet progressive day when an organization recognizes the valuable relationship between development and retention. “If we want to retain talent, we have to continue to develop them,” Bean positions. The SBA has taken a holistic view of development which commences with a training needs analysis of the organization: current skills vs. needed skills and the identification of the needed focus area. The SBA creates opportunities to develop through instructor-led and online training initiatives and other programmatic opportunities such as book clubs, shadowing, position assignments, and the very successful President’s Management Fellows Program (PMF). The PMF two-year at-large cohort training program is well respected and regarded. Retention and Engagement “Is there something I can do to get you to stay?” is the question that may be asked of SBA employees considering an external position, but who are great at what they do. With 68 District and 10 Regional offices, the SBA is sure to find an opportunity to retain the institutional knowledge of the workforce, while offering an employee an opportunity to continue to expand theirs, a win-win in Bean’s book. As CHCO with a professional career that’s extended 27 years within SBA, Bean has seized the numerous opportunities to learn and explore the various facets of the organization though multiple lenses from field office to headquarters; and she encourages others to engage and discover what is available to them. The SBA is an organization of low employee turnover and through many of their human capital practices they are making the SBA an employer of choice where people want to come, work, and stay. Succession Planning Few organizations plan for succession. More often, organizations leave the next generation of leadership up for chance, often missing valuable opportunities to...

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Management Concepts: The Next Evolution

Posted by on Sep 28, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Management Concepts: The Next Evolution

Here are just a few of today’s challenges and priorities the Federal government is wrestling with as it strives to evolve its workforce: Knowledge sharing Targeting the workforce to Millennials An ever-increasing focus on data-driven decisions Transparency Collaboration The Federal government is expected to make advances in these key issues in FY16 as its workforce continues to shift from administrative to technical work and meet the demands of our digital age. As a 42 year old company, we too have been required to evolve in order to stay relevant and serve our customers. You may know us for the library of more than 300 off-the shelf training courses; it is the foundation of the company. But we are so much more. You can receive training five different ways including several different eLearning approaches. We’ve also added People and Performance Consulting to our offerings because clients increasingly want our help driving outcomes and that requires a disciplined approach to diagnose root causes and tailor solutions. We are proud of our long history and our ability to meet the changing needs of the Federal workforce. The one constant has been our definition of success. We want to have a meaningful impact on the way our clients think and operate. We love to tell stories about how the combination of our training and consulting made a difference in people’s lives or helped a Federal agency better achieve its missions. Our work is never done. New faces in government and changing work requirements necessitate a well-rounded, highly effective and efficient workforce equipped to address tomorrow’s issues, changes, and developments. If you think of us a “training company” it may be time to see how far we have come. Here is a link to our website where you will find in addition to training courses, coaching, mentoring, succession planning, collaboration services, custom content development, human capital support that drives agency performance, and more. What’s next? We see culture in government playing a vital and critical role in employee engagement and performance – which ultimately determines agency success in the short and long term. Building a culture where employees give their discretionary energy, feel like their individual efforts serve the mission and vision of the agency, and thrive in a positive and collaborative environment is key to success in a changing work environment. Our focus in 2016 will be on using the powerful lever of positive “Culture in Government” to help change the way the government does business. If you want to be part of the conversation on culture, click here to share your contact information. There’s a lot coming from Management Concepts in FY16, including a whole new look for the website in the coming months. Stay tuned.    ...

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To Shutdown or Not

Posted by on Sep 23, 2015 in Financial Management, Workforce Management | 0 comments

To Shutdown or Not

It’s seven days until a partial shutdown of the U.S. government could occur. If Congress does not pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) or 12 appropriation bills, or the President vetoes legislation sent to him, then we could have a funding gap, something that has happened 18 times since Congress changed the fiscal year to a start date of October 1 in 1977. We all know why this happened. The gap will start in Guam, “where America’s day starts,” 14 hours ahead of Washington time. So, by 10:00 a.m. on September 30, hopefully we know. A gap will impact more than two million government employees, with possibly one million being sent home and furloughed. No promise of pay when they return. A funding gap can occur in one of two ways. Either Congress does not pass 12 bills or a CR to send to the President, or they do pass bills and send to the president, but he vetoes. What can you do during a funding gap that does not violate the Antideficiency Act (ADA)? Agencies mostly continue their core missions. National security activities continue. Agencies support deployments and wars. Intelligence gathering continues, like satellite operations. No-year and multi-year contracts continue. The Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 (FASA), as it relates to severable services contracts, continues. Non-severable contracts continue, and much, much more. Revolving fund activities, like working capital fund activities, continue as long as they have a checking account balance in their cash corpus. And, 31 USC 1342 permits activities essential to protection of life and property to continue. Prior to October 1 of odd numbered years, agencies determine what activities continue and what activities are suspended under a funding gap. OMB reviewed those plans and had a meeting with agencies late Monday. For more info on the rules associated with a potential funding gap, consult OMB Circular A-11, Section 124, Attorney General opinions in 1980 and 1981, Office of Legal Counsel opinion in 1995, and your agency plan. Here’s to hoping for a CR on October...

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BIG’s National Training Recap

Posted by on Sep 10, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

BIG’s National Training Recap

Last month, Management Concepts attended the Blacks in Government (BIG) 37th Annual National Training Institute (NTI) held in Orlando, Florida from August 24-27, 2015. This year’s NTI provided more than 1,450 attendees with 100+ workshops and agency forums addressing an array of critical topics, superb speakers, and the latest technology. This indeed was a week of first-class training. The training opportunity facilitated active and practical discussions on recent changes in public service for Federal, state, and local government employees. We were excited to be a gold sponsor and have so many attendees stop by our booth and take pictures with our hashtag signs – #ThinkBig, #funinthesun, #training, and #Thanks @Mgmt_Concepts. Even BIG President the Honorable Ms. Darlene H. Young joined us for a mini photoshoot. I also had the pleasure of working with BIG’s National Executive Vice-President, the Honorable Dr. Doris Sartor and Ms. Young to launch the inaugural Blacks In Government and Management Concepts National Certification Program, awarding training scholarships in Leadership and Supervision . We received many stellar applications and selecting recipients was a truly hard decision. This year’s winners were: The Leadership Certificate Program winner – Ms. Christian Blackman, Acting Deputy Grants Division Director, Department of State. Ms. Blackman is a lifetime member of BIG and president of the Carl T. Rowan Chapter. In her winning essay, Ms. Blackman stated the following: “If I am a scholarship recipient, I will be a testimony of the added value of this training with not only my employer, but with Blacks In Government as well. The impact of the collaboration effort between Blacks In Government and Management Concepts will show how both organizations are investing into the future leaders of government. It is essential to have affiliations with professional organizations and hands-on work.” The Supervisor Certificate Program winner – Allyson Theophile, President, Federal Probation and Pretrial Officers Association Western Region. Allyson is a member of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of BIG. In her winning essay, Ms. Theophile stated, “I have never been one to shy away from challenges or an opportunity to learn. I believe my strong work ethics, willingness to take on new and challenging assignments, and my ability to see outside the box has contributed in developing my leadership qualities. I seek coaches and mentors who I feel have strong ethical leadership traits. I believe one should always seek out challenging experiences and not shy away from opportunities to learn.” Connect, Communicate, Collaborate – Advance! was this year’s NTI theme. The members of BIG who applied for the scholarship programs took one step further to achieve this goal. I think Ms. Young’s closing words truly summed up the experience: “Recognizing the importance of professional development skills, I encourage you to utilize the professionally trained instructors to acquire the necessary tools for success… THINK BIG” Looking forward to Atlantic City 2016, BIG!...

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Ask the CHCO: State’s Arnold Chacón

Posted by on Sep 9, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Ask the CHCO: State’s Arnold Chacón

In a recent “Ask the CHCO” Federal News Radio interview, The U.S. Department of State Director General, Arnold Chacón, emphasized the ongoing importance of recruiting and preparing foreign affairs professionals. The Department of State is consistently ranked among the Top Five of Best Places to Work (large agencies), and Ambassador Chacón believes that is due in large part to the mission of the department and the opportunity to do meaningful work. The dynamic and fast-paced world of foreign affairs requires the department to respond rapidly to events and emergencies, from the Ebola outbreak to political uprisings in the Middle East. This makes the work fascinating but also can be a challenge in terms of being agile and flexible enough to respond with a workforce that has the skills necessary to address these myriad issues. Ambassador Chacón mentioned several challenges that he is focusing on, including hiring agility and flexibility, skills development for the next generation of leaders, and using social media to recruit and retain top talent. Hiring Agility and Flexibility Ambassador Chacón discussed the different personnel systems within the Department for Foreign Service and Civil Service. This poses a challenge in terms of different rules and regulations to follow, and requires creative thinking to work around the bureaucracy in order to hire and retain the best and brightest. Ambassador Chacón cited several ways in which people can contribute to foreign affairs work outside of becoming a Foreign Service Officer, including excursion opportunities, subject matter expertise positions for Civil Service professionals, and job opportunities for Foreign Service family members. He also mentioned that the department has highly regarded fellowship programs, and a robust internship program that he hopes to augment with a larger number of paid internships to entice students and recent graduates. Leadership Skills Development Ambassador Chacón’s goal is to continue to build the department’s workforce with individuals who are able to see beyond the horizon, who are tenacious and resilient. With more than half of the Foreign Service personnel having less than ten years of experience under their belts, and seventeen percent of the Department’s workforce eligible for retirement, Ambassador Chacón recognizes the need to ensure that the department is sufficiently preparing its future leaders. The department’s Foreign Service Institute provides professional development not only for skills in language and tradecraft areas, but also in leadership and management capabilities, which are equally important to the success of foreign affairs professionals. Ambassador Chacón emphasized the importance of building interpersonal skills, learning how to develop and motivate highly effective teams, and managing performance issues in a positive way as some of the most important skills that State Department leaders need. Using Social Media to Recruit Top Talent Ambassador Chacón is focused on “demystifying” the Department of State for those who are not familiar with the opportunities that are available to them. The department has a mobile app that provides information on careers in the Foreign Service, including information on how to take the Foreign Service exam. Ambassador Chacón summed up his interview by stating that the international environment is “messy” and fast-paced. With many more Federal agencies now participating in foreign affairs work, it’s important to build the skills of all those involved in this profession to be able to meet the global challenges of today and...

