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Inside the effort to improve the efficiency of federal operations.

Five Employee Ideas that Could Help GSA Save $5 Million

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In the weeks after scandal erupted earlier this year over the General Services Administration’s extravagant spending on a 2010 conference in Las Vegas, the agency was already introducing new programs to save money.

In late May, GSA launched the Great Ideas Hunt, a program that asked employees nationwide to suggest ways GSA could reduce spending and improve operations. After receiving 632 ideas and 20,000 comments from employees in all 50 states, the agency settled on 40 ideas worth implementing; the top five of those are expected to save the agency more than $5.3 million. 

Speaking on a panel at The George Washington University Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, acting GSA administrator Dan Tangherlini spoke about how employee crowdsourcing was an innovative tool that not only saved money--it resulted in new ways of thinkings for GSA employees. 

“[The Great Ideas Hunt] is a way of erasing some of those organizational barriers . . . and challenging everyone in GSA to come up with ideas for us to save money or do things more efficiently and effectively,” said Tangherlini. “Normal organizational barriers were being subverted and overcome [and] most importantly . . . a dialogue [was] built around these ideas.”

The top five ideas include:

  • Reducing Subscriptions: A GSA employee noted that GSA can save money by reducing newspaper and magazine subscriptions and choosing online versions when possible. As a result, the GSA can save up to $630,000 agency-wide.
  • Eliminating Redundant Surveys: Three suggestions submitted urged the agency to retire a costly and redundant employee survey.  Turns out that survey costs $1 million annually and virtually all of its questions are addressed in the Office of Personnel Management Employee Viewpoint Survey. GSA eliminated this duplicative survey.
  • Creating Web-based Surveys: Four GSA employees submitted an idea to replace the paper-based Public Buildings Service Tenant Satisfaction Survey with a Web-based solution.  PBS is making this change immediately; saving about $1.2 million annually.
  • Expanding PrintWise Policy: Two suggestions noted that setting the default printing settings to ‘double-sided’ will save money on paper and reduce GSA’s impact on the environment. As a result, GSA could realize savings of $2.7 million.
  • Implementing External Great Ideas: Three employees suggested the agency create an external website to allow federal partners and vendors to share  ideas and feedback on how GSA can better manage our offerings.

For Tangherlini, the Great Ideas Hunt represented a step in the right direction—demonstrating the power of technology to encourage collaboration and collective thinking.

“That’s the question,” said Tangherlini. “Can we find ways to take this technology and use it to overcome those barriers so that we can begin to share, so that we can begin to create, so that we can begin to innovate, so that we can address those critical issues.”

Are there ways you can share cost saving ideas within your agency? 

Mark Micheli is Special Projects Editor for Government Executive Media Group. He's the editor of Excellence in Government Online and contributes to GovExec, NextGov and Defense One. Previously, he worked on national security and emergency management issues with the US Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security. He's a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and studied at Drake University.

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