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

Engaged Employees Deliver Better Customer Service

Leaders know that achieving their organization’s mission depends on whether employees are engaged and energized to come to work every day. That’s why I always look forward to the annual results from the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, the most recent of which was released in October. It paints a picture of the trends agency leaders should track closely in the coming year.

In particular, what does it tell us about government employees responsible for serving citizens—from veterans accessing healthcare benefits to visitors to national parks and travelers passing through airport security?

With the public demanding better experiences as they interact with government officials, and the administration focused on improving customer service, agency leaders depend on the survey to see how newly rolled out initiatives are impacting the customer experience representatives administering these services.

If you have not yet had the chance to review the survey, below are the high-level takeaways:

  • Federal employee engagement increased one point, from 67 percent in 2017 to 68 percent this year.
  • The majority of government employees had similar feelings around work ethic: 96 percent of employees reported they are willing to put in the extra effort to get their job done, and...

Is Investing in Fraud Prevention a Smart Financial Decision?

Fraud is an invisible threat to federal, state and local government. From organized criminal rings systematically bilking agencies out of millions of dollars to unscrupulous vendors rigging the contracting process to individuals lying on benefits applications, fraud threatens the integrity of every public institution. Yet government agencies are often reluctant to proactively manage fraud, possibly because they have no idea how big a problem it is. Thus, in many managers’ eyes, fraud prevention doesn’t seem like a wise financial investment. Yet even conservative estimates of potential fraud loss point to substantial savings associated with effective prevention measures.

How big is the problem?

Collectively, government revenues total about $3.3 trillion. While no one knows the full scope of losses associated with fraud, some well accepted industry estimates can help determine a ballpark. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’s “Report to Nations,” the average organization loses 5 percent of its annual revenue to fraud. Certain industry groups have calculated fraud estimates for their sectors, which can help agencies estimate their own losses. For example, the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud estimates that Fraud accounts for 5-10 percent of claims costs for U.S. insurers and nearly one-third of...

The Key To Workplace Productivity Is Not an App

You could waste a lot of time looking for the right productivity app.

There are over 19,000 productivity apps in the iTunes store, and endless recommendations of apps that promise to magically give hours back to your day. But here’s the thing: switching between apps all day long is actually the enemy of productivity.

Researchers have found that the average worker toggles between apps 10 times every hour. With each context switch, there’s another possibility of distraction. And after each distraction, it takes on average (pdf) 23 minutes and 15 seconds to truly get refocused on the task at hand.

So how might workers keep productivity software as a tool working for them, rather than the other way around? We spoke to three productivity app founders to find out.

Develop an etiquette

At the productivity software company Zapier, digital culture matters because there is no in-person culture. Each of its 100-plus employees works remotely, so the Slack workplace communications app is where their company culture lives.

According to CEO Wade Foster, the company has more Slack channels than employees. Zapier has intentionally designed many channels that are not work related because, as Foster says, “you want to...

How To Be Kind At Work, No Matter How You’re Feeling

Take a moment to look around you. Chances are, you’ll see your work colleagues rather than family, friends, or pets.

Most of us spend the majority of our time at work. But how happy are we at this place we spend so much time? Unfortunately, not very. According to the American Psychological Association, an alarming 61% of Americans say that work is a significant source of stress in their lives. And Gallup estimates that actively disengaged employees cost more than $483 billion each year in lost productivity.

We believe that bringing kindness into the workplace can help change that.

We’re a non-profit leveraging the science of kindness to solve the world’s greatest challenges. We began by commissioning Oxford University to review the existing scientific literature on kindness.

The results of our meta-analysis was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in 2018, and showed that kindness increases happiness and well-being. Additional research shows that doing an act, receiving an act, and observing an act of kindness all have positive effects.

If you think your workplace could use a little more kindness, one of the first steps you can take is to recognize that kindness is an...

‘Heavy’ Multitasking May Cramp Your Memory

A new review summarizes a decade’s worth of research on the relationship between media multitasking and various domains of cognition, including working memory and attention.

When doing the analysis, Anthony Wagner noticed a trend emerging in the literature: People who frequently use several types of media at once, or “heavy media multitaskers,” performed significantly worse on simple memory tasks.

The smartphones that are now ubiquitous were just gaining popularity when Wagner, a professor of psychology at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Memory Laboratory, became interested in the research of his colleague, Clifford Nass, on the effects of media multitasking and attention.

Though the early data didn’t convince Wagner, he recommended some cognitive tests for Nass to use in subsequent experiments. More than 11 years later, Wagner was intrigued enough to write a review on past research findings, which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and contribute some of his own.

Wagner spoke with Stanford Report to explain the findings and discuss why it’s premature to determine the impact of the results.

Q: How did you become interested in researching media multitasking and memory?

A: I was brought into a collaboration with...