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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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Can You Be an Anytime Coach?

Posted by on Aug 19, 2015 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Can You Be an Anytime Coach?

We would all like to create a more encouraging and empowered workplace, and see better performance from our employees, colleagues and leaders. One way to do this is to implement the key principles of our recently published book, Anytime Coaching—Unleashing Employee Performance, co-authored with Wendy Sherwin Swire. Since the original publication, we’ve learned from conversations with leaders who have read and applied its principles that they witnessed many benefits, including: Becoming more aware of the “self” that leaders bring to their workplace Slowing down to observe themselves and those around them more consciously Hearing their employees’ ideas and concerns more empathetically Developing richer work relationships Asking more insightful questions Having more productive difficult conversations Being more deliberate when responding to others Continuing along the path to great expertise in being an Anytime Coach The Anytime Coaching model enables you to make positive changes that will encourage and empower employees to make performance changes that last. How? In writing the 2nd Edition of Anytime Coaching with Wendy Sherwin Swire, we drew wisdom from the intersecting disciplines of neuroscience and mindfulness that shows how individuals can build resilience through specific practices that train the brain. Yes, “train the brain.” Neuroscience tells us that the truly amazing “bossy” brain (which controls not only your body and how you move, but also what you think, feel, remember, and learn) can be “rewired” for greater effectiveness, creativity, empathy, and happiness. We reveal how recent discoveries in neuroscience support the recommended practices of Anytime Coaching. For example, the practice of “observing the positives” helps to “rewire” your brain to perceive more positive experiences. Psychologist Dr. Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness, explains that, “Over time, taking in the good could actually turn your brain’s negativity bias into a responsivity bias—that will help you stay centered, strong, happy and healthy.”   A leader’s regular practice of “observing the positives” encourages and empowers employees to do their best. With the burgeoning popular interest in mindfulness, we explore ways of being more fully attentive and aware as you go through your day and engage in coaching conversations. More and more studies are showing that a regular practice of mindfulness increases attention, enhances cognitive performance, improves memory, and reduces the feelings of stress in our demanding work environments. We interviewed mindfulness experts and included new exercises in the book that make mindfulness accessible to our readers. One simple method to be more mindful described is to practice “just noticing.” As you move through your day, from house to car, from car to office, from meeting to meeting, practice being present with just the sights, sounds, and sensations right in front of you. Notice how the lighting and temperature might change from the garage to the elevator. Notice the textures of the walls, carpeting and ceilings, the sounds of your footsteps and your own breathing. When negative or critical thoughts intrude, simply return to “just noticing.” Such “mindfulness in the moment” is representative of a type of mini meditation that is possible throughout the workday and leads to a less distracted, more focused “you” when it’s time to address the work at hand. These examples show how the workplace can shift to one that is more encouraging and empowering when more leaders choose to “observe the positives,” and practice “just noticing.”...

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Ask the CHCO: DoD’s Paige Hinkle-Bowles

Posted by on Aug 16, 2015 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Ask the CHCO: DoD’s Paige Hinkle-Bowles

In her interview with Federal News Radio for our Ask the CHCO series, Ms. Hinkle-Bowles shared some key areas of focus for the civilian workforce that support the DoD “Future Force” Initiative. Described as opportunities to build, shape, and improve workforce performance to meet changing DoD mission needs, Ms. Hinkle-Bowles discussed how many of the challenges facing the department’s 900,000 civilians in recent years are currently or will be addressed in the near future. As the interview concluded, I found myself wondering – how will DoD leaders address and link organizational culture to the Force of the Future Initiative or for that matter, any one of the supporting civilian workforce initiatives? For example, the long awaited performance management system, New Beginnings, or the functional community concept created to address workforce competency gaps, each have their own set of complexities that will require careful planning and working together to fully embed new practices into the fabric of DoD. Why Culture Matters. Any organization seeking to shift the strategic view of its workforce will increase its probability of success if viewed through a culture lens. Organizational culture is the “soul” of an organization that guides how people think and act. It is fundamental to achieving organizational goals, attracting and keeping people, and getting work done. Everyone Has a Role in Transforming Culture. When people in an organization recognize the current culture of an organization needs to transform to support its success going forward, only then will the needed change happen. This is the hardest step in culture change – because it takes time to internalize new patterns of thinking and acting – individually and organizationally....

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Building Resilience

Posted by on Aug 7, 2015 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Imagine you are in the water at the beach on a stormy day. The surf is high, and each time a wave comes it knocks you over. You stand back up, and another wave comes and knocks you down again. You may sustain this for a little while, even get a thrill from the waves crashing and getting back up, but eventually you will start to lose your ability to face the oncoming breakers. Even the strongest physique can’t withstand being hit by those waves time after time. At some point, we all get fatigued by trying to withstand the impact of wave after wave crashing on us without the time and effort needed to regain our balance and prepare for the next impact. The Impact of Prolonged Stress Stress is a constant in our busy, complex lives. To a degree, stress can be good for our brains and bodies. When we experience stress, hormones are released that create a burst of energy to help us deal with challenges effectively. Yet when we experience consistently high levels of stress over long periods of time, these same hormones can be incredibly damaging to us physically and mentally. The good news is that our brains and bodies are adaptable, and we can develop practices to reduce stress levels and find ways to maintain our ability to bounce back from the waves crashing over us again and again. What is Resilience? Resilience is the ability to effectively recover and thrive in the face of stress, challenges, or adversity. Resilient leaders take the time to rebuild their balance even in the midst of wave after wave of issues hitting them. The more balanced you are, the more capable your brain and body are to handle the intense stress levels that come with chronic or mounting adversity or crises. The Glass is…the Glass One might assume that those who are endlessly optimistic and positive will naturally be more resilient. This isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, studies have shown that individuals who fail to acknowledge the reality of their situation may end up losing their ability to endure chronically stressful or difficult conditions. On the other hand, those individuals who fall into the trap of viewing the situation as hopelessly or endlessly negative are equally unfit to sustain resilience in the face of challenging times. They lose the ability to attach a sense of ownership or meaning over their situations, which can lead to burn out. Resilient leaders are able to simultaneously acknowledge harsh realities and maintain a positive mental perspective where they focus on what they have the power to do in any given situation. They maintain a focus (for themselves and others) on making meaning of their actions. They inspire and help others to see how their work has purpose. Creating Balance Resilient leaders attain balance in four core dimensions of their being – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Physical: To be able to perform effectively, we must ensure that our bodies are cared for and that we allow for physical rest and recuperation. Over time, not eating or sleeping well or exercising regularly will take a toll on any leader’s ability to function at their highest level. Emotional: Not surprisingly, positive emotions increase energy and inspire productivity and higher level thinking....

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Ask the CHCO: Intel’s Deborah Kircher

Posted by on Jul 31, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Ask the CHCO: Intel’s Deborah Kircher

In FY14, the Intelligence Community (IC) was ranked one of the best places to work in the Federal government and fourth overall among large agencies. Workforce engagement done the right way – we could all learn a new strategy or two for engaging our workforce from the US Intelligence Community. Ask the CHCO interview with Deborah Kircher, the Assistant Director of National Intelligence for Human Capital and the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Chief Human Capital Officer, highlights best practice strategies in workplace initiatives that make her and many others share the sentiment, “We’re very honored to be a part of the Intelligence Community.” Ms. Kircher, who chairs the IC CHCO Council, attributes much of its success to the dedication of a concerted effort and shared vision to the mission by each IC CHCO within the 17 separate government elements that make up the Intelligence Community. The Council convenes to share best practices, exchange ideas, and reconcile different views with a focus on interagency cooperation and coordination on workforce issues, such as workforce planning, outreach and recruitment, and professional development. She recognizes that the IC is fortunate to have very positive and engaged senior leaders who believe that the Intelligence Community workforce is the most valuable asset of the organization. Workforce Planning Aligning workforce initiatives with the mission of the organization is often a big miss for many. Often looked at as two sides of the same coin, it’s easy to conduct workforce planning in isolation, when in fact each workforce policy, initiative, and plan should be in place to ensure execution of the strategy, support the mission, and nurture the culture. In 2014, Ms. Kircher led the team that developed and has since begun implementation of the Intelligence Community’s Human Capital Strategic Vision 2020, which focuses on three strategic themes: Shaping an effective workforce Embracing continuous learning Embedding agility, innovation, and inclusion Shaping an Effective Workforce Ms. Kircher describes how the Council employs the use of competencies to align workforce capabilities to the mission development of workforce planning. It has also incorporated a mitigation strategy to plan for the attrition associated with the large number of retirement-eligible employees, which could create a significant knowledge gap. The Intelligence Community has created a knowledge capture and transfer strategy to close potential performance gaps by actively developing individuals to fill leadership roles of individuals on the cusp of retirement. Embracing Continuous Learning As part of the interagency cooperation and development of an IC Training Council, the majority of the agencies incorporate leadership development with occupation training. This practice provides another opportunity for institutional knowledge transfer as employees participate from across the IC agencies. Ms. Kircher shares the importance of the Federally chartered National Intelligence University that’s been preparing personnel for senior positions in the Community since 1962. The IC also has a Joint Duty Program, which is a two-year rotational program for GS 11 and above, to prepare them to lead across the agencies. At any given time there are two thousand leaders on joint duty, participating in a learning community and actively transferring institutional knowledge. Employee Engagement Strategies The Intelligence Community has a recognition program that recognizes employee accomplishments that contribute to and have a lasting impact on the organization. Both individuals and teams are recognized during quarterly award ceremonies. New this...

