Management Watch

Readers' reactions: Why college grads snub government careers

Why aren’t college grads more interested in public-sector jobs? According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a mere 2.3 percent of polled students plan on working for the federal government. Dr. Paul Light, a government reform expert, offered his insight on why college grads turn their backs to government careers:

“The federal government, I think, is an employer of last resort, and generally, a negligent employer,” he said at a recent presentation held at the Partnership for Public Service. “Not enough investment in training and not enough opportunity to grow, issues of fairness, promotion, pay, process – issues of cowardice in the disciplinary process.”

Reader Erich Darr said it was hardly shocking why the younger generation sees government as a final option. “Isn't it a surprise that young people consider the federal government the employer of last resort, when the civil service has become the whipping boy of the administration and Congress?” he asked.

Listing the challenges federal employees have faced in recent years, another reader questioned why anyone would find the government an appealing employer. “Let’s see, pay freeze - possibly indefinitely, Congress says feds don't do anything ... and feds are reason for deficit, and other clueless comments from various ignorant people, etc., etc. Gee, why wouldn't anyone jump to work in that environment?” Virginia asked.

But those young people given the chance to pursue a government career, “want to do, to make, to solve, to take pride in and to experience the sense of accomplishment and hard work that doing a good job entails,” SPMayor wrote. However, “we are robbing them of those opportunities and then want to know why the cupboard is bare,” the reader added.

Offering his/her insight as a recent college grad, one reader said lack of information about federal jobs was one of the reasons a public-sector career never was a priority, as well as the perception that the government isn’t the most happening place for young folks.

“The young people of today want to work at companies like Google and Facebook,” the reader said. “Smart energetic young people want to work with other smart energetic young people. So, as you can imagine, the public sector didn’t seem like anything to get excited about.”

But after a year of unsuccessful job hunting in the private industry, that reader took a job at a federal agency, which was “a great choice – a great way to get a career started and build practical experience,” he/she said.

“In today’s economic climate, jobs are thin,” that reader continued. “If the public sector is worried about securing highly educated young talent for the future, they need to meet the students half way and at least let them know that there are good government jobs available.”

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Feb 09, 2012 at 12:19 PM27 comments

What skills do feds need to succeed?

What skills are crucial to federal employees? According to Dr. Bill Brantley, HR specialist at the Office of Personnel Management, being tech savvy helps, for starters.

Writing a blog post for GovLoop, Brantley listed the top 10 skills for government workers. While more traditional aptitudes such as collaboration and project management ranked among the top talents, Brantley also included tech-focused skills such as HTML5. 

“Even if you are not a developer, many government leaders (including New York Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg) are learning to program,” he wrote. “Learn HTML5 and CSS3 to develop mobile-friendly websites and to use the new EPUB3 format for electronic documents.”

(I should also add that Brantley is not “just” a fed; he teaches online courses in web development at the University of Louisville and has an IT background.)

We would like to know what skills you readers consider crucial for federal employees. Do you agree with Brantley’s suggestion to become well-versed in computer languages and web development? With fast evolving technology, how do keep your skills current? Is there too much emphasis on government technology, or not enough?

To read Brantley’s complete list on GovLoop, click here.

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Feb 03, 2012 at 12:19 PM12 comments

Debunking IT consumerization myths


Many IT executives around the world have concerns about mobile device security, but few are actually taking action to do anything about it.

Take training, for example. The Dispelling Six Myths of Consumerization of IT report by Avanade, a business technology solutions and managed services provider, revealed that few business leaders and IT decision makers are willing to spend money on training those in charge of IT. What's even worse: More than half of global companies report they have already had a security breach as a result of employees bringing their own technologies to work. 

Ironically, the survey, which pools the perspectives of more than 600 senior business and IT leaders from government and private sector in 17 countries, also found that nearly 80 percent of respondents plan to invest in supporting personal computing technologies in the workplace within the next 12 months. And despite the security risks associated with the bring your own device concept, a majority of the executives said they are accommodating the BYOD (bring your own device) trend.

BYOD has recently gained clout within the government and industry as a driving force spurred by mobility efforts and legislation. Close to 90 percent of executives worldwide say employees are using their own technology tools to do work-related tasks. But although BYOD has been touted as a way to attract younger workers, executives say allowing personal technologies in the workplace is not a strong recruitment or retention tool. Rather, BYOD has given employees more freedom in where they work and resulted in employees’ willingness to work after hours.

