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Practical advice for federal leaders on managing people, processes and projects.

Data Show Government is Not a Great Place to Work

Every year, the Partnership for Public Service partners with Deloitte to identify the best places to work in the federal government. The rankings started in 2003 and are based on data from the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. The message from the report, released in December, was positive: the survey data “show the largest yearly increase in the history of the Best Places to Work rankings.”

However, click on “Analysis” and you’ll find a different story. That section takes you to “Overall Findings and Private Sector Comparison.” The FEVS includes 28 questions that are the same as those in private sector engagement surveys conducted by Mercer l Sirota. The average private sector score was 78, compared with the federal average of 62 (rounded to the nearest whole number).  

The Comparison is Telling

The question by question comparisons confirm government has a problem. Overall the work experience in government is considerably less positive. (In contrast to the Gallup Q12 survey, these surveys do not have an explicit “negative” or “disengaged” measure—so “less positive” is applicable as a descriptor.)

The federal scores are more positive than private sector scores on only two questions:  

  • “Considering everything, how satisfied are you with...

How Donald Trump Spends His Three Hours of 'Executive Time' Each Morning

The morning routines of the most powerful and accomplished people are commonly scrutinized and emulated in the hope of replicating their productivity. For those who struggle to get started in the morning, studying their schedules tends to generate shame.

So it is particularly refreshing to learn that the world’s most powerful person, Donald Trump, doesn’t get to work till 11 am. Before his official schedule begins, according to Axios writer Jonathan Swan, the president takes at least three hours every morning for “executive time” in the Oval Office.

Swan describes this as “time in his residence, watching TV, making phone calls and tweeting.” Indeed, the president is a known early riser and morning tweeter. He also rejects working out, doesn’t read much, and has few hobbies beyond golf, so catching up on cable news and social media chatter during that time seems entirely plausible.

Unless he is traveling, the president’s schedule includes a solid chunk of “executive time” between 8 am and 11 am, and then more of it through the day. This doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not working, but in Swan’s words, he spends the hours “generally taking the same loose, improvisational...

The Limits of 'People Analytics' in Reshaping the Workforce

Using computer algorithms to make decisions about employees might seem like an objective management strategy, but it could actually give an inaccurate picture of productivity and compromise employees’ rights in the process.

Many businesses are turning to algorithms to make decisions about hiring and firing employees, assessing their performance and enhancing their productivity. This practice, known as people analytics, is fundamentally reshaping today’s workplace.

People analytics relies on comprehensive collection of digital data about employees’ behaviour. The data can come from employees’ key performance indicator reports, email traffic, in-office interaction patterns, and social networking activity. Once collected and aggregated, data are analysed for patterns by algorithms to inform managerial decisions.

The increasing use of people analytics gives rise to several ethical issues, as well as questions over whether it actually works.

Ethical issues with people analytics

The application of people analytics invades employees’ privacy by tracking their phone, email and internet browsing activity to understand their work interactions and level of engagement. In some cases, it requires employees to wear badges that monitor their physical movements, tone of voice and conversation patterns.

It also threatens to limit employees’ ability to express their creativity and individuality in the workplace.


How to Spot Toxic Employees Before You Hire Them

When people on a team work well together, exemplifying positivity and a willingness to listen and grow, it’s like hitting a productivity jackpot.

Some forward-thinking companies have even gone so far as to revamp their entire interview practices to put more emphasis on teams, recruiting groups over individual hires, precisely because people who work well on teams are, in general, the type high-performing employees that companies want to keep.

But there’s another type of team member—one who can derail employee productivity and happiness along with company profitability: the toxic employee. While no HR manager ever sets out to hire one, toxic employees drain otherwise positive workplaces.

The cost of a toxic employee

Hiring a toxic employee has a significant impact on everything from day-to-day workplace dynamics to the long-term bottom line. Research shows that employees are 54% more likely to quit when have a toxic coworker. And can you blame them? No one wants to come to the office to be bullied, unjustly blamed for the failures of others, or involved in avoidable drama created by a co-worker who thrives on it.

Margins suffer, too. According to one survey, hiring just one toxic employee into a team...

Almost 70% of U.S. Managers Are Scared to Talk to Their Employees

Being a manager inevitably entails an uncomfortable talk with employees, be it a bad performance review, a delicate personal situation, or unpleasant news from higher-ups.

But an astounding number of managers report that the hardest part about talking to employees is talking to them at all.

In 2016, a survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults (paywall) asked managers what they found most difficult about communicating with employees. Some 37% of managers said they found it hard to give negative feedback to workers about their performance, 20% said they struggled to share their own vulnerability, and another 20% disliked being the messenger for company policies.

But a full 69% of respondents said that they found “communicating in general” to be the hardest part about communicating with employees.

That’s alarming, because one of the primary things employees say they need to feel engaged and productive at work is regular, meaningful communication with their managers. The percentage of U.S. managers who say they don’t like talking with employees mirrors the 67% of workers who say they’re not engaged at work. That figure comes from the most recent Gallup survey of the U.S. workplacethe company...