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FEW’s National Training Recap

Posted by on Jul 29, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

FEW’s National Training Recap

Management Concepts was a proud Emerald Sponsor of this year’s Federally Employed Women’s (FEW) National Training Program (NTP) held in New Orleans, Louisiana from July 13-16, 2015. I have been a lifetime member of FEW for more than 10 years and when possible, I always want to support the mission of FEW especially the commitment to and “for the advancement and professional growth of women in Federal Service.” Now ironically I have never served in the Federal government but much of my career has been as a strategic partner within many agencies, helping them shape and achieve their missions. There were more than 870 attendees in New Orleans, and we were excited to have Jamie Neidig, Practice Director for Human Resources & Human Capital present two training sessions to 200 of those individuals. They included: What all Feds Need to Know about the Workforce: Workforce planning is critical to achieving individual and organizational objectives. During this session students explored the changing attributes of the Federal workforce and learned how to prepare as an individual, as a leader, and as part of an organization. Introduction to Systems Thinking for the Federal Workforce: During this workshop participants learned how to skillfully conceptualize, apply, analyze, synthesize, and/or evaluate information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. I also had the pleasure of working with Ms. Wanda Killingsworth, Ms. Naomi Bell, Ms. Linda Patrick, Ms. Karen Rainey, and Ms. Robin Sutton to develop the inaugural Leadership and Supervisor Certificate Program Scholarships. Criteria included: Applicant must be a member of FEW in good standing. All applicants must be current Federal government employees. Application must complete an essay Applicant must submit one letter of reference. As you may have suspected this was a highly competitive process and we had some very good applicants to choose from, making it a tough decision. The winners of this year’s scholarships were: The Leadership Certificate Program winner – Sandra Warstler, Analyst/Liaison, Small Business Administration The Supervisor Certificate Program winner – Marsha Grant, Administrative Case Manager/Courtroom Deputy to the Honorable Harvey E. Schlesinger and Honorable Henry Lee Adams, Jr., U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida This year’s NTP theme was Journey to Excellence, and those who have applied for the scholarships were given the theme as the topic for the essay submitted with the application. I would like to share a couple of statements extracted from the essays: “One of the most important qualities of a leader is to never rest on what you know and what you have done, but instead to strive to improve yourself and provide opportunities for ” “The late Maya Angelou said that ’people will never forget how you made them feel,’ and truly great leaders instinctively know that what matters most is how you treat people.” What’s the underlying theme? People, how you treat them, and… providing opportunities for others. We all know that organizations are better positioned to meet their missions when they have the support and dedication of an engaged, motivated, and innovative workforce. 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. Finally, I leave you with the FEW NTP Chair Karen Rainey’s words mentioned in a recent...

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Ask the CHCO: DHS’ Catherine Emerson

Posted by on Jul 13, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Ask the CHCO:  DHS’ Catherine Emerson

The Ask the CHCO interview with the Department of Homeland Security’s Catherine Emerson served as a reminder to me as how it was to work at DHS, because I had worked there prior to joining Management Concepts. I can vouch for the dedication that many DHS employees have to their missions. I can also attest that the uncertainty associated with long-term and frequent vacancies, not to mention re-organizations and shutdown preparations, wears even the most dedicated employees down. In good news, Ms. Emerson and her team are dedicated tackling these issues. Given the breadth of DHS’ mission, I would not expect her to solve everything at once. Instead, her strategy seems to initially focus on filling critical gaps, namely in cybersecurity and leadership. Cybersecurity – Focus on the Future Ms. Emerson has a keen sense that not only does DHS need more cybersecurity professionals; it also needs to constantly refresh its ranks with new talent. While she didn’t say it directly, Ms. Emerson has an understanding that the career lifecycle (yes, plural) of young technologists and policy makers does not often result in 40 years with the same agency, but are instead multiple lifecycles. At DHS, Ms. Emerson is starting this multiple lifecycle by providing people with initial professional experience through its cyber student volunteer program. Ms. Emerson hopes theses students go back to their schools, spread the word about their positive, real-world experience, and then come back to the Department. In addition, DHS reaches out to higher education institutions as well as high schools to promote the benefits of working in the cybersecurity sector at a Federal agency. The lifecycle continues through the constant recruiting of individuals with the right technical and policy expertise in cybersecurity into the professional ranks throughout the agency. Ms. Emerson was up front with the greatest challenge to attracting the workforce: DHS cannot match the market pay available in the private sector. With that in mind, Ms. Emerson and her team work to make these openings as attractive as possible. This includes creating job opportunities that will provide individuals with three to five years’ experience that will support their next move to another agency or to the private sector. Over the long-term, this approach could result in “prestige posts” similar to those we heard about from the NSF’s Dr. Turnow. Leadership Development Ms. Emerson is herself an example of the efforts to stabilize the leadership ranks within DHS. Ms. Emerson is the first non-politically appointed person to hold the position of CHCO at DHS. While I personally know individuals who have been with the Department since it was formed, I know just as many who burned out prior to reaching the SES ranks. DHS must find ways to convince more of its talent to stay. One way the Department is addressing this issue is by building opportunities for individuals within the SES rank, as well as GS-15s, to connect as individuals across the enterprise. Those entering the Executive Service are now paired with an experienced peer-mentor, often outside of their chain of command. GS-15s participating in the SES Career Development Program (SESCDP) recently expanded to include the whole agency, including complete rotations in other agencies within the Department. SESCDP participants benefit from being part of a cohort of high-performing individuals going through similar...

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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: Interior’s Mary Pletcher

Posted by on Jun 15, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Ask the CHCO: Interior’s Mary Pletcher

In case you missed it, last week’s “Ask the CHCO” segment on Federal News Radio featured an interview with Mary Pletcher, the Department of Interior’s Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Capital and Diversity. Since assuming her role in 2013, Ms. Pletcher has focused on a variety of efforts to support Interior’s goal to develop a 21st century workforce. Ms. Pletcher has her work cut out for her given the Department’s large geographic reach, broad mission, and the number of diverse occupations within Interior’s workforce. Did you know that Interior operates 10 bureaus across 2,400 locations with a staff of more than 70,000 (permanent and seasonal) employees in 330 different occupations? If you’ve visited a national park lately or have plans to pack up the family for such a trip this summer, take note of a few more impressive statistics. In 2013, the Department of Interior’s operations: Generated $360 billion dollars in revenue for the US economy Produced 2 million jobs Served 407,000 recreational visitors Ms. Pletcher poignantly noted that the Department of Interior “preserves and tells the American story.”  Successfully continuing as the steward of our vast, unique natural and cultural resources and many national icons will require Interior to have an exceptional workforce: one Interior hopes to build through focused employee engagement and recruitment efforts, rolling out a phased retirement plan, and mentoring employees at all levels. Building Engagement at Locations Far and Wide Given the great differences in physical work locations and the wide variety of work Interior employees carry out, the Department must rely heavily on its managers and leaders to monitor and devise steps to improve engagement. Like all Federal agencies, their Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results matter, and Ms. Pletcher believes the variety of methods they’ve developed to enhance engagement at the bureau level are paying off. Feedback is gathered and important information is delivered to Interior employees across the country through in-person and virtual town hall meetings, virtual idea boards and labs, and pulse surveys. We know a workforce reflective of the diversity of the nation is the Department’s greatest asset. -Mary Pletcher Staffing to Preserve the American Story One of Ms. Pletcher’s current challenges is establishing a phased retirement system. In the next five years, 40% of the Department’s workforce—nearly 20,000 employees—will be eligible for retirement. While their phased retirement program is still in the works, Interior is taking clear steps to recruit millennials through their Engaging the Next Generation priority. Ms. Pletcher and her team understand that this generation of future leaders is large, diverse, and more urban-focused, and that they can play a key role in educating millennials about Interior’s mission and the value of public service. In addition to offering a variety of youth recreation, education, and volunteer programs, Interior is poised to create 100,000 job opportunities for youth and veterans. Interestingly, Interior has the ability to convert a proportion of seasonal and part-time workers into permanent Federal positions across its locations, giving them a unique tool to build their talent pipeline. Paying Experience Forward Through Mentoring Mission diversity also presents a management challenge for the Department of Interior. Because they operate through thousands of locations, many of which are remote or comprised of a small staff, growing the Department’s future leaders is highly dependent on formal and...

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Diversity and Inclusion

Posted by on Jun 8, 2015 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 1 comment

Diversity and Inclusion

Government agencies serve the American public, and thus should not only be representative of the population they serve, but demonstrate the value of that diversity in their workforce. However, a recent survey put out by the Government Business Council and Monster Government Solutions identified some concerning data about how Federal employees experience diversity and inclusion efforts. The study found that 75% of government employees feel misunderstood because of some aspect of their identity, and only 28% believe their organization is effective in leveraging diversity. Organizations that Get D&I Get Results Research time and again has demonstrated the importance of a diverse and inclusive workplace for organizations. Diversity and inclusion enhance employee morale, productivity, and innovation.   Truly inclusive organizations embed diversity into the very fabric of the organizational culture. The organizational identity to which everyone belongs is one of inclusion. It’s not only in the written policies and practices, but also in the unwritten norms and social ways of being. It’s part of the organizational language. Everyone feels equally valued for what they bring to the organization. There is transparency in decision making. There is representation of diversity at all levels of the organization. Individuals at every level of leadership are committed to and responsible for building and sustaining a diverse and inclusive environment. Senior Leaders Need to Pave the Way Although 82% of the respondents to the survey agreed that a deeper understanding of diversity and inclusion would benefit the organization, 40% of respondents believe there’s a lack of support from leadership, and 35% believe there is a lack of dedicated resources to lead and manage D&I initiatives. Organizational leadership must initiate noticeable organizational culture change, where they actively acknowledge the current state of the organizational culture and how it helps or hinders inclusion. They must elicit a vision for an inclusive organization from every corner of the organization, rather than dictating what that vision will be. They need to actively and visibly remove barriers to inclusion by ensuring sufficient resources are available to support D&I efforts. Managers and Supervisors Need Skills Although the study found that 65% of managers believe they have the resources to effectively resolve diversity related issues, 67% of non-managers lack confidence in their supervisors’ ability to resolve D&I issues. All supervisors and managers must hold themselves and their teams accountable for creating and sustaining an inclusive working environment. One-off training that only focuses on EEO compliance is not enough to build a cadre of supervisors who are committed to diversity and inclusion and have the skills to foster an inclusive workplace. Supervisors need adequate development and coaching to ensure they have the competence to support diverse and inclusive working teams. Individual Contributors Need to be Advocates Individuals at all levels of the organization must see themselves as advocates for inclusion, and be willing to have open and honest conversations about identity and how it impacts individuals’ values, perceptions and behaviors at work. Individual contributors must be able and willing to elicit and provide feedback that may be tough to hear, to test their own assumptions and prejudgments, and acknowledge that they have implicit biases that may cloud their vision of others. Fostering diversity and inclusion is not a new challenge for government organizations, and past efforts can yield valuable lessons. In order for D&I...

