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Want to Improve Government Customer Experience? Focus On Employee Morale

Federal efforts to improve agency interactions with citizens will fall short unless employees are fully invested in the process, understand the goals, have a say in how to make improvements and are rewarded for their work.

Recent studies of the private sector have found that employee engagement goes hand in hand with the quality of customer experience they provide. Federal leaders should focus on this connection, considering the government lags well behind the private sector on employee engagement, according to the Partnership for Public Service’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® analysis.

This gap is making it harder for government to meet the rising expectations of citizens for fast, simple, user-friendly interactions.  

In the public sector, research conducted by the National Center for Organization Development within the Department of Veterans Affairs found that VA medical centers with higher levels of employee engagement also had patients who reported higher levels of satisfaction with their care. 

As agencies receive and analyze the results of the 2017 Best Places to Work data and the Office of Personnel Management survey on which it is based, they should consider ways to improve the experience of their employees as a means of providing...

6 Reasons to Be Excited About Changes to the Combined Federal Campaign

Next month, the Office of Personnel Management will launch this year’s Combined Federal Campaign, the official workplace giving program for employees of the federal government. The CFC’s stated mission is “to promote and support philanthropy through a program that is employee-focused, cost-efficient, and effective in providing all federal employees the opportunity to improve the quality of life for all.”

The CFC is the largest annual workplace charity campaign in the world. Since its inception over 55 years ago, federal employees have contributed billions of dollars through the CFC to charities across the United States.

As a national charity for federal employees and by federal employees, we at the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund are excited about the major facelift to the CFC this year. We believe the changes, implemented in response to the CFC-50 Commission Report in July 2012, will make the CFC a much more effective and efficient fundraising mechanism for nonprofits and those who support them.

Specifically we are excited that:

The application process for charities was easy. We applied online to be included as a national independent charity in the upcoming campaign. The instructions were clear and the support desk was easy to reach...

Wanted: Good Leaders For Government. Must Have People, Not Just Technical, Skills

In early 2014, President Obama accepted the resignation of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki. A retired general and a decorated combat veteran, Shinseki had been appointed with great fanfare to the post in 2009. Five years later, he resigned amid reports of scandalously long waits for medical service by veterans.

An interim report by the VA’s inspector general found VA supervisors had instructed clerks on how to falsify reports about wait time in a misguided effort to meet goals that they had been instructed to set. The supervisors may have had solid technical skills in health and medicine, but they lacked the people or organizational skills needed to set realistic goals and make sure those goals were achieved.

The result: Shinseki departed in disgrace.

The Shinseki case underscores a key issue in management – that technical achievement or even competence does not always make for great leadership. Technically competent leaders may set outstanding goals; unfortunately, in this case, these also proved to be unachievable ones.

At a time when leadership is needed in all sectors of society, particularly in the political realm, we should examine what research tells us about requirements for effective leadership.

Not enough great leaders in...

Memo to Government Reformers: Don’t Forget the Soft Stuff

The Trump Administration is committed to restructuring government. Recently the Volcker Alliance and the Partnership for Public Service announced a joint blueprint for reform, Renewing America’s Civil Service. Together those initiatives promise to change the bureaucracy—the regulations, rules, systems, reporting relationships, assigned duties, etc. You could argue that the prospect for each initiative to be successful is enhanced by the other. Change is long overdue.  

The civil service reform initiative is comprehensive. The plan addresses a textbook list of policies and systems under the umbrella of the typical human resources office (except employee benefits). If implemented, it would be the broadest revision of federal HR management in a century. The reform is intended “to help ensure that our government has a first-class workforce.”

Missing from the public statements, however, is any reference to the impact the changes would have on the workplace or how the reforms will help solve government’s workforce management problems. The Sept. 5 announcement highlighted the lack of interest in government careers among young people and the high percentage of employees eligible to retire in five years. Even more important than attracting well qualified applicants is keeping the best performers. Implicit is that changing...

The Only Safe Email is Text-Only Email

It’s troubling to think that at any moment you might open an email that looks like it comes from your employer, a relative or your bank, only to fall for a phishing scam. Any one of the endless stream of innocent-looking emails you receive throughout the day could be trying to con you into handing over your login credentials and give criminals control of your confidential data or your identity.

Most people tend to think that it’s users’ fault when they fall for phishing scams: Someone just clicked on the wrong thing. To fix it, then, users should just stop clicking on the wrong thing. But as security experts who study malware techniques, we believe that thinking chases the wrong problem.

The real issue is that today’s web-based email systems are electronic minefields filled with demands and enticements to click and engage in an increasingly responsive and interactive online experience. It’s not just Gmail, Yahoo mail and similar services: Desktop-computer-based email programs like Outlook display messages in the same unsafe way.

Simply put, safe email is plain-text email – showing only the plain words of the message exactly as they arrived, without embedded links or images. Webmail...