Howard Risher

Workforce Management Consultant Howard Risher is a consultant focusing on pay and performance. In 1990, he managed the project that led to the passage of the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act and the transition to locality pay. Howard has worked with a variety of federal and state agencies, the United Nations and OECD. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Penn State and an MBA and Ph.D. in business from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. He is the co-author of the new book Its Time for High Performance Government: Winning Strategies to Engage and Energize the Workforce, (Roman and Littlefield, 2016).
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Research Confirms It: Good Managers Make a Difference

May 4, 2016 A brief column in mid-April on Harvard Business Review’s The Daily Alert website, “Proof That Good Managers Really Do Make a Difference,” triggered widespread attention. The subject of the column is research confirming that organizations in very different sectors and countries all perform better when they have effective managers. By...

Government’s Catch-22 People Problem

April 27, 2016 The skills gap is not new. Moreover, recent stories about staffing problems at Customs and Border Protection and the Bureau of Prisons show the issue is not limited to a short list of high risk mission-critical occupations. The latest example is the Secret Service. Central to the problem across the...

Once Again, the GS System Is Failing Government

April 12, 2016 Government Executive’s April 4 story “How Poor Pay and Bad Planning Led to Diminished Medical Care for Federal Prisoners” discussed a problem that rarely warrants a headline but its impact goes well beyond the Bureau of Prisons. The article pointed out ongoing problems BOP is experiencing in recruiting essential medical...

Why Federal Bonus Awards Are a Problem

March 22, 2016 Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, may not appreciate it fully but his interest in bonuses could open the Pandora’s box of workforce management. The awards may be suspect but are only the result of underlying management weaknesses. Hopefully his intention is not to end future awards. The practice is almost universal...

Government’s IT Problem is Not Limited to Systems

February 17, 2016 Two recent headlines caught my attention. One, in FCW, reported that “Obama bemoans obsolete tech in budget request.” The second, in Federal Times, reported, “Budget projects ‘largest relative pay cut’ for feds.” While FCW quoted a comment by President Obama about the “400 people in the Social Security Administration whose...

Improving Engagement Scores Is the Wrong Goal

November 4, 2015 In December 2014, the Office of Management and Budget sent a 13-page memo to agency heads, “Strengthening Employee Engagement and Organizational Performance.” The purpose was to confirm the importance of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and the index adopted as a measure of engagement. The memo requires Senior Executive Service...

Apples, Oranges and Kumquats: Analyzing Federal Pay

October 13, 2015 News stories about federal pay and benefits are rarely comical, but every now and then they highlight a claim that is so blatantly political that I have to smile. The latest is about a Cato report focusing on the gap between the average wage for federal civilian employees, $84,153, and...

Will New Regs Trigger Better Executive Performance?

October 2, 2015 Efforts to improve government management typically focus on proven practices in the private sector. To be sure, there are differences between the business and the government executive -- compensation is the most obvious -- but both are the front line for planning and management of their organizations. Both are accountable...

‘Appalling’ Is the Right Word for the Civil Service System

September 21, 2015 “Appalling” is a good choice of words to describe the plight of civilian employees at the Defense Department. Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s comments on Title 5, which governs the federal personnel system, confirm that the Pentagon wants to tackle the problem of workforce management. Government’s human resources policies and systems...

It’s Time to Rethink the Way Work Is Managed

September 3, 2015 In a column last week on government’s need for improved performance management practices, the Office of Personnel Management’s deputy associate director noted the challenges are becoming “exponentially more complex” and “global in nature.” Steve Shih is correct that “the answer lies in maintaining an engaged and valued workforce.” He’s also...

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