Today’s post comes to us from Neil Reichenberg, former executive director of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA‐HR).

MissionSquare Research Institute released a report highlighting the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) for public organizations, along with the multiple DEI-related challenges facing the government workforce. The report concludes that “Workforce diversity can pay dividends for the organization, in terms of the trust it can help build with the public — whether in education, healthcare, public safety, housing and community development, or other fields. When area residents see themselves reflected in the public service workforce, hear from those agencies in their own languages, or feel listened to about their community concerns, there can be a more effective partnership for problem solving, and a more relationship-based pipeline to recruiting the next generation of employees.”

Among the DEI challenges discussed in the report are:

The report contains several suggested actions that public sector organizations could consider. This includes: appointing a DEI officer; evaluating current staff diversity and identifying areas within the organization where there is a need to take steps to increase the diversity; developing creative recruitment strategies to enhance knowledge of the myriad career opportunities that are available, in order to attract a more diverse applicant pool; ensuring there is a regular process to obtain data on employee engagement, satisfaction, and issues around DEI; creating an inclusion program that assists employees in connecting with employee resource groups, mentoring programs, and sponsorship opportunities to enhance their connection with the organization; and considering equity during policy discussions, so that differential treatment of protected classes or workforce segments can be eliminated.

Studies have demonstrated the organizational benefits that result from having a diverse workforce, and this is especially important for the public sector, which needs the trust and involvement of its citizens. As the pandemic has shown, governments provide critical services and need to be able to compete for top talent. In a tight labor market, governments need to be proactive to ensure they can recruit, develop, and retain needed talent. While hiring a diverse workforce is a key first step, it’s also important for employees to be treated equitably and feel that they are an integral part of the organization. DEI should be an organizational priority and not just the responsibility of the diversity officer.

Today’s post comes to us from Neil Reichenberg, Former Executive Director of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA?