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

Performance Management is Not a Contest

The management of employee performance is not a contest to select the fastest or the prettiest. For better or worse, our society places a lot of emphasis on competitive situations and on winning. My Philadelphia Eagles just proved they are the best among the 32 NFL teams. Philadelphia went crazy. Soon March Madness will be here and there will be a lot of betting on which college wins. We have beauty contests, spelling bees, dog shows and all those TV shows where someone wins. We love to celebrate winning.

Business is about winning. The rewards can be significant. Companies celebrate their successes. But within a company, individual competition is limited to the salesforce. Today, teamwork and collaboration are emphasized, and they are reinforced with incentives. Small ‘spot’ awards of a few hundred dollars are the only individual awards.  

In contrast, the Trump administration’s budget proposal includes a $1 billion workforce fund that will heighten the competition for financial rewards. That’s roughly $500 per employee (assuming all two million employees are eligible) or if 20 percent earn awards, the average would be $2,500. If awards go to 10 percent, the typical award is still not enough to retain...

Go to Sleep: Why All-Nighters Don't Work

Want to ace that test tomorrow? Here’s a tip: put down the coffee and hit the sack.

Scientists have long known that sleep, memory, and learning are deeply connected. Most animals, from flies to humans, have trouble remembering when sleep deprived, and studies have shown that sleep is critical in converting short-term into long-term memory, a process known as memory consolidation.

But just how that process works has remained a mystery.

The question is, does the mechanism that promotes sleep also consolidate memory, or do two distinct processes work together? In other words, is memory consolidated during sleep because the brain is quiet, allowing memory neurons to go to work, or are memory neurons actually putting us to sleep?

In a recent paper in the journal eLife, Paula Haynes and Bethany Christmann, graduate students at Brandeis University, make a case for the latter.

Haynes and Christmann focused their research on dorsal paired medial (DPM) neurons, well-known memory consolidators in fruit flies (Drosophila). They observed, for the first time, that when DPM neurons are activated, the flies slept more; when deactivated, the flies kept buzzing.

These memory consolidators inhibit wakefulness as they start converting short-term to long-term memory. All this...

Going With Your Gut May Mean Harsher Moral Judgments

Going with your intuition could make you judge others’ moral transgressions more harshly and keep you from changing your mind, even after considering all the facts, a new study suggests.

The findings show that people who strongly rely on intuition automatically condemn actions they perceive to be morally wrong, even if there is no actual harm.

In psychology, intuition, or “gut instinct,” is defined as the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for reasoning.

“It is now widely acknowledged that intuitive processing influences moral judgment,” says Sarah Ward, a doctoral candidate in social and personality psychology at the University of Missouri.

“We thought people who were more likely to trust their intuition would be more likely to condemn things that are shocking, whereas people who don’t rely on gut feelings would not condemn these same actions as strongly,” Ward says.

Ward and Laura King, professor of psychological sciences, had study participants read through a series of scenarios and judge whether the action was wrong, such as an individual giving a gift to a partner that had previously been purchased for an ex.

The researchers then wanted to determine if getting people to think about these actions—asking...

Winning the War for Talent In The Public Sector

We’ve been talking for years about the war for talent and the challenges organizations face in recruiting and retaining talent. A 2015 study by Accenture reports 64 percent of 70 public sector leaders across 18 states report difficulty attracting and retaining talent. Similarly, a recent Pew Research study found that state HR organizations were challenged to recruit and retain skilled workers.

Recruitment and retention is exacerbated by an aging workforce and changing employment preferences among younger workers. Gen Z’s are incredibly resourceful, resilient and entrepreneurial. And over half of millennials (ages 21-37) and generation Z’s (ages 7-21) dream of starting their own businesses.

Further, prolonged hiring times, bureaucratic and hierarchical management models also make it harder to attract workers, especially people 35 and under, who increasingly want to work for innovative and agile organizations.

Studies show competitive salaries and a stable organization are basic needs when it comes to attracting and retaining employees. What differentiates employers, however, is organizational reputation and an aspirational mission and purpose. So what are agencies to do?

Attracting and Retaining Top Talent

To drive change, employers should focus on what they can control -- a work environment specific to the agency or work...

LinkedIn and Microsoft Will Now Write Your Resume For You

Finding the right words to describe your last job no longer needs to be a thesaurus-combing ordeal. Microsoft and LinkedIn can automatically do it for you.

The software company and social-networking service—the former of which acquired the latter in 2016 for $26 billion—together have launched Resume Assistant, a Word-integrated tool that will help spruce up your CV-writing by suggesting work experience descriptions pulled from similar LinkedIn profiles and requirements from real job postings. The feature is available to Microsoft Office 365 subscribers, but one does not need a LinkedIn account to use it.

What’s more, when you’re done, Resume Assistant promises to “surface relevant job opportunities for you directly within Microsoft Word.”

The tool is the newest product to come out of Microsoft’s takeover of LinkedIn, the high price of which raised more questions than it answered. Industry analysts speculated that Microsoft might have more up its sleeve than just trying to snag more users—offering companies an entire hiring, learning, and training package, perhaps.

“Microsoft can drive the evolution of the competency marketplace in ways LinkedIn as a standalone company couldn’t,” Ryan Craig, managing director of private equity fund University Ventures, which focuses...