The survey also noted a shift in the way employees use their own devices at work. Instead of just checking email and social media sites, employees are increasingly using mission-critical enterprise applications to handle customer relationship management (45 percent), track time and expense (44 percent); and enterprise resource planning (38 percent).

When it comes to security, 81 percent reported their IT infrastructure needs some improvement to address safety issues. Despite this, 65 percent of companies won't shell out funds for training to increase employee awareness on how to better manage risks associated with the consumerization of IT. Instead of training investments, companies are more likely to have employees who proactively solve problems or work after hours, according to the survey.  



Posted by Camille Tuutti on Feb 02, 2012 at 12:19 PM0 comments

Telework distance: How close is too close?

Anyone who lives in a metropolitan area knows what a headache the daily commute can be, whether you drive or take public transportation. The D.C. area has repeatedly made the list of worst congested areas, and last year ranked first, with drivers spending a yearly average of 74 hours stuck in traffic. 

Government transportation officials acknowledged the problem with congestion. But instead of urging more use of mass transit, Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton promoted telework as way to alleviate the clogged roads. 

Telework not only leads to more productive and happy employees but it also saves energy, keeps costs down and helps save the environment, making it a “great win-win for all of us,” the secretary said.

But while it makes sense to allow telework for employees who have long commutes, should the same option be given to those who live near the office? A reader yesterday submitted an interesting quandary, asking others to comment on whether an employee who lives close enough to walk to work should have the telework option. 

“She lives less than a mile from work. She could walk. Would you allow her to telework when it's obvious she wants to be able to go to the store when she wants, watch a TV show when she wants, etc.? She is a good employee, but from everything I've read, the intent for all this to reduce pollution. She will drive more when teleworking and cause a bigger carbon footprint, simply because she can. Is this a good idea?” asked the reader.

Cindy Auten, general manager at Telework Exchange, suggested the reader look beyond the benefit of reducing pollution when evaluating telework and consider the bigger picture. Good questions to ask are: What other benefits will you recognize with telework? Can you reduce office space by having employees work remotely? And can you remain operational in the next weather-related emergency with teleworking employees?

“The ultimate question to ask is, will this employee be as or more productive when working remotely?” she said. “Oftentimes, employees find that a home office or remote location is more conducive to productivity. If the employee is a good employee, they will most likely be a productive employee regardless of where they are sitting. Focus on the work that they do, and the ‘where’ won't matter as much.

A reader responding to the question pointed out that the original poster had jumped to the wrong conclusion way too fast. “Your assumption that she ‘really’ wants to drive around town all day and watch TV is so old-school that, for me, it's a tip-off that management style in your office should be more closely examined. Isn't her performance objectively measured? If so, what's the problem? Why be so judgmental about the motives of an admitted ‘good employee?’” The reader suggested setting up a trial telework arrangement to see if it would work for the reader’s team.

Another reader suggested that an employee living close to the office shouldn't be an automatic disqualifier and pointed out that the lack of trust was a bigger issue.

“What's troubling is that you say that she is a good employee, yet you seem to indicate that you couldn't trust her to work if she was teleworking,” that reader said. “Are you evaluating her performance now through results? If so, with a strong telework agreement and open discussion about expectations from the get-go, should be no change in the evaluation methodology.’

Do you agree with the original poster who hints that telework should be primarily for those with long commutes? Is “pollution reduction” a good reason to push for telework? Do the reasons even matter if the employee has a track record of being productive and reliable?

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Feb 02, 2012 at 12:19 PM11 comments

Survey: More feds choose telework for the time savings, not work-life balance

When employees are asked what they like most about telework, many bring up the ability to enjoy greater work-life balance. But according to a new survey by FedScoop, many IT professionals are all about the more practical aspects of working virtually.

In the survey, almost 90 percent chose the time-saving component of working remotely over more time with family (56 percent) as their main reason for desiring it, and 72 percent said they like telework because it decreases the carbon footprint. 

FedScoop polled 300 IT executives from both government and industry to get a sense of the evolving perspectives and practices of telework. The majority of the respondents (54 percent) were federal employees, most of whom worked for an organization with 5,000 or fewer workers.

Other interesting findings include:

90 percent of federal managers trust their team to telework, but only 61 percent of federal employees said their managers allow them to work remotely.

- 91 percent of federal employees are interested in telework, and 97 percent feel they are qualified to do so.