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Ask the CHCO: NSF’s Dr. Joanne Tornow

Posted by on Jun 2, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Ask the CHCO: NSF’s Dr. Joanne Tornow

The latest “Ask the CHCO” interview with Dr. Joanne Tornow from the National Science Foundation (NSF) reminded me of the essential need for subject matter expertise for the success of financial assistance programs. In the case of NSF, this includes the constant renewal of its scientific and programmatic workforce supporting the distribution of 94% of this agency’s budget to the scientific community. Dr. Tornow and her team at NSF support approximately 2,000 employees and contractors, of which 300 are on temporary assignment from the scientific and university research community. To an outsider, having 15% of your workforce being temporary may seem like the creation of an unnecessary burden. But in the case of NSF, this churn is essential to its implementation and maintenance of a robust merit review system for Federal funding proposals as well as helping set the government’s science policy agenda. Because significant change in the workforce is the norm, NSF takes several measures to plan and prepare for it, including: Recognizing Cultural Change. Many of the NSF’s temporary employees have assignments of two years. This requires NSF to train new colleagues to recognize and navigate a team-driven, Federal environment. For some scientific leaders, this can be a bit of a culture shock, especially if they have been working independently or as the sole leader of a lab. Assigning Mentors from Day One. NSF matches its temporary employees with permanent staff who help them acclimate to their new working environment. This not only benefits the temporary workers; it also serves as a mechanism for minimizing disruption to the 85% of the NSF workforce that is permanent. From a grants perspective, this can also help individuals with the transition from seeing the world as a recipient to an issuer of funds. Normalizing Change at the Team Level. As I stated earlier, NSF has a robust merit review system in place. This system would not be successful if some teams were majority “rotator” staff. Instead, NSF creates teams with a 50:50 ratio of permanent to temporary staff to create stability and ensure teams have a steady stream of new ideas. My other big takeaway from this week’s interview was all about recruiting. Convincing the best and brightest to join NSF requires them to establish, implement, and maintain an employee value proposition equal or more than the opportunity cost of staying in the field. Dr. Tornow stated that in the case of some disciplines, NSF’s stature as a premier funder and supporter allows it to promote its opportunities as prestigious positions. An NSF assignment is a path up the career ladder. In other cases, NSF is one of many leaders in the field. Dr. Tornow is working to enhance NSF’s prestige in these cases. That means convincing more recruits through more channels, whether temporary or permanent, that working at NSF is great because of the work they do makes a difference in the world and contributes to society at large. Finally – you can’t help but be impressed by Dr. Tornow’s career path. From active scientist to NSF Program Officer to head of Office of Information and Resource Management (and some other stops along the way), she is clearly someone who has not shied away from opportunities outside of her comfort zone. With the right training – such as grants...

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Dispelling Training Evaluation Myths

Posted by on May 26, 2015 in Workforce Management | 1 comment

Dispelling Training Evaluation Myths

A few months ago, I attended a local professional group meeting where the topic of training evaluation was discussed. I learned a lot about what many people think about training evaluation. Most of the attendees were not training or human resources professionals, so I would not expect them to be experts on the topic. I’m glad they felt comfortable asking the questions that were on their mind. It was a good reminder for me that many misconceptions exist about training evaluation. Let’s talk about two of those myths or misconceptions and what the real story is! Myth #1: A “Level 1” is the survey that students complete after a course; a “Level 3” is a survey that they complete a few months after the course. It’s easy to understand that the Kirkpatrick Evaluation Levels™ (Disclaimer: I’m not related to Donald, Jim, or Wendy Kirkpatrick, but I did learn a lot when I took the Bronze Certification class!) became synonymous with the timing or method with which evaluation data were collected. However, in the New World Kirkpatrick Model™, which is described in the OPM Training Evaluation Field Guide, the levels are the type of information that is collected. The Four Levels are: Level 1: Reaction Level 2: Learning Level 3: Behavior Level 4: Results Information on the four levels can be collected at different points in time and using different methods. For example, an end-of-course evaluation could ask students to answer questions about each of these levels. Yes, asking them to predict whether they think they will apply the skills they learned (Level 3) is hypothetical. But asking this question serves as an early warning indicator. Negative or low responses to that question should trigger further diagnosis into why they are responding that way. Additionally, you should ask the same question on a follow-up evaluation to confirm whether, in fact, the student did apply what was learned. Things can change once students get back to the job. It is not uncommon for students to have trouble applying what they learned to their job; sometimes you can modify the training so that it is easier for students to know how to use their new skills. Students also may encounter other obstacles, which you should ask about on the follow-up evaluation. Some common obstacles include not having the right tools or encountering resistance from the supervisor or other team members. Myth #2: Levels 3 and 4 are hard to measure. The attendees at the meeting seemed to think that measuring Levels 3 and 4 were nearly impossible. One gentleman recounted a story about how he spent a whole year leading a study that cost over six figures to simply measure Level 4. As I listened to him, I began to wonder whether the study cost more than the training! I looked around the room at other attendees, and their eyes were wide as they presumably thought about having to run such a study one day. When viewing the levels as types of information, measuring Levels 3 and 4 doesn’t seem so hard. As we already learned, you can ask questions about those levels in end-of-course evaluations and follow-up evaluations. No single measurement is perfect, so you must act like a detective and collect information from different sources and in different ways. With...

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NAPA Forum Recap: The List

Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

We recently had the honor of sponsoring the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) monthly May program – The Government Accountability Office (GAO) High Risk List Forum. GAO reports: “Every two years at the start of a new Congress, GAO calls attention to agencies and program areas that are high risk due to their vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, or are most in need of transformation.” The 2015 report brought the total project list to 32; while progress was made on the previous thirty, there is still room for improvement. Further, new to the list this year were Managing Risks and Improving Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Care and Improving the Management of Information Technology (IT) Acquisitions and Operations. The forum sought to discuss how Federal agencies are making progress and managing strategies to address the high risk list. After a keynote on Federal agency performance from The Honorable Sean O’Keefe, Howard G. and S. Louise Phanstiel Chair in Strategic Management and Leadership, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University (and former NASA Administrator), panelists who talked through the list included: Donald F. Kettl, Professor, School of Public Policy, Maryland School of Public Policy, University of Maryland; Nonresident Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution, and Nonresident Senior Fellow, The Volcker Alliance (moderator) The Honorable Robert Hale, former Controller, Department of Defense Chris Mihm, Managing Director of Strategic Issues, Government Accountability Office Nancy Potok, Deputy Director, Census Bureau, Department of Commerce John Gill,   Chief Human Capital Officer and Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Human Resources, Department of Health and Human Services Government Executive recapped the event with an article titled “The Odds of Getting off GAO’s High-Risk List Aren’t Good” while Federal News Radio’s version was more optimistic and called “Agencies on GAO’s High Risk List Find the Bright Side.” Interestingly, both focused on the panel’s insights and hope that the list highlights: The need to improve leadership, develop action plans, human capital resources and capabilities Making the case for funding from Congress and as a tool for enterprisewide risk management to create greater efficiencies An opportunity to convene a serious planning discussion Embracing oversight Some of the Management Concepts team’s takeaways from the speakers included: Nancy Potok from Census wisely commented that being on the high risk list is not just a negative that allows for higher visibility, but instead had positively impacted the high risk-designated program at Census because of the willingness of Congress to allocate additional funds and resources. If you have a program on the list, take a holistic approach Chris Mihm at GAO stressed the need of a risk framework. What are agencies doing to mitigate risk? VA Health care was placed on the list because GAO’s 100+ recommendations were not fully addressed. IT acquisition management was placed on the list due to the fact that of the 730 recommendations GAO has provided, only 23 percent have been fully implemented as of January 2015 Overall, everyone highlighted on major issue not on the list – a crisis in civil of culture and morale and human capital Chris Mihm also noted with changes to The GPRA Modernization Act (which serves as a foundation for helping agencies focus on their highest priorities and creating a culture where data and empirical evidence plays a greater role...

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Ask the CHCO: NASA’s Jeri Buchholz

Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Ask the CHCO: NASA’s Jeri Buchholz

During an interview on our sponsored, “Ask the CHCO” series on Federal News Radio last week, Jeri Buchholz of NASA highlighted the importance of leveraging the organizational culture to accomplish the agency’s mission. Buchholz entered NASA during a daunting stage in the history of the agency, when the shuttle program had ended and many employees worried about the agency’s future. Buchholz describes a period of overwhelming “uncertainty and mourning,” in which many employees who had spent their entire careers focused on a certain mission saw that mission taken away. Fast forward three years, NASA was rated the best place to work in the Federal government and ranked #1 in innovation. What does she attribute this rapid organizational culture change to? “You have a choice, you can let culture evolve on its own or you can grab ahold of it and mold it in the direction you think your organization needs to go.” – Jeri Buchholz Connect people to each other and the mission: Buchholz says you cannot just rely on the organizational culture to evolve organically to deliver the outcomes you seek. You must have a strategy to fertilize the organizational culture with intentional actions to engage the workforce. At NASA, members of the workforce, both direct hire employees and contractors, understand how their immediate work assignments are part of the larger mission. People at all levels see themselves as important contributors to the agency’s mission, thereby creating a deeper sense of ownership and investment in the agency’s success. It boils down to four main points: Nurture a culture of innovation in day-to-day operations: Buchholz says that innovation is infused into the organizational culture by making it a part of the daily work experience for every employee, rather than a separate activity or event. Leaders must find ways to encourage people at all levels to bring forth new ideas and ways of addressing problems from the grass roots level, and recognize innovation in performance. Encourage senior leaders to model the behavior they wish for future leadership One of the most popular forums for connecting people to senior leadership and the mission is through a webinar called, “Ask Me Anything,” in which the NASA administrator spent time just talking with employees at every level, answering any question they put forth. It gave people the opportunity to engage with the top leader of the agency at a personal level and create a human connection. Buchholz also highlights a very successful reverse mentoring program, in which senior leaders are mentored by junior employees in specific competency areas important to the senior leaders. Activities like these foster a sense of transparency and support, and encourage knowledge sharing across the agency. Focus on front-line supervisors Buchholz says the best advice she can provide to any organizational leadership is to invest in first line supervisors. They are the most powerful people in the organization, according to Buchholz, because they make the decisions on who to hire, how to assign work, monitor performance, and give feedback. These decisions may seem small, says Buchholz, but they have an immense impact on mission accomplishment. Effective and resilient organizational cultures have highly skilled and committed first line supervisors who accept ownership for creating a working environment in which all employees can thrive. Ever organization can benefit from innovation, change...

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TOC Recap: Connect, Learn, Lead

Posted by on May 13, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

TOC Recap: Connect, Learn, Lead

Thank you to everyone who stopped by our booth at the Training Officers Consortium (TOC) 2015 Annual Institute held in Roanoke, VA from April 26-29, 2015. There were more than 150 attendees and the connections we made were outstanding. The theme this year was Connect, Learn, Lead and I witnessed the active participation exuded by all participants taking this to heart. This intensive three-day residential program provided skill-building workshops and seminars. Stuart H. Weinstein, Ph.D., Practice Leader for Instructional Systems at Management Concepts, presented “Assuring Successful Training Innovations: Building and Deploying with Maximum Impact,” which provided the participants with insight to why basic human attributes – regardless of geographical location, educational level, societal beliefs, language spoken, or personal goals – when addressed in the creation of training, will result in a greater chance for successful implementation. The booth traffic was flowing and we were highly engaged with the attendees throughout the event. Some of the current topics discussed at TOC were: Customer service: Provide service that meets or exceeds customer expectations. This only happens when people are truly focused on service instead of simply providing sub-standard service. Building leaders: A primary goal of a Training Officer is to continue to build more capable and effective leaders that can help the organization perform and compete in an ever-changing environment. Metrics and Evaluation: There were a variety of discussions around what metrics should be tracked in order to better evaluate the connection between learning and organizational impact. Innovation: Without innovation organizations lose their competitive advantage. Communication and a change in culture are often needed to foster the ideas to fruition. Competency-Based Assessments: Many attendees agreed that it is very beneficial to outline a process for developing competency-based assessments that are expressly designed to aid employees and their supervisors to create an employee-focused Personal Development Plan. Succession Planning: Many attendees explained that succession planning is at the core of strategic, long-term organizational success. Aligning talent with agency mission increases the prospects of meeting mission objectives. Finally, imagine my surprise when Dr. Susan Camarena, Chief Knowledge and Learning Officer, Federal Transit Administration, wrapped up the conference with her brunch keynote “The Synergy of Learning and Knowledge Management: Tapping into the Endless Resource of Institutional Knowledge” and she opened up with a reference to the Management Concepts Press book “Optimizing Talent in the Federal Workforce” (Chapter 7: Knowledge Transfer). By the end of the conference and after many conversations on the topics mentioned above, it was apparent that the TOC community provided Management Concepts with great insights to what’s keeping training officers up at night. We’re taking the information and feedback and implementing it in our products and services. See you next year...

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Recruiting the Next Generation of Feds

Posted by on May 12, 2015 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Recruiting the Next Generation of Feds

Over the past several weeks, we’ve heard from a number of Federal leaders through our sponsored “Ask the CHCO” series on Federal News Radio about the work going on to recruit, retain, and engage Federal workers. CHCOs from USAID, FLRA, and HHS have shared best practices and initiatives to improve the Federal employment experience. Much attention is being paid to retaining and engaging Federal workers, as shortages in mission critical skills suggest that a renewed focus on attracting high performing, highly skilled individual to Federal service is needed. Fortunately, it won’t take major reforms to the Federal hiring process to begin the process of attracting high performers, particularly Millennials, to the Federal government. Here are a few easy steps you can take to begin building a pipeline of promising future employees: Emphasize the value of public service: For Public Service Recognition Week, Mika Cross and Dr. David A. Bray shared their perspectives on what attracted them to Federal employment. One common theme in their stories was the importance of public service as a motivator for joining the Federal government and their specific agencies. The desire to connect with a larger mission and contribute to the public good is a strong motivator for Millennials, and for many workers in other generations. If you can make the connection between a particular job opportunity and the mission of your agency (like through an Employee Value Proposition), you’ll attract candidates who share the agency’s values and are drawn to contribute to the work of the agency. Emphasize job mobility: According to Forbes, 91% of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years. Unlike private industry where moving to a new job often requires leaving an organization and seeking new employment, the ability to move between divisions, departments, or even agencies is a natural part of Federal employment. Consider taking time to develop career paths and maps that include links to service in other agencies as part of the development path to demonstrate to new Federal employees their ability to move across the government as they build their Federal careers. Put organizational values front and center, and live by them: According to a PwC survey, 59% of Millennials will deliberately seek out employers whose social responsibility values match their own. If you want your agency to rise to the top of the list for Federal job seekers, it’s important that you make the agency’s values are a primary part of your messaging and your employer brand. But, be aware that the values you promote can’t just be a marketing pitch. Transparency and consistency are priorities for many younger workers, and they’ll quickly spot a mismatch between words and actions. As of the 4th quarter of 2014, the share of the Federal workforce under 30 was around 8%, despite the fact that in 2015, this demographic will become the majority in the U.S. workforce. As OPM works on major initiatives to diversify and build the Federal workforce, individual agencies can, and should, take steps of their own to improve their talent pipeline and attract the next generation of Federal workers....

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PSRW: Q&A with Dr. David A. Bray

Posted by on May 6, 2015 in Workforce Management | 1 comment

PSRW: Q&A with Dr. David A. Bray

In recognition of Public Service Recognition Week, May 3-9, 2015 Management Concepts spoke with a few of the Federal government’s most dedicated public servants. Here’s our Q&A with Dr. David A. Bray,* Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) who also tweets as @fcc_cio. MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? David: While my official title is Chief Information Officer for the Federal Communications Commission, I’d describe my role as 80 percent “digital diplomat” encouraging collaborations across Bureaus and with other stakeholders across both the public and private sectors. The other 20 percent of my role includes championing the team and being their human flak jacket so that they can experiment, take risks, and help transform an agency — that originally was about 15-or-so years behind the times when I arrived 20 months ago — to one that leads the way for public service IT going forward. I parachuted into the role of a non-partisan Senior Executive back in August 2013. Prior to my arrival there had been nine CIOs in about eight years, a sign that the Commission and the IT team had been through a lot of turnover. I sensed the need to listen and learn the different narratives surrounding the missions of the 18 different Bureaus and Offices of the FCC, build trust, and work to identify what we could do to make progress together. We’re now at a point where we’ve demonstrated the Team dramatically can transform from the “old way” of doing IT to a “new way” that includes moving all of our IT servers at headquarters to a managed service provider and ultimately, to the cloud. I believe the FCC should be leading the way with its IT, and it’s rewarding to be able assemble a team that is excited about what we need to do together. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? David: I find joy in leading a team to tackle mission-focused projects that are near impossible, but not completely impossible, involving a mixture of both humans and technology. That is what gets me out of bed every morning and gets me pumped. In particular, I enjoy most when someone tells me that something is near impossible or “has never been done before” and then I get to tackle it and see if I can do it. I love being the underdog because you get to challenge the status quo. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? David: In late 2000, I signed up for a little-known program called the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I was scheduled brief the FBI and CIA on September 11, 2001 at 9am on what we would do tech-wise if an event happened. In response to 9/11, we all worked non-stop, with only about four hours sleep a day, then repeat. We ‘stood down’ on October 1 and I briefed the FBI and CIA on October 3. The first case of anthrax occurred less than 24 hours later. We were busy for several months at the CDC after that. Later we responded to West Nile Virus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, monkeypox, and several other...

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PSRW: Q&A with Mika Cross

Posted by on May 5, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

PSRW: Q&A with Mika Cross

In recognition of Public Service Recognition Week, May 3-9, 2015 Management Concepts spoke with a few of the Federal government’s most dedicated public servants. Here’s our Q&A with Mika Cross,* Work/Life Policy Director and Flexible Workplace Strategy at Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She serves as Co- Chair, Human Capital Special Interest Group (HC-SIG) at ACT-IAC and was a 2014 winner of the Federal News Radio Causey Award for Public Service. Mika is also the proud single parent of two children, ages 7 and 12. Her daughter Camryn recently nominated her as a Federal Mom Hero and recorded a video to enter a contest in support of Mother’s Day and Public Service Recognition Week. You can view the video and cast a vote for her by clicking here. MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? Mika: I have been working as a civilian Federal employee since May 2004. Prior to that, I served with the United States Army – I combined my time served and now am happy to say I have 17+ years of total public service under my belt. I currently work for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) helping to implement flexible and supportive workplace policies and leave programs to help our workforce be able to bring their best to their work and the mission, by better managing their priorities in their personal lives as well as in their work lives. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? Mika: I love to help people who do the great work of government. I have always felt a call to service, which is why I joined the Army. When I transitioned to the civilian sector (because of my own work/life needs as a new mother) I wanted to give back in a meaningful way to help employees be able to foster a work environment that would let them be efficient on the job, while being able to attend to other things that matter most to them outside of work. Being able to contribute in this way keeps me inspired, passionate, and on my toes as the Federal workplace looks to adopt new ways of supporting our employees who deliver the mission to the American Public whom we serve. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? Mika: I suppose one of my biggest achievements has to be my ability to set the example by prioritizing my family, as well as my dedication to my Federal career. It is never an easy task and there truly is no such thing as “balance” but if I am able to help shape new policies, initiatives, and programs that can inspire employees to find their own passion, define their own levels of success, and still tend to what matters to them outside of work, I feel as though I am achieving great strides on behalf of Public Service – even if in the background. MC: Finally, what advice would you share on making public service a career and not a pit stop? Mika: The primary advice I would give is to manage your own career – make sure you connect the dots and learn the ropes of the HR policies that guide your performance management, career development,...

