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Room for Improvement: The Government Employee Experience in 2021

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Bill Brantley
January 11, 2020

TI People just released its report on employee experience, Advancing the Human Experience of Work: A 2020-21 Market Perspective. Based on a study of 100 organizations, TI People found that improving employees’ experiences at work is a growing priority. Several organizations have established the Human Experience Officer role, and many organizations are building an experience measurement strategy that ties into return-on-investment measures. Most the organizations studied in the report are looking for ways to improve managers’ experiences because of the vital role managers play in employee engagement.

Why worry about employee experience? Isn’t focusing on customer experience more meaningful? According to GQR, a global talent acquisition and advisory firm, a good employee experience is valuable for four reasons:

  1. A good employee experience helps attract top talent. There is only so much an exceptional employer branding campaign can do to attract excellent workers. Organizations must live up to the promises of their employer brand.
  • Candidates are spending more time researching organizations, and there are more online sources for learning about an organization’s employee experience. Social media is an especially rich source of information—both good and bad.
  • Millennials and Generation Z want a good employee experience. According to a LinkedIn Workplace Culture report, 86% of millennials would take a pay cut if it meant they could work for a company with a mission and values they can identify with.
  • Organizations that emphasize an excellent employee experience see a significant impact on their bottom line. Research by the Globoforce WorkHuman Analytics and Research Institute and the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute established that, “Organizations that score in the top 25% for employee experience have nearly three times the return on assets and more than double the return on sales compared to companies in the bottom quartile.”

Does Employee Experience Matter for Government Agencies?

25% of graduating college students rank government as one of the top three industries in which they would want to work, yet a much smaller percentage decided to actually launch a career in the public sector.” As Federal, state, and local government agencies know, today’s graduates have many career options to serve, such as numerous nonprofits and socially aligned business enterprises. At several recruitment meetings, it was determined that people wanting to do good have more options nowadays to create an organization to put their values into action quickly. Why join a public agency and fight the internal bureaucracy to have a small impact on society?

Improving employee experience for government workers doesn’t require considerable investment. As Chris Cruz, the former deputy CIO for California, found, “Engaging an organization’s people is ultimately about removing pain points and distractions at work to create a better experience.” For example, when Cruz adopted an aggressive telecommuting policy and an agile training program, the California Health Care Services’ IT department’s vacancies dropped to 5% from 34%. As Howard Risher wrote in an April 26, 2018, Government Executive article, “Everyone wants recognition for their accomplishments. Employees want and need feedback to help them improve; they want challenges and opportunities to test their abilities. They also want respect from leaders and they want to be treated fairly.” Governments need to focus on these reform initiatives to improve the government employee experience.

Best Places to Work in the Federal Government

For over a decade, the Partnership for Public Service has released its report on the best places to work in the Federal government. In the 2019 report, the Partnership for Public Service directly addressed the issue of employee experience. Improving the Federal government employee experience is especially vital because 33% of the federal workforce is eligible to retire in the next five years. With only six percent of Federal employees under 30, there are not enough young employees to replace the retiring Federal employees.

According to the 2019 report, the private sector has a 77% employee engagement score while the Federal government scores only 61.7%. Eleven Federal agencies score higher than 77% in employee engagement. Why? For two reasons: employees are recognized for good performance, and employees trust their agency leadership. The employee experience initiatives and experiences of these eleven Federal agencies show how federal, state and local governments improve the employee experience for government workers.

Purpose-Driven Government

President-elect Biden has stated that, “Dedicated public servants are the lifeblood of democracy.” According to a March 2020 report by the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service, this is not the time for incremental changes to, “Cultivate a culture of service. Bold action is required.” Improving the government employee experience is the bold action needed to reinvigorate government service.


Author: Bill Brantley teaches at the University of Louisville and the University of Maryland. He also works as a Federal employee for the U.S. Navy’s Inspector General Office. All opinions are his own and do not reflect the views of his employers. You can reach him at http://billbrantley.com.

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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