Culture counts in war for talent

Agencies examine how employee perceptions of the workplace affect hiring and retention

Treasury seeks private-sector retirees

The Treasury Department, IBM and the Partnership for Public Service began a program in January to recruit people who are retiring from their private sector jobs.

“It reflects a recognition that we need to be recruiting at all levels,” said Rochelle Granat, Treasury’s chief human capital officer and deputy assistant secretary for human resources.

Agencies need mature employees, Granat said. The program should be in full swing in July, she said. In a survey, the partnership found that some private-sector retirees expect to work for 10 more years.

— Mary Mosquera

Prospective employees’ perception of an agency’s management culture can play a significant role in whether they decide to make that agency their employer of choice.

“We recognize that one of the most important aspects to recruiting talent is [whether] you are perceived in the marketplace as a good place to work, and that depends on how current employees feel,” said Rochelle Granat, the Treasury Department’s chief human capital officer and deputy assistant secretary for human resources.

“They are our best ambassadors.”

For example, agencies that strive to do well on government employee surveys will find that their stature as a good place to work helps attract a new generation of workers, federal workforce experts say.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is a case in point. NRC earned high marks in the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Human Capital Survey in 2006. Last year, the agency was rated No. 1 in the Partnership for Public Service’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government survey, which is based on 2006 survey data. NRC ranked first in leadership and management, first in talent management, second in job satisfaction and fourth in results-oriented performance.

The survey results reflect the employee-friendly culture of the agency, said Jim Mc- Dermott, chief human capital officer at NRC. McDermott uses the surveys to help recruit skilled professionals to meet future staffing needs.

NRC has steadily added employees in the past two years to handle increased workloads as nuclear power gains importance relative to foreign oil. The Energy Act of 2005 contained incentives to expand nuclear power capacity. The commission expects to hire 1,300 new employees by October to help with oversight, inspection and regulation of planned nuclear power plants, McDermott said.

“It will change the view of NRC because one-third of the employees will be new,” McDermott said at a recent panel discussion in Washington sponsored by the Performance Institute.

NRC is recruiting younger workers, focusing on college campuses and offering internships to prepare future scientists and engineers to work at NRC, McDermott said. “They’re going to be different, and we’re terrified. I don’t text,” he said, jokingly.

A major source of NRC’s high marks came from employees who rated their first-level supervisors and team leaders highly, McDermott said. NRC provides training in communications and other areas that foster good relationships between supervisors and employees. About half of the commission’s managers are graduates of its development programs. Most who go through the candidate development program are accepted into the Senior Executive Service.

NRC also encourages employee growth and development by paying for education through reimbursements.

Although Treasury does not rank as highly as NRC — it’s No. 14 in the latest ranking — it, too, is examining where it can improve its employees’ work experience and their perception of the department, Granat said.

Improved training and communications affect employees’ performance and their view of the workplace, Granat said. Treasury is aware of that and is implementing a learning management system to track employees’ progress in training programs.

Raising employees’ perception of the workplace is primarily a leadership challenge, Granat said. Treasury tries to instill in its senior leaders a sense of their role in making the department a great place to work and ensuring an appropriate level of communications about successes, failures and the importance of the department’s mission.

For example, the department plans to hold a forum later this month for senior managers that will focus on making Treasury an employer of choice, Granat said. The session will include representatives fro agencies that earned high ratings in the Federal Human Capital Survey. Employees will be able to watch a Webcast of the forum at their desks. 

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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