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Our Dedication to Public Servants

Posted by on May 4, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Our Dedication to Public Servants

Nancy Potter spent 62 years at GSA and upon her retirement she noted, “I take satisfaction in knowing I was part of a team and organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in this nation. From the day the doors swung open in 1949 to today, GSA has played a unique role in our government, touching lives in more ways than most people imagine.” Nancy’s story is remarkable for her tenure, but her dedication and commitment is shared by millions of Federal employees, each unique in their contribution to our country. That’s why the first week of May we celebrate Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW). This year’s theme is “Government Works” – highlighting the amazing things public servants do across our great nation, around the world, in hometowns, and communities. In addition to events the Public Employees Roundtable and Partnership for Public Service are organizing, we’ve set up activities to thank the people who work hard: Keep an eye out this week for our blog for more information and interviews on PSRW. Follow us on Twitter @Mgmt_Concepts for a chance to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card. Look for #PSRW. Are you training with us in our DC or VA facilities this week? Stay after class on Thursday for a reception – our way of saying thanks! Management Concepts is proud to have served the government for more than 42 years – unleashing the potential of more than one million individuals. Just like Nancy, we witnessed significant change in government, technology, and our country and adapted to it. We’ve worked at every level in government, building skills and accelerating careers; our capabilities go beyond training and probably include much more than you know us for. Refresh your understanding of Management Concepts here so we can be a better resource to you and your organization. We are the nation’s premier provider of professional development, performance improvement, and talent management solutions for the public sector and care deeply about Federal employees and advancing the mission of your team or organization. Thank you for your service to our country....

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Is Your Ecosystem Thriving or Collapsing?

Posted by on Apr 27, 2015 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Is Your Ecosystem Thriving or Collapsing?

Imagine a thriving ecosystem, and you may envision a lush landscape with great diversity, energy, and balance. Now imagine an ecosystem that is suffering and you probably see a barren landscape, where life forms are dying off and there is bloodthirsty competition for limited resources. Now think of some of the organizations or teams within which you have worked. Notice any similarities? When you think about it, organizations have a lot in common with some of the most complex biological ecosystems: Individuals at all levels matter Ecosystems are comprised of interdependent organisms, from microscopic to gigantic, that all function to support and sustain one another. In an organizational ecosystem, every member regardless of their level or function plays a key role in the sustainability of the organization. Healthy organizational ecosystems ensure that the talent and skills of every member are valued and utilized, and every individual member of the organization develops the competencies needed to take initiative and contribute to the vitality of the ecosystem. Relationships matter In a thriving ecosystem, symbiotic relationships are critical. Individual members of the organization consider the ripple effect of their actions on other stakeholders. They build relationships to support other members of the system, not because it’s “nice to do” but because it is the only way the organizational ecosystem will thrive over the long term. Conditions matter Ecosystems are dependent on their conditions, and climate and environmental changes can cause a significant impact on an ecosystem’s sustainability. Thriving organizations have leaders at all levels who demonstrate adaptability and resilience to help the ecosystem maintain its balance in times of turbulence. However, even the most adaptable and resilient ecosystem can only withstand so much imbalance due to environmental changes before it suffers. Therefore, leaders must also constantly manage the conditions to ensure stability while the ecosystem is in a state of flux. Sustainability for organizational ecosystems For any organization, it is critical to plan for sustainability in the face of constant changes. This means that individuals across the organization need to continuously develop their abilities to effectively contribute to the ecosystem, and the organization must create the conditions for every individual to maximize the full extent of their talents and skills. Moreover, individuals must be equipped with the right combination of competencies to support the organizational ecosystem. Therefore, the organization must take an integrated approach to building the individualized competencies of each member. In an upcoming blog, we will explore what this looks like and how the organization can make this integrated approach a reality. Stay tuned!...

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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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5 Steps to Take to Escape Old Employee Engagement Ideas

Posted by on Apr 15, 2015 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

5 Steps to Take to Escape Old Employee Engagement Ideas

Last week I was having a conversation with some colleagues about the renewed focus on employee engagement in the Federal government and how Federal agencies can meet the goal of reaching 67% engagement by 2016. Moving the engagement index up by 3 percentage points over a two year period is an ambitious goal that will require thinking differently about employee engagement. Of course, as John Maynard Keynes wrote, “The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones.” So, with that in mind, here are a few steps you can take to escape some old ideas about engagement: Start with the organization’s strategic plan – Any efforts to increase employee engagement should start with a look at the strategic plan and associated strategic initiatives of the organization. As with any other major initiative the organization takes on, the return on investment for engagement initiatives should be linked to, and traceable from, the organization’s stated priorities. Linking the outcomes of an engagement initiative to the organization’s strategic objectives elevates those initiatives, bringing attention and accountability to the process while at the same time providing concrete evidence of the success or failure of the work. Recognize that the factors that drive engagement may not be the same as the factors that drive mission results – There has been a great deal of research linking increased engagement to organizational performance using a variety of measures (e.g. here, here and here) and it’s well established that organizations with higher levels of engagement outperform the market. However, it is important to remember that there may not be 100% overlap between the factors that drive employee engagement and the factors that drive mission results for the organization. While increased engagement may indeed provide positive business outcomes, a host of other factors including systems, governance processes, policies, or available resource can affect business results and mitigate the effects of increased engagement. As you plan efforts to increase engagement, first identify the drivers of key organizational performance measures and prioritize efforts that also influence specific desired outcomes for your organization. Consider engagement to be situational – Studies by Gallup, IBM, and CIPD all show that engagement varies across job types, industries, culture, and context. While large scale engagement studies that demonstrate relationships between specific workplace factors and engagement can help narrow your focus when considering ways to enhance engagement, your chances of success will increase if you take the time to identify the specific characteristics of your organization and workforce that are affecting engagement at your organization. Engagement is an individual, not a collective phenomenon – The most common measures of employee engagement take individual survey results and compile them across various levels of the organization to calculate the percentage of employees ranging from actively engaged to actively disengaged. Group level data on engagement can provide insights into the scope and scale of your problem, but doesn’t provide much help in figuring out how to really improve it. The truth is, engagement increases as the overlap between what the organization offers and what the individual wants increases. When there is consistency between individual interests and the structures, processes, and objectives of the organization, individual engagement will increase. So, you should look to add richness and depth to your data to understand the...

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Ask the CHCO: HHS’ John Gill

Posted by on Apr 7, 2015 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Ask the CHCO: HHS’ John Gill

As part of the series “Ask the CHCO*,” Federal News Radio’s Lauren Larson interviewed Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) and Deputy Assistant Secretary John Gill. Currently, he leads a human resources operation that serves 90,000 diverse Federal employees across multiple departments with complex and challenging missions. He took this opportunity to share his insights into the current state of the Federal workforce and where it’s headed in the future. Mr. Gill shared some examples of the progress that has been made in recent years to streamline and strengthen talent management, including the efforts of the SES reform advisory group on which he serves. To maintain the momentum, he identified four mission-critical goals: create a performance culture, identify high potential talent, attract young talent, and understand future capabilities requirements. Create a Performance Culture A key component of driving a performance culture is the commitment to a mission and an understanding of each stakeholder on how to support it. Mr. Gill believes this is where the government holds an advantage: the very nature of public service suggests that people are drawn to the work because of their passion for it. The incentive to perform is inherent in their role and the stakes are high, such as HHS’ response to the Ebola outbreak. Additionally, engaged leadership, organizational transparency, internal communication, incentives, and accountability foster an environment that inspires high performance. How can you build a high performance culture? Try these initiatives: First, turn your managers into coaches. Supervisors in the Federal government increasingly need to be held accountable for coaching their teams to improve performance. Making the shift from a management philosophy that focuses on evaluating performance to one where managers work to build the capabilities of their workforce is an important element of creating a culture of performance. Second, create a participative environment. Organizations function at their peak when all employees take ownership of the work required to achieve the organization’s mission. By working to create an environment where all opinions are valued and individuals are encouraged to contribute their unique perspectives, an organization can take advantage of the collective strength of the workforce. Third, build a culture of recognition. For a culture to maintain high performance it is essential that leaders at all levels of the organization recognize and reward success. Building an organization where high performance is rewarded (even with a simple thank you) reinforces positive workplace behaviors and establishes expectations for performance that can spread throughout the organization Identify High Potentials and Attract Young Talent Mr. Gill mentioned repeatedly that he works with amazingly talented people at all levels. But there is a need to do a better job of identifying individuals with the aspiration and potential to grow their roles. The goal is to engage them, and help define their career path. Talented individuals are much more likely to stay in Federal service when they can see future opportunities, and this directly relates to retaining young workers. We’ve all heard for ages that the Federal workforce is aging. To further complicate matters, fewer young people are seeing the government as a viable career option compared to years past. This means while the government is losing career Feds with a bank of knowledge, the younger generations aren’t signing on to fill these empty spaces. To continue improving performance,...

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No More Generation Bashing

Posted by on Apr 1, 2015 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 2 comments

No More Generation Bashing

“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today… When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly disrespectful and impatient of restraint.” – Hesiod, Greek poet and philosopher, 700 BC We’ve been hearing the same complaints about generational differences for, literally, millennia. The old lament the youth of today, while the young believe themselves to be the future and that the generation before them – although living in the present – is already the past. It’s all reductive and too dismissive of the motivations and habits of any generation. And yet it’s become the hallmark of some of the more popular research around generational differences in the workplace – and it’s a troubling trend. I recently heard an expert describe “Generation Z,” the next generation to soon enter the workforce whose members were born between the late 1990s and today, as one that expects the latest technology in their work environment because their parents handed them an electronic device any time they threw a tantrum. Again, the observation about what motivates and shapes the behavior of a generation reduces the analysis of generational diversity to caricatures, frequently perpetuating negative images of the younger generations. Millennials (or Gen Y, itself a reductive term whose only descriptive quality is that it tells you they come after Gen X) are decried as narcissistic, coddled, and lazy, raised by helicopter parents, and feeling entitled to take over the world without earning their stripes through hard work. Not only are such characterizations about the younger generation harmful, they are also wrong. Recent research by IBM blows major holes through these depictions of Millennials, and finds that there are fewer differences in workplace expectations among the different generations. Moreover, the 2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint (FEV) Survey report by OPM, “reveals a picture of Millennial employees who strongly believe the work they do is important, who believe they are given real opportunities to improve their skills, and who are satisfied with their jobs.” These values are not markedly different from their Gen X and Boomer counterparts. Young professionals expect the latest technology because technological advancements took place so rapidly in their formative years. Think about it: a Millennial entering high school in 2004 would have seen the rise of YouTube, the iTunes music and video stores, and the iPhone (among countless other innovations) before graduating. One day “apps” weren’t a thing; the next day they were all anyone could talk about and a possible way to make a living. So yes, they might seem frustrated by walking into an office with five-year-old laptops. In 2015, aren’t we all? So let’s change the conversation. Imagine your life priorities in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s. What is most important to you? What is most pressing to you in terms of family, free time, career, and finances? Granted, the period of time in which a group of people grows up does impact views, social norms, and expectations. Cultural, political, economic events, technological and medical advancements, educational and parenting philosophies – these all can contribute to generational trends. However, we limit ourselves as leaders when we fall into the trap of saying, “all people from this...

