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A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

How We're Sabotaging Our New Hires From Day One

With hiring in the U.S. this year predicted to hit record levels since 1999, an increasing number of employers across the country are swinging quickly from "I can't afford to hire" to "I can't get new hires in here fast enough." It's a good problem to have, but it is a challenge. Finding great talent and then getting them up to speed requires real time and resources. We're feeling that pain at Mindflash as we currently have several open positions. If you're among the growing ranks of employers planning to hire in the next several months, what can you do to ensure rapid time-to-productivity for your new employees?

Consider Hiring for Attitude to Hire More Effectively

U.S. employers are taking longer—25 working days, on average—to fill open positions, according to the Dice-DFH Vacancy Duration Measure. The time to hire for companies with 5,000 or more workers is even longer, at 58 days, which makes sense to me looking back to the Great Recession. When you have a very limited (maybe one) new salary you can afford to add, with limited (maybe no) capacity in your current staff to train the...

Why Management Problems Are a Barrier to Pay Raises and Reform

The Government Accountability Office recently released a report titled “Human Capital: Update on Strategic Management Challenges for the 21st Century,” which the author also submitted as testimony at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee hearing on civil service reform. In contrast to several past hearings, there was minimal tension and general agreement between, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., chairman of the Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management, and ranking member, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D. The statements of the four witnesses were supportive of the workforce.

But a core problem highlighted in both the report and at the hearing is the failure to manage federal employee performance effectively. That problem has been recognized repeatedly in GAO reports. A search for the words “employee performance” on GAO’s website on found 17,000-plus reports and testimonies discussing the problem.

It’s central to the reasons GAO has included human capital management on its high-risk list for years. It’s also the underlying reason why positive response scores on related Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey questions have been the lowest for multiple years. Perhaps most important, many of the performance problems might have been avoided with better management.

Now those performance...

Have You Stopped Bringing Your ‘A Game’ to Work?

When was the last time you remember bringing your absolute “A Game” to your work, decisions and relationships? It’s likely that your memories are either too distant or too infrequent to feel satisfying. Given the rapidly changing environments within which we live and work, “overwhelmed” and “stretched too thin” are common sentiments. The irony is that during a time when most are desperately in pursuit of creativity, innovation and emotionally intelligent leadership there is a simultaneous pushing of ourselves and our employees to exhaustion—depletion of the very resources most needed.

There is a new way of approaching work and time that allows for more efficient allocation of resources and strategic outcomes: focus management. Focus management begins with investment in self first to rejuvenate the body and mind. Strategic leaders are typically more attuned to themselves holistically. They care about wellness, take longer or more regular vacations, find ways to unwind doing something that is joyful, and have diverse interests and relationships. Even though a holistic approach seems like common sense, many professionals report feeling that investing in downtime seems luxurious. On the contrary, research clearly shows that rejuvenated leaders are more attentive to the subtle cues in the...

So, What Will It Take to Improve Morale?

It seems everywhere managers are trying to find ways to improve morale within their organizations, and the federal government is no exception. While the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey indicates there are plenty of opportunities for improvement, it’s troubling that morale appears to be waning.               

So, what can be done to improve morale? Essentially, there are two options: Better manage within the existing work design, or change the design.

Managers should focus on two key areas: Connecting employees to the organization’s mission and examining the way managers treat employees.

Connecting Employees to the Mission

The best incentive the government has is its noble mission. Responses to the FEVS make it clear that employees take great pride in their respective missions because they want to be part of something special. Unfortunately, workload pressures, poor management systems and politics cause feds to feel that they are only there to “produce numbers.” Subsequently, they become disconnected from the mission. From their perspective, merely “producing numbers” is not what they signed up for.

Some effective ways to connect employees to the mission include:

  • Visual management. By designing your workspace to reflect and reinforce the mission, the organization’s history, objectives, and successes are...

Is It Possible to Lay People Off Nicely?

Anyone who’s ever had a job has intuited that a happier workplace makes for more productive workers. As a growing body of research lends scientific authority to this concept, more and more companies are doing what they can to cheer up their employees. Google, with its office scooters and free gourmet meals, may be the most famous example, but it’s no longer an anomaly. Airbnb provides each employee with an annual $2,000 travel stipend. Netflix and Best Buy offer unlimited vacation days.

And then there’s HopeLab. This California tech company is trying to brighten even the darkest of work experiences: firing people. Chris Murchison, the company’s vice president of staff development and culture, recently spoke about the counterintuitive philosophy behind this effort. “I think layoffs are a fascinating opportunity to think about how to enliven people," he said.

Getting laid off or fired is never easy. Even so, it’s often harder than it has to be. A cold and tactless job dismissal can sting, and just watching a recently sacked employee leave is dispiriting. HopeLab, a company that builds educational apps and games aimed at improving people's health, has gone to unusual lengths...