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What It Will Take to Move the Needle on Reform

This is a good year for advocates of acquisition reform. The House and Senate fiscal 2016 defense authorization bills, traditionally the acquisition table setters, contain significant, forward-leaning reforms that are both overdue and essential.

The Senate bill in particular contains provisions that are designed to refocus the government toward broader use of commercial items and, in so doing, commercial best practices. This would open the door to new, innovative market participants, either independently or as part of a larger team, a more likely and logical route for government access to innovations that can actually drive broad systemic or programmatic change.

These are all positive steps. But the impact of these changes could be sharply limited if, for each major step forward, other actions or inaction stall the kind of reform that is so important.

In that sense, two issues stand out. First is the continued debate over imposing arbitrary limits on how much the Defense Department and civilian agencies should spend on services contracts. The alleged intent of these limits is to ensure that statutory government personnel limits are not sidestepped by agencies through additional contracting. While on the surface that may sound sensible and fair, as a performance metric...

Setting Your Own Schedule Actually Makes You Work More

Ah, the freedom of flexible work. Pick your own start and end times, and whether and how much you work at the office. It sounds pretty great in comparison to a regimented shift, or clocking in and out every day. It also indicates a level of trust by an employer.

Shift work is obviously necessary in some settings, notably retail and service jobs. But a growing number of companies leave things up to their employees.

But employers are getting plenty out of the arrangements. People that have full and unrecorded control over their schedules work the equivalent of nearly a full weekday beyond what’s in their contracts and in comparison to those who have fixed schedules, according to a large German data set that’s the subject of a new working paper (PDF) on the effects of scheduling freedom.

Here’s the average amount workers put in over what they’re contracted for on a weekly basis in Germany, based on data collected from 2003 to 2011

That workers with fixed daily hours don’t work much beyond their contract hours shouldn’t be surprising. Firms likely set those hours for a reason (to avoid overtime, for example).

For...

Why Plugging the Cyber Breach Is the 2nd Biggest Problem at OPM

Beth Cobert has just walked into the toughest job in Washington. Tens of millions of federal employees and their families have had their personal information stolen. Members of Congress have called into question the competence of the Office of Personnel Management in allowing the cyber breach to happen -- or in figuring out how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. In fact, OPM -- established to serve the government’s employees -- is being sued by the unions representing some of them.

In stepping in as acting director, Cobert has a monumental problem on her desk. President Obama couldn’t possibly have named anyone better for the job. But as hugely important as this job is, it’s the second most important one she faces.

That’s certainly not because the cyber breach is a second-banana problem. It’s an enormous crisis because it affects every federal employee, directly or indirectly, as well as individuals considering whether they might want to become one. In dealing with it, Cobert will have plenty of help: from the FBI, the Homeland Security Department, the director of Office of National Intelligence, and surely from the National Security Agency and the CIA. In fact, she’ll...

7 Things Employees Wish They Could Tell Their Bosses

Your employees have a lot of thoughts. Most of those thoughts they don't share, especially with you.

At times their silence can be a good thing, especially where your ego -- or their employment status -- is concerned. But their silence also may keep you from understanding what your employees really think -- and what they really need from you.

Especially if they're thinking the following:

1. "You say you respect me, so give me something important to do." 

Assigning an employee a critical task is a definite sign of respect. Do it as often as you can.

2. "You say you trust me, so give me something important to do -- and let me decide the best way to do it." 

It's only natural to tell your employees how to do their jobs. Still, when you assign a project without providing a lot of direction your employees instantly know you respect their abilities and trust their judgment. People appreciate respect; they love trust.

3. "Please don't tell me all about your personal life . . ." 

Talking about subjects that aren't work related helps build a personal relationship, but many bosses fall back on talking about themselves when they don't...

Exposing Organizations That Pay Women Less Than Men

It’s often considered gauche to ask people about their salaries, but the British government is planning to do just that. In a bid to combat the gender pay gap, Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Tuesday that his government will institute a measure requiring companies with more than 250 employees to publicly disclose information on the average pay of their male and female workers. The move, the prime minister hopes, “will cast sunlight on the discrepancies and create the pressure we need for change, driving women’s wages up.” Some critics believe he’s overestimating the power of that sunlight—and underestimating the structural inequities behind such discrepancies in the workplace.

The regulations, which were passed in March but initially opposed by Cameron’s Conservative Party, will now be subject to public consultation until September. The consultation will determine “exactly what, where, and when information should be published,” and the government is “working closely with business and others to find the most workable and effective way of implementing the regulations,” according to a British Embassy spokesperson. The legislation won’t come into force until October 2016 at the earliest.

It’s a British solution to a global problem. There...