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The Future of HR in Government

This is the first article in a two-part series on the future of human resources in government.

Much has been written recently about the future of HR, both inside and outside of government. One article went so far as to suggest splitting HR into administrative and organizational roles because of the general perception that HR is more of a transactional activity focused on compliance and paperwork and does not add significant value to the larger organization.

In government, this perception is exacerbated by the size of the workforce and the myriad laws, rules, regulations and oversight that require a high degree of record keeping. These factors, coupled with the many protections that often lead to complaints about selections, promotions, and disparate treatment, among other things, make compliance a must. The problem is that as long as government HR staff and activities focus primarily on transactions and compliance, managers will continue to see them as a necessary evil, rather than crucial partners who can help them achieve their goals and objectives.

While the perception of HR in government has never been strongly favorable, the federal environment has changed and the HR community has not kept pace. The issues include:

  • Government organizations...

Study: Rudeness Is Contagious

It’s certainly annoying to interact with a rude co-worker. But even worse: That person’s behavior can make you ruder, too.

Uncivil behavior is contagious, a new study found. The report, in the Journal of Applied Psychology, claims that your jerky tone of voice or snappy retort can actually negatively impact your fellow desk jockeys long after you leave the office.

Researchers from the University of Florida asked study participants to engage in 11 simulated negotiation exercises with partners over a seven-week period. They found that a subject who perceived rudeness in one interaction was subsequently perceived as rude by his next partner. The effects lasted for up to a week.

Study co-author Trevor Foulk explained on Gizmodo:

What is so scary about this effect is that it’s an automatic process—it takes place in a part of your brain that you are not aware of, can’t stop, and can’t control.

So what if your mean co-workers are rubbing off on you? Previous studiessuggest that witnessing rudeness is correlated with poorer performance on both creative and rote tasks. That means that witnessing—and internalizing—rude behavior could snag workplace productivity, in addition to making the...

Investing in Your Personal ROI Without Being Self-Centered

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a “what’s in it for me” attitude. As long as, I’d argue, that attitude doesn’t end there—in pure selfishness.

When it comes to looking for training for your own personal development, you’ll get more out of the knowledge and self-empowerment you gain through training if you align your personal development goals with the goals of your team and your organization.

So invest in your education, and thereby increase your personal ROI. And, if you lead or manage others, invest in their education, and help to increase their personal ROI, too. While investing, though, just follow through on your responsibility to be a part of something bigger. Ensure that organizational and team goals are being advanced at the same time that you are advancing personal goals.

Often, the upfront investment in individual training (personal ROI) results in employee satisfaction and a willingness to stay on board with the organization. And satisfied and better trained employees contribute to an increase in corporate ROI.

First, Know the Business Needs

ROI = (Gain from Investment – Cost of Investment) / (Cost of Investment)

Measuring the ROI of a learning program can be tricky, as quantifying of...

As Companies Shed Annual Reviews, Should Government Follow Suit?

According to an announcement reported in The Washington Post, Accenture is eliminating annual performance reviews. Earlier Deloitte changed its policy. A few other companies have made a similar decision but the numbers are small. Surveys suggest roughly 5 percent of companies have eliminated performance reviews.

It was reported because these reviews are the most hated HR practice. Managers comply, but many spend as little time as possible on the exercise. Accenture’s goal, however, is to change the way employees receive feedback, not eliminate it.

But government’s situation is different. Currently annual reviews have little value. The ratings are clearly inflated -- no organization has that many high performers or such a small number of poor performers. Ratings do not play a role in salary increases or in promotions. The consistently low (below 40 percent) positive responses on related Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey questions are added evidence that performance management practices are broken. Change is badly needed.

Should Accenture Be the New Model?

The Accenture announcement actually covers two changes, and it sounds like other companies -- Microsoft is one -- have made similar decisions.  

First, Accenture is eliminating forced ranking -- a policy that limits the top ratings to 20 percent and...

What to Do When Your Team Is Struggling

One of the more powerful leadership learning moments in my career occurred when I was part of project team that was struggling to find traction around an important and complicated strategic initiative.

The team was flailing. The first leader, an autocratic, my-way-or-the-highway type, had been replaced with a committee of three senior executives as co-leaders. After all, this was important, and what could possibly go wrong with a group of senior executives leading the charge?

That failed. It turns out putting everyone in charge isn’t a great game-plan.

Following a contentious project review meeting the sponsor suggested a well-regarded mid-level manager as a solution to the project leadership challenge. While some voiced concern over her lack of title and senior-level heft, the sponsor suggested the core team members meet with her one-on-one before making a decision. It would be their choice.

Her reputation was great. She was respected for her ability to work with others and she had helped groups navigate some sticky topics on numerous occasions. After the “interviews,” the core team members agreed unanimously that she was the right person for the role.

The time for her first official meeting with the extended team arrived, and within...