The pay freeze has many employees feeling left out in the cold. But money isn't the only way to motivate workers. "Most employees in the federal market aren't necessarily inspired by pay. They are more tied to the mission," says Keather Snyder, director of federal markets at AchieveGlobal, a human resources consulting firm. So, how can managers help employees keep the faith during these trying times?
Empower. Give employees opportunities to offer feedback, and more important, involve them directly in the decision-making process, Snyder advises. Allow them to find solutions to issues, such as improving customer service.
Listen. Focus on employees and connect with them on a human level. In particular, make sure to entertain different viewpoints to avoid tunnel vision.
Innovate. Cash might be king, but there are other benefits to public service some employees consider more valuable, says Snyder. Flexible work hours, training and tuition reimbursement are a few available incentives. Ask employees what their priorities are, and figure out how to craft a mutually beneficial arrangement. "I don't really get a sense that our government leaders and our systems are well-aligned to communicate those benefits directly," she says.
Federal jobs mark humble beginnings for many celebs. Actor Steve Carell of The Office was a letter carrier, for example, and Gerald Ford pulled duty as a park ranger. Readers recently weighed in on GovernmentExecutive.com's Burning Question: Who are the most famous former feds?
Painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler of "Whistler's Mother" fame worked in the etching division of the Office of Coast Survey, now part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Moby Dick author Herman Melville was a U.S. Customs Service inspector in New York. Movie star Gary Cooper was a seasonal ranger at Yellowstone National Park. Actor Gene Hackman was a disk jockey for the Armed Forces Radio Network as a U.S. Marine in China. John McAfee, the designer of the McAfee antivirus computer security program, was a programmer for NASA. And Chris Matthews, TV news anchor and political commentator, served on the U.S. Capitol Police force.
Think Republicans will have a hard time finding fat to trim from the federal budget? One Senate deficit hawk doesn't think so. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., in late December released the report "Wastebook 2010," highlighting 100 projects he believes would "hardly merit tax dollars in flush times." Take, for instance, $615,000 in federal funds awarded to the University of California at Santa Cruz to digitize and preserve Grateful Dead memorabilia for posterity.
Or the $239,100 the National Science Foundation contributed to a Stanford University study on Internet dating with few, if any, policy implications. Then there is the $175 million the Veterans Affairs Department allegedly spends annually to maintain empty buildings such as a pink, octagonal monkey house in Dayton, Ohio. "Examples like these are too numerous to count," Coburn wrote in the report's introduction.
Even if everyone could agree that the figures in the report are accurate and that such spending is over the top (and not everyone does: VA, for example, told Coburn's staff it only spent $34 million on unused buildings and advocacy groups would like some of the space to go to homeless vets), it adds up to about $11.5 billion in waste. The government would have to go on a much stricter diet to meet House Republicans' pre-election promise of cutting $100 billion from domestic spending in one year.
Getting Into The Game
The Defense Acquisition University has launched a collection of online games that are educational and fun. The website has 13 games, including Select-a-Cell, which explains the life-cycle process by taking gamers through a mock acquisition of cell phones.
And then there's Procurement Investigation, designed to help pinpoint fraud. The university's Global Learning Technologies Center plans to release one game a month to keep players coming back. Next up-Time Traveler: A Rates Game.
Does it seem odd that the government's central website for job seekers would be found at a dotcom address? Though advertised prominently as USAJobs.gov, the site run by the Office of Personnel Management can be accessed just as readily at the private sector-sounding URL of USAJobs.com.
Recalling perhaps the confusion more than a decade ago when the Web address www.whitehouse.com brought visitors to a porn site, OPM in the late 1990s made a point of reserving USAJobs.com as an identical companion landing page to the dotgov address. As an agency spokesperson recently explained, it was "just another way to help folks who don't have all the right information."
-Charles S. Clark
CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this story noted that James Abbott McNeill Whistler worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Coast Survey. His tenure at the agency was before it became part of NOAA.