- 43 percent of the surveyed federal employees said their current equipment does not support telework. For private sector respondents, that number was 13 percent.

- 61 percent of federal employees said technology can fully replace traditional meetings.

- 81 percent of federal employees said they have implemented or tested a continuity of operations plan.

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Jan 31, 2012 at 12:19 PM13 comments

Top 4 management tips for federal managers

With the impending wave of federal employees retiring from government, managers should start thinking now about how to cultivate the next generation of public-sector leaders. Although the federal government is facing harder times and shrinking budgets, “every challenge brings an opportunity,” said Sam Davis, vice president at AMA Enterprise Government Solutions. Here, he discusses four key areas that government managers should focus on in 2012.

Prioritize telework training for managers and employees:  Although telework has steadily gained traction in the federal government, challenges still remain, mainly on the management side. One way to deal with that issue is to encourage more training and education, Davis said. Managers and employees also need to work on the logistics of telework. Before a telework arrangement gets realized, managers should define the new working relationship and have a contract that clearly spells out new boundaries, including requirements, expectations and goals. And when interactions move to the virtual world, with IMs, emails and web meetings replacing traditional get-togethers, effective communication should always be at forefront of every manager-employee relationship. “Telework puts people in a place they’re not accustomed to so it’s critical for both sides to understand the new expectations,” Davis said. “Those expectations then need to be reviewed on a regular basis.”

Revitalize your leadership development training: With the forthcoming turnover expected to bring about what Davis described as an “astronomical” departure of retiring federal employees, managers need to step up their efforts to prepare and motivate the next crop of federal leaders. Whether getting outside coaching or in-house training, managers should work on enhancing their communication skills and gain better understanding how to convey themselves in best way possible. Also, part of developing leadership skills, the ability to motivate and promote a collaborative work environment also become important, as well as seeing yourself as a leader. “Leadership starts with people seeing themselves as role models and projecting a dynamic presence,” Davis said. “Also, what separates a manager from a leader is that the leader has the ability to influence others.”

Recognize the value of emotional intelligence: Some have argued that emotional intelligence has become even more important than having just “smarts.” In any managing role, the ability to identify and evaluate emotions is a key characteristic that can help build and strengthen relationships with employees. Also, if you know how to manage your own emotions, then understanding others and reading them more accurately gets easier, Davis said. Not sure how you come across to others? Simply ask peers, colleagues and employees and encourage them to share what aspects you need to work on. “This is an ongoing process, and it’s important to get the truth of how others perceive you. You need to be constantly aware of how you come across to others.”

Review succession plans: Any federal manager or senior-level executive will undoubtedly face challenges with recruiting and retention at some point in their career, Davis pointed out. “Managers need to look at succession planning from different angles,” he said. “Especially in the next five to seven years with the retirement wave, they need to figure out how to retain top staff.” Part of the effort also includes identifying key team members that can be trained as leaders and fill the top spots. But amid overall tougher fiscal times, that could be difficult but not impossible. “The federal government competes with top organizations and the commercial and private sectors, and the challenge is always how to attract high-quality staff,” Davis said. While it won’t be able to compete with the private sector in terms of compensation, the federal government should focus on marketing itself in a positive light and highlight what it can offer, for example, telework, Davis said.

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Jan 24, 2012 at 12:19 PM4 comments

Throw away the clock

“Clocks are cheap. Good employees are not, so let's all step away from the clock and focus on performance, shall we?” That’s how Suzanne Lucas, more famous as the Evil HR Lady, opens her response to two readers who seek advice on punctuality in the workplace.

While many managers still manage by the clock, Lucas points out they should worry more about results than what time their employees came in or left. In many cases, however, managers keep a closer eye on the clock rather than the employees' output and results, she writes.

 “What is a bad thing is your employees not meeting their objectives and goals and not providing high customer satisfaction,” Lucas writes. “Face time should not matter. If John comes in at 8 and Harriet doesn't come in until 10, it shouldn't matter unless John and Harriet need to work together on a project, and then (because John and Harriet are grownups) we should let them figure it out.”

Follow the link above to read the Evil HR Lady's full response to the questions. Meanwhile, we'd like to ask you: Do you agree with Lucas? Have you encountered managers who worry more about face time than results? Does your job require you to be at your desk by a certain time, or do you have a more flexible schedule?

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Jan 20, 2012 at 12:19 PM28 comments