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Support Your Mentors

Posted by on Mar 31, 2015 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Support Your Mentors

Throughout my career, I have had the good fortune of having several excellent mentors. They naturally took me under their wing, took an interest in my development and gave their time, energy, and expertise without my even having to ask. I am so thankful for them, knowing that my career most certainly would have taken a different direction had it not been for their genuine interest and commitment to our relationship. This organic mentoring, though, doesn’t happen for everyone and organizations cannot rely on this more natural process as a way to engage and develop their people. We know that mentorship can be an excellent tool for employees to receive guidance and perspective as they move through their career. When done well, both parties gain value. The mentor contributes their expertise, the mentee can develop a trusted confidante, and they both learn from one another’s experience. While there is usually no shortage of interested mentees, organizations can struggle to maintain a robust pool of mentors. Let’s talk about the impact this can have and some ideas to turn this around. Address Mentor Burnout Professionals who volunteer to serve as mentors often have a desire to create a positive impact in someone else’s life, a desire to give, and believe in the value of what they have to offer. Yet when mentors are in short supply, programs often rely on the same volunteers to take on several mentees at a time with each new program cycle. Mentors can feel overloaded or burned out. What starts off as an energizing way for the mentor to give back can turn into an energy draining commitment. So what happens? The answer to that might lie in the way the mentors give. When the pool of mentors is smaller than the pool of mentees, the matching process isn’t always able to meet the specific needs or hopes of the mentee, and may make matches that require a mentor to go out of their realm of expertise, comfort, or preferred way of giving to accommodate the mentee. For example, some mentors might be connectors, best able (and energized) to give by helping their mentee to grow their network, introducing them to a variety of other professionals. Some mentors might prefer to help a mentee improve their writing or communications style. Yet when they are matched with multiple mentees that require they give in ways that don’t energize them, burnout can easily take hold. Save the perpetual givers from themselves So check in. Ask current and prospective mentors to describe the way they can best give to a mentee, and actually try to match for that. What are the mentor’s favorite ways to engage? What ways tap their strengths and preferences, not only their experience? Adam Grant writes, “Givers don’t burn out because they devote too much time and energy to giving. They burn out when they’re working with people in need but are unable to help effectively.” Seek other potential mentors To help meet the demand for mentors, consider individuals in your organization that are flying under the radar. Who has untapped institutional knowledge? Who might benefit from being personally invited to participate? For many, the decision to participate, or not, rests in the value they feel they have to offer. We habituate to our...

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Inside the Minds of Chief Learning Officers

Posted by on Mar 24, 2015 in Coaching & Mentoring, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Inside the Minds of Chief Learning Officers

On March 10 Steve Maier, President of Management Concepts moderated a thought-provoking panel discussion at a recent Training Officers Consortium (TOC) luncheon that included the following esteemed Federal Chief Learning Officers (CLOs):   Sheila Wright, Housing and Urban Development Michael Casey, General Services Administration Jeffrey Vargas, Commodity Futures Trading Commission Susan Camarena, Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration We’ve all heard the phrase “do more with less” – especially in government – but during the panel the idea of “do more with what we have” resonated throughout the presentation. Federal CLOs face the dilemma of maintaining an environment of a highly skilled workforce with diminishing resources – the need for increased productivity with less human capital resources. The shift of encouraging employees to be empowered about their own career paths and not rely on their management to create opportunities is increasing daily. Below are a few key points made by the panelists: When asked if their respective training programs are ‘top-driven’ (i.e. have managerial buy-in) the panelists were in agreement that professional development is critical at all levels and starts from the ground up. All panelists noted their organizations have the buy-in, but with caveats. They stressed that employees must still empower themselves to take training, and that the conversation should migrate from training toward performance improvement. In addition, using resources internally to share and transfer knowledge is another way to promote a learning environment beyond just executing on training. When faced with the question, “In the current fiscal environment (with declining budgets) what is your number one strategic training priority?” we learned: Strategy: Develop an employee development strategy that embeds the idea of ownership, empowerment, and focus on your own career and development; Emphasize that career pathing is key to cultivating that ownership. Collaboration: Work collectively with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to get economies of scale in learning. Empower: Focus on enhancing leadership capability and capacity; Help people to learn how to lead, not how to manage. Focus: Emphasize technical training. Determine a Learning Management System (LMS) that allows you to do everything you need to do. Determine the kinds of training that learners expect to receive via “eLearning.” Make sure delivery of learning meets the needs of all the generations taking the classes. We wanted know where the future lies, in their opinion, so we asked, “What are you looking at in five years’ time?” Panelists noted: Extend the reach of learning & development efforts by 50 percent. Know when it is a people problem and when it is a technology problem. (Technology can help, but can’t solve all problems. It takes three to five years to change a culture.) Change the landscape of how learning and development is perceived. Train people with skills to do not only their job, but any job; Train them to lead and manage. Integrate technology; CLOs need to be ready to become learning technologists – technology impacts the design, development, and delivery of learning. Finally, as Management Concepts is an education provider, we asked: “What programs or courses would you like to see developed?”  And related…  “What training needs are not being met currently by your current educational providers?” We heard: Use a blended approach, such as coaching, as part of...

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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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Building Leadership Capability: A Roadmap for Improving Employee Engagement

Posted by on Feb 23, 2015 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Building Leadership Capability: A Roadmap for Improving Employee Engagement

Just a couple short months ago, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released the results of the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS), measuring whether or not the characteristics of successful organizations can be found in agencies across the Federal government.  The FEVS results, and in particular the employee engagement index, are used increasingly by agencies to identify areas for improvement and compare their agency to other agencies and the private sector. Reinforcing the need to focus on engagement in the Federal government, in December 2014 OPM and the Executive Office of the President released a memo outlining a renewed focus on employee engagement and establishing policies for measuring, monitoring, managing, and holding agencies accountable for improving their engagement scores.  The memo recognizes the value in improving engagement, not for its own sake, but because they know that engagement is linked to important mission-related outcomes that include retention and productivity. This increased interest in understanding and improving employee engagement usually leads to the question, “What impacts engagement?” There has been a great deal of research conducted to answer that question. One set of findings in particular suggests that leadership may be one of the most significant factors affecting engagement. The good news is that leadership can be taught; leadership skills can be learned and practiced, and with a planned approach, any agency can build the leadership capability and capacity across its workforce. Here’s the five-step process we’ve developed and recommend for building leadership capability that enhances employee engagement: Define what leadership means for your agency. Given your agency’s current mission, future mission and goals, and history, you may need more emphasis on some specific leadership behaviors than others. Many Federal leadership competencies already exist and can serve as a good starting point for discussions on what your agency needs to focus on. Many clients we’ve worked with have incorporated the process of identifying mission-critical leadership competencies into a few of their regular planning sessions. Others have convened a cross-section of employees to narrow down the competencies in one long planning session. Regardless of the process, ending up with a set of 8-10 mission-critical leadership competencies is a good starting point. Measure the competencies. Top management generally has a good sense of where the agency as a whole is stronger and where it needs improvement. But they often don’t know how it breaks down from there. Conducting a leadership competency assessment is a way to get more detailed information on different parts of the agency. This information can be used to create a workforce development plan that is data-driven. In addition, a leadership competency assessment can be a valuable tool for supervisors to understand their team’s leadership skills and for employees to understand exactly where they can improve. Plan an integrated approach to improving leadership competencies, along with other factors (e.g., shared organizational values, the availability of resources to do the work) that are known to improve engagement. Developing shared values, communicating, going for quick wins. Monica Linhardt of the Partnership for Public Service gives an example of a State Department employee who made a suggestion for showers in the basement of the headquarters building for employees to use after jogging at lunchtime. This change reflects shared organizational values of work-life fit and also of listening to and acting on...

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Telework: The “Just Right” Solution to New Types of Workspaces

Posted by on Feb 13, 2015 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Telework: The “Just Right” Solution to New Types of Workspaces

When it comes to office space these days, a lot of people are feeling like Goldilocks. For some moving to an open concept environment, all that space to collaborate is just a little too open and too distracting, but others feel like the walls of their cubicles are receding inch by inch in traditional spaces that are too small and too isolating. You may not have much influence when it comes to your workplace design, but many have access to what can be a “just right” solution to balance your need to be productive and collaborative: Telework. Consolidate to Collaborate? Maybe… GSA is assisting high profile agencies like DHS and HHS to consolidate their real estate holdings across the U.S. to reduce costs and create operational efficiencies. Part of this effort includes taking different approaches to building out workspaces, not only to make more efficient use of limited space, but also to acknowledge that how we interact day-to-day with our colleagues must evolve. The pace of change and volume of decisions we experience daily requires us to be connected to our teams and maintain open channels of communication. New workspaces can facilitate that connectedness, but they also have implications we cannot ignore. As some Federal organizations prepare to box up their belongings and transition to new work environments in smaller, government-owned buildings, they are learning the move will include more options to telework. In some cases, it’s no longer a choice but now a necessity because of space constraints. To many this is very welcome news, but not all. While space may be less of an issue for those moving to state-of-the-art open plan offices, you may find the lack of personal space leaves you feeling more stressed, vulnerable, and less productive. The jury is still out on whether open concept plans deliver on their promise to improve performance, boost productivity, and foster innovation. Striking a Balance If you find yourself on the move to a new workspace and feeling reticent, telework can provide the crucial balance you need to adapt and continue to be successful in your role. Consider the following questions as you think about how telework could help you improve your personal work situation or help you more effectively lead your employees in a new environment: Are you an extrovert who is energized by constant social interaction in the office? Do you lead a team of introverts who are easily derailed by constant interruptions? Is your team centrally located or spread out across several locations? Do you or your team currently  interact or share information using technology such as virtual meetings, instant messaging, video chats, file sharing, etc.? Are you intrinsically motivated to get your work done or do you perform better when surrounded by your colleagues? How often does your work require intense concentration to write or create? What is your organization’s policy on telework? Telework can take many forms and, in order for you or your team to be successful, you have to consider personality, team or interpersonal, productivity, and performance factors. Chances are every member of your team has different work preferences and telework is only valuable when it is structured to allow you to do your best work…but doesn’t prevent your teammates from doing theirs as well. Tip Jar I have teleworked...

