Focus on Performance to Drive Employee Engagement in Government

Last month I featured a blog post from our Public Sector Blog Series for Halogen Software: Why would anyone want to work for government?   Here’s a continuation of the discussion  focusing on performance to drive employee engagement in government.

According to the  New York Times, the public sector has shrunk by 706,000 jobs, since the post-recession peak in April 2009. Agencies are seeking ways to provide needed services with a smaller workforce that may be less engaged than ever before. In an issue brief by GOVERNING Exchange,  nearly all state and local government leaders who responded to the survey indicated that employee morale and engagement has sharply declined in the past few years.

How does a government leader begin to re-enlist the hearts and minds of a workforce that is still reeling from several years of cutbacks and restructuring? Seth Godin,  in his best-seller Tribes said, ‘The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.’ To re-engage the public workforce, re-focus on what you are there for and increased levels of employee performance and morale will follow.

Practically, there are a few steps you can take to shift your agency’s culture to one that is engagement-worthy.

  • Create a simple, easy-to-understand strategic plan.   Whether led by policy-makers or led by management staff, a simple plan that defines where the organization is headed and why will give everyone on the team a common goal.
  • Ask employees to participate in future-related conversations. Engage employees in the discussion about organizational challenges, their aspirations, and the decisions needed to move the organization forward. The most ennobling plans are those in which we have a stake. In the development of your big picture plan, don’t forget to ask employees what they think.
  • Link day-to-day employee performance to the plan.   Design performance feedback processes so that employees can see clearly how their work contributes to the bigger plan. The GOVERNING study noted that talent management systems help government organizations identify and foster top performance and future leaders. Tools like Halogen Software (link?), can drive the implementation of these critical efforts.
  • Reward contributions that support the plan.   Recognition and compensation systems must be aligned with your overall vision. We now live in a world where there is increased scrutiny on public sector employee reward systems. Seize this opportunity to shift your pay and reward systems to one that supports your organization’s strategic focus.

How are you engaging employees and boosting morale these days?  I’d love to hear your ideas.

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