Federal Coach

Blog archive

Federal Coach: Want to engage your federal employees? Just Google it

(Fox's Federal Coach column was originally published on The Washington Post On Leadership site.)

With the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey coming to government workers again next month, now is a great time for federal managers to consider how you’re engaging and motivating your staff.

While you may not have time to affect the results in this year’s survey, that shouldn’t stop you from planning for the long term.

For inspiration, you might look to Fortune Magazine’s most recent 100 Best Companies to Work For. Instead of focusing on the headlines about big paychecks and outrageous perks, I encourage you to look at what’s really driving the employee satisfaction and commitment at these organizations.

Google, which is number four on this year’s list, may make news for its free food and laundry service, as well as its climbing walls and other benefits. But Google’s own analysis showed that even with all of these perks, employee engagement and performance is largely driven by one variable: leadership.

So, is working for Google just like working for the federal government?

In some ways, it is. In the analysis of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey data by my organization, the Partnership for Public Service, we have found leadership to be the No. 1 driver of employee satisfaction and commitment in the federal government since our Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings were produced in 2003.

While you may not be able to offer your employees free car washes or other Google-like perks, there are some lessons federal managers can take from Google’s work around building a better boss.

Use employee feedback data to understand what it means to be an exceptional leader. Google leaders had their statisticians analyze surveys, performance reviews and nominations for internal leadership awards in order to develop a list of eight effective leadership behaviors. The list of positive behaviors is pretty straightforward and includes: be a good coach; express interest in your team members’ success and personal well-being; and be productive and results-oriented. The benefit to this list is that it is based on real-world experience and results.

As a federal leader, it’s important that you look at all of the available employee feedback data. This can include the Best Places to Work rankings, your agency’s exit interview data or even focus-group feedback to help you better understand the essential elements of outstanding leadership in your agency.

Assess your leaders’ strengths and weaknesses. After defining their leadership rules, Google began using this criteria in their performance reviews and staffing decisions. In one example, a poorly performing Google leader was given the feedback that he worked his folks too hard, was way too bossy and rarely communicated effectively with his team--and as a result was denied a promotion.

We’re seeing more and more agencies integrating clear expectations about employee engagement in their leaders’ performance plans and using data as a measure of performance. As a federal leader, you should consider doing the same in an effort to ensure that your managers are as focused on their management responsibilities as they are on their policy and program responsibilities.

Invest in helping your leaders succeed. Google has integrated its leadership rules into all leadership and management training programs. In fact, the poorly performing manager received one-on-one coaching to help improve his performance. Google reported that they see about 75 percent of their worst-performing managers significantly improve after training and coaching.

Although times are tough, agencies will fall short of achieving their ambitious goals if they do not prepare their current and future leaders to succeed. Whether it’s a formal candidate development program, action-learning workshops or one-on-one coaching, the investment will pay dividends in the way of agency performance just as it has for Google.

Posted by Tom Fox, VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service on Mar 28, 2011 at 12:12 PM

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.


  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group