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How Leaders Can Bridge the Gap Between Where They Are Now and Where They Want to Be – It’s All in the Mind

Posted by on Feb 11, 2015 in Leadership, Project Management, Workforce Management | 0 comments

In a previous post I presented a basic approach to goal setting that could be used to help leaders acquire new skills as they set goals to make the required behavior changes necessary to close the gap between where they currently are and where they want to be in their careers. The steps to closing the gap include several elements that should be considered when setting behavior-change goals. Goal setting for closing any skill gap is a process. The same process can be applied to any goal, whether professional, organizational, or personal. The basic steps are the same; however, the amount of time, rigor, and level of detail is dependent upon the gap to be closed and the reason for the gap. Writing down the goal and a set of action steps is easy. The challenge is getting down to the underlying motivation for the change and honestly thinking through the change elements. Throughout the change process not only do you need to know what you want to accomplish, but also clearly understand why you need to do it and all of the factors that influence how you do it. Dr. David C. McClelland, in his book Human Motivation addresses the importance of motives on goal setting. He discusses that throughout the behavior-change process everyone has thoughts, feelings, and expectations that they think about and influence the goal accomplishment success or failure. Let’s take a look at each of these elements along with a professional and organizational example. The Problem to be Solved – What is the gap you want to close? Professional – I can’t get promoted without a formal credential Organizational – Customer satisfaction surveys indicate that our project results are below acceptable standards The Goal – What do you need to do to solve the problem? Professional – Get a professional certification and qualify for a promotion within the next 12 months Organizational – Increase customer satisfaction results by 60% by the next internal metrics audit Once the problem and goal have been defined, then the “mind games” begin, during which time you think about all the factors to accomplish your goal. These thoughts are not just a one-time event to help you get to an action plan, they actually occur throughout the goal-setting process. Underlying Need – How important is the need and how deeply do you want to attain it? Professional – I want to advance my career, work on more challenging projects, and provide more financial stability for my family Organizational – It is important to our reputation and on-going success to deliver the highest quality deliverables and customer support to our stakeholders Positive Expectations – Successful leaders set realistic goals and are confident they can achieve them Professional – I have a broad range of knowledge and skills and a lot of experience so I know I can do this Organizational – With the support I’ve been promised from management and the talented team I have, I know we can reach the 60% Realistic Expectations – Because goals should also be challenging, successful leaders also know that everything will not go as planned. This makes them work harder and plan more to reduce the chances of failure. Professional – I know that with recent organization changes, promotion opportunities are limited Organizational –...

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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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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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Want to Make Better Decisions? Ask Better Questions.

Posted by on Dec 12, 2014 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 1 comment

We’ve all heard the adage, “There’s no such thing as a bad question”… but let’s be honest – we have all been subjected to a question at some point that prompted a mental response of “Are you kidding me?!” This reaction is usually accompanied by rolling of the eyes, shaking of the head, feelings of disgust, and so on. On the other hand, masterfully worded and perfectly timed questions have the ability to provoke deep thought, challenge previously held beliefs, reveal new unimagined solutions to problems, or even alter the mission of an entire organization. While the goal of most questions is typically not this lofty, it is worth taking into consideration the power that such a simple act can have. The behavior of asking questions is something we figure out at a very young age. It comes quite naturally. However, asking effective questions that allow you to make informed decisions requires a bit more thought. Before formulating a question, make sure you consider 1) Purpose and 2) Audience. Purpose – why you are asking the question and what you hope to achieve with the results. Always remember to focus on one topic at a time. Mixing purposes can be confusing to the audience and will lead them to provide inaccurate or inconsequential feedback. When you have a single, concrete purpose, the subject knows exactly what is being asked of them and can deliver the most precise information. To start, you should be able to answer the following questions about yourself: What do I need to know? Keyword being “need.” Avoid wasting others’ time by asking “nice to know” questions about things you will not act on. How am I going to use this information once I have it? The decision or action being made should drive the line of questioning. Be certain of what you want to accomplish before initiating your inquiry. What is the best way to obtain this information? Don’t always assume that the easiest way is the best way. An email or instant message may take less time and effort, but is often misinterpreted or even ignored. A phone call or face-to-face conversation demonstrates sincerity and can produce a more detailed, meaningful response. Once you can answer these three questions, you should have a clearly defined purpose. For example, I want to find out the level of effort for a previous project in order to create an estimate for a project plan involving a similar task. To accomplish this, I will go talk to my colleague and see if he will send me the level of effort figures from his recent project. Audience – the target individual or group from whom you hope to gain a response. Assessing your audience is a crucial prerequisite for any form of communication. You want to ensure the individual or group is comfortable providing information and is aware of how this information will be used. Consider the following audience perspectives: What motivates them to respond? You want to make it clear to the audience the reason you are asking for their feedback and what you plan to do with it. How might they respond differently based on the question phrasing? Put yourself in the shoes of the interviewee and brainstorm ways in which the question could be misinterpreted. Your...

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What do Senior Leaders in the Federal Government, Members of Congress and Carp Have in Common?

Posted by on Nov 18, 2014 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

In my role supporting Federal Government agencies trying to build leadership at all levels I often find myself discussing the differences between effective and ineffective leaders. Of course, there are many different opinions about the traits and qualities that separate the good from the bad when it comes to leaders in the Federal Government, and there is probably no single set of competencies and behaviors that completely discriminate between the two. Personally, I believe an often-overlooked element of effective leadership is external awareness. External awareness is “the ability to identify and integrate key external factors into daily work activities.” Often, when we talk about effective leadership the discussions focus on building internal relationships, inspiring others, and building the next generation of leaders. But, in looking at recent data on Congressional approval and data from OPM’s 2014 Federal Viewpoints Survey (FEVS), the importance of external awareness seems to be rising. One key element of external awareness is the leader’s ability and willingness to understand and keep up-to-date on trends that affect the organization and shape stakeholders’ views. According to the FEVS results, perceptions of senior leaders’ effectiveness, communication, and connection to the organization have steadily declined since 2011. For members of Congress, a recent Rasmussen Report found that 80% of voters feel most members listen more to political party leaders than their constituents, and a previous poll found that as many as 62% of voters believe their legislators have lost touch with voters. The data for both groups of leaders suggest that leaders aren’t aware of the external realities of their roles. This is where the carp comes in. Celebrated author, futurist and physicist, Dr. Michio Kaku tells a story about his childhood visits to a Japanese Tea Garden: When I was a child, I used to visit the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco. I would spend hours fascinated by the carp, who lived in a very shallow pond just inches beneath the lily pads, just beneath my fingers, totally oblivious to the universe above them. I would ask myself a question only a child could ask: what would it be like to be a carp? What a strange world it would be! I imagined that the pond would be an entire universe, one that is two-dimensional in space. The carp would only be able to swim forwards and backwards, and left and right. But I imagined that the concept of “up”, beyond the lily pads, would be totally alien to them. (From Hyperspace and a Theory of Everything) For leaders, being like the carp, only aware of adjacent issues – focused on the obvious dimensions of right, left, forward and backward, while failing to account for what may be just above the surface of the water, can be a powerful, but harmful temptation. With the barrage of pressures leaders face each day it can be easy (and rewarding) to tackle the immediate challenges. But, the best leaders know how to distribute their attention between near term, internal challenges, and the larger external realities that ultimately affect their organization. Given the many demands on Federal leaders, how can they improve their external awareness without neglecting other responsibilities? Identify Your Stakeholders AGAIN: Formal stakeholder identification processes can be rather long and complex. The problem with that is that stakeholder groups...

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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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Ethics and Engagement: Validate Ethical Values to Drive Productivity

Posted by on Nov 7, 2014 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Ethical Dilemmas in Daily Work Imagine an employee who has just completed a project. He tells his manager that although it meets the requirements, it could be top-notch if he had just one more day to work on it. The manager says no, brushes off the idea, says “Thanks for your work,” and issues the next assignment. A situation such as this presents an ethical dilemma for the manager. Quality is important, particularly for the client who receives the product. But deadlines are important, too; so which takes greater priority? For an employee who prides himself on quality, compromising quality for deadlines can quickly lead to a lack of engagement. Imagine that this person’s manager gives the same response the next time he asks for additional time to improve the team’s outcome. And what if the next time, and the time after that, the employee gets the same response? An Ethical Crossroad If you are the employee, you may feel dismissed or even undervalued. If you are the manager who faces choosing between maintaining the quality standards and meeting the deadline as promised, you likely find yourself at a crossroad. If every time you’re at this crossroad you can’t make a decision based on what you know your team members value most (in this case, quality), it is important to remember that you have options beyond saying “You can’t have more time, but thanks for your work.” Let’s assume that in this case, performance is not an issue — that is, the work was technically acceptable, done well, and any obstacles or challenges were handled effectively. If your team prides itself on quality but circumstances beyond your control limit your ability to secure an extended deadline, plan a response that articulates your position and validates their ethical stance: use this as an opportunity to discuss the ethical issue, even though your decision can’t change. How to Leverage Ethical Values for Engagement and Productivity Acknowledge quality is a core value: In this example where you simply cannot allow an extended deadline, find a way to acknowledge that quality is a core value of the team. If not every project allows the utmost attention to quality, find projects that allow team members to exercise their commitment to quality. For example, invite the employee to participate in the QA process for other work products. For an employee who is deeply committed to teamwork but often ends up flying solo on assignments, find at least one project that requires office or departmental coordination and appoint that employee the driver of the project. Look for opportunities that require integrating cross-divisional information, such as business process redesign for a process takes inputs from multiple business units. Respect Individuals’ Values: Validate your employees’ customer focus and see this as an opportunity to support operational efficiency. Providing an opportunity for team members to work on assignments that speak to their personal values gives you a greater chance that your team members feel connected to and motivated by responsibilities they are assigned. Leverage individuals’ motivators: Use this as an opportunity to channel valuable energy toward team goals, department objectives or mandates, or even cross-agency priority goals. Consider other responsibilities that may not be as closely related to core duties but may be highly engaging for particular team members...

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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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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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