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4 Benefits of Employee Engagement in Government

Posted on December 02, 2014

Government is often associated with bureaucracy, which to many is the opposite of innovation and engagement. Despite that, employee engagement initiatives are flourishing in different government areas, in part because government has been quick to adopt other newer business trends such as Big Data. There are a number of government organizations with strong employee engagement and innovation management models, and they provide a lesson on how your organization could implement similar concepts.

US Patent and Trademark Office

The USPTO is the No. 1 place to work on the annual list of “Best Places To Work In The Federal Government” (organized by the Partnership for Public Service) and a good deal of that ranking is based on employee engagement models.

Work-life balance is a major priority. The Patent and Trademark office has a noted telecommuting program that affords major flexibility to employees, which came about as the result of suggestions.

Peggy Focarino, the commissioner of the office, has noted that everything they do tries to run through “a continued focus on our mission and having employees feel a connection to that.”

The office also uses town halls, employee forums, contests, blogs, and repeated trainings to strengthen the tie between employee and organization.

NASA

NASA has worked hard to create an environment where “anyone can propose an idea,” including an IT Labs program designed to create options for rapid-implementation, low-cost, low-risk projects.

One basic concept that came from the first two years of IT Labs was the introduction of a secure computing network, allowing employees to choose what device they wanted to connect to work with; this increases flexibility, just as USPTO has tried to.

According to Sasi Pillay, the chief technology officer of NASA, strides in innovation management and employee engagement are geared towards making everyone feel they’re “true co-collaborators in advancing the mission of the agency.”

FDIC

FDIC has created a Small Business Resource Effort, the goal of which is educating small businesses about the potential bottom-line value of engaging their employees. The program was developed by FDIC’s Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI), which also has oversight of the program. It attempts to define concepts around the idea of employee engagement, best practices for managers/supervisors, and real-world examples of what small business owners have done in the past (CEOs teaching personal finance classes to employees and tying those lessons back to the overall business model, for example).

Department of State

The Department of State finished in the top five on the “Best Places To Work in the Federal Government” survey referenced above, and did so with small employee engagement changes.

For example, under Hilary Clinton, town hall staff meetings -- which are broadcast to the entire department -- added a section where employees could ask questions. Previously, under Colin Powell, the department’s commitment to training rose significantly; between 2000 and 2005, their training score on the Best Places To Work indices rose 12.6 points. They also created Sounding Board -- an employee suggestion program -- and Corridor -- an internal site similar to LinkedIn -- to foster ideas and connections among employees.

The Process

If you work in a governmental organization, you can implement similar programs. Here’s an essential outline:

Start with why: Why, specifically, do you want to involve employees more in the process of idea generation and innovation management? What’s your end goal? There needs to be alignment on that idea, top-down, before launching into the next stages.

Move to how: If you reach consensus on why these ideas are being pursued, you need to move to the how of pursuing them. What processes and structures will you put in place to make sure ideas don’t get lost in the shuffle, and to ensure they get routed to the correct people? How will you be rolling it out to employees? Think even in more micro-terms: how will they log in?

Move to what: The next step is what. This involves more thinking about the roll-out, and also involves thinking about what success would look like for your desired program. What will you do with the first good idea that moves through the designed process? What could make it stand out even more? What could show employees that this is something the organization/department is committed to long-term?

Move to when: This involves a rollout time frame. Will different sections of your department/team get access at different times, or is it all-at-once? The rollout is tremendously important because if it doesn’t seem like something important at the very beginning of the process, employees will automatically start to disengage from it, viewing it as more work or more projects. When will the rollout happen, and what key events will surround it?

Put everything together: The essential ideas here are: outlining the plan, communicating the plan, and following through on the wins that come up in the early stages of the plan. If you can do that, you can make the engagement/innovation platform start to resonate.

Do You Need Help With This?

That’s perfectly natural, because the entire notion of employee voice / engagement is a comparatively new business arena, and not everyone is sure exactly how to implement it or what steps they need to follow through on. We can help at Vocoli; in fact, we have several governmental organizations already as clients. If you’d be interested in learning more -- and we can walk you from single sign-on options all the way to a communication plan for rollout -- please contact us today at sales@vocoli.com.

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