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

What Sweden and Japan Can Teach the U.S. About Its Aging Workforce

In just 15 years more than 20 percent of the U.S. population will be over the age of 65. That's more than double what it was in 1970, according to Census data. And as my colleague Bourree Lam wrote recently, an aging population means that the number of workers who are older than 65 is growing quickly: By 2022,nearly 25 percent of senior citizens will be fully employed. For some older workers it's a question of staying active, but for many others it's a matter of financial necessity.

Around the globe many countries are facing a similar question: how to cope with a population where older residents will soon outnumber those who are typically considered working age, and what to do about elderly citizens who may not have enough money to make ends meet for the duration of their lives.

One of the first places that many nations are looking for answers is the labor market, where the possibility of  lengthening years of employability can help on both fronts.

I spoke with Joseph M. Coleman, author of the book Unfinished Work: The Struggle to Build an Aging American Workforce, about how the U.S. stacks ...

The Genius of 'Want to Grab Coffee?'

In a few weeks, millions of college students will enter the real world with dreams of finding work that's meaningful and challenging—and preferably lucrative enough to live roommate-free in a major city. As they embark on their job searches, recent graduates are frequently given the vague advice to "go out and network."

But what exactly should this networking entail? What does one say to a perfect stranger whom one has cajoled into "grabbing coffee," while also telepathically conveying one's desire for a job?

Science has one piece of advice, which is this: Ask them for advice.

Far from inconveniencing or annoying the advice-giver, research shows that asking for advice appears to boost perceptions of intelligence.

The Harvard behavioral science professors Alison Wood Brooks and Francesca Gino and the Wharton business professor Maurice Schweitzer discovered this phenomenon through a series of experiments they conducted over the past few years.

Here's how they described the first one, in Scientific American:

We asked 199 students to complete a “challenging brainteaser” that consisted of seven IQ test questions. We told half of the subjects that they would be paid $1 for each correct answer. We told the other half that ...

OPM's New Educational Alliance

We know from the Office of Personnel Management's research that federal employees are well-educated and many hold multiple college and university degrees. They love to learn and often don’t consider their educations complete just because they work for the federal government. That is why I am excited to announce a new educational partnership for our workforce.

Beginning this summer, an OPM partnership with Champlain College will help federal employees, their spouses and legal adult family members pursue online post-secondary education in such high demand fields as business, health care and technology.

We know programs like this one work. One year ago, we initiated a partnership with University of Maryland University College. UMUC’s results are encouraging. More than 1,200 federal employees enrolled in UMUC programs, including nearly 100 spouses and dependents. Together, they have saved nearly $765,000 in tuition. And we know that federal employees across the country are taking interest. UMUC enrolled students from 42 states and the District of Columbia and from more than 100 federal agencies.

Our work with UMUC and our new partnership with Champlain College are win-wins.The additional knowledge and skills that federal workers get through these courses will help ...

Breaking the Cycle of Constant Action Planning

Last week, the Government Accountability Office presented testimony during an employee engagement hearing before the House Subcommittee on Government Operations. GAO suggested that the short cycle time between one annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and the next compresses the action planning process, which may actually inhibit the ability to produce the results necessary for organizational change.

GAO’s finding raises the specter that we may be reaching a critical juncture where the importance of action planning is supplanted by the benefits of a steady, focused and longer cycle of implementation.

To get to the root of this issue, senior government officials should ask one simple question: Does it seem like your agency is stuck in a perpetual cycle of action planning, leaving little or no time to implement employee engagement programs?

If the answer is no, please feel free to stop reading because your agency is one of the lucky ones. If the answer is yes, please continue on.

An affirmative answer to the first question, then begs a second. What steps is your agency taking to instill confidence that FEVS will be used to make improvements in the workplace?

Unfortunately, the survey does not yield positive results in this ...

20 Lessons Learned From Great Federal Managers

It occurs to me that I shouldn’t be giving away all my secrets. But I am betting that a rising tide lifts all ships. So that my doing so will show I am a valuable asset by being selfless and helpful. That’s lesson 1.

Here are the rest:

2. Travel with a posse. It makes you look important.

3. Delegate. Repeat that a hundred times.

4. Help people—give them credit—promote them—and maintain good relationships for life.

5. Ask for help. This is not the same as delegating. Find resources.

6. Overcommunicate, and collaborate genuinely.

7. Work around red tape. Do not fight it.

8. Be quietly effective most of the time, but know when to be loud.

9. Don’t make enemies if you can help it.

10. Be nice to everyone, no matter what.

11. Don’t take it personally.

12. Understand when something is a lost cause. Walk away.

13. Remember what’s really important and go home on time.

14. Also remember it’s all a game.

15. Be passionate about excellence. That’s not just a line.

16. Have a clear competitor in mind. This is not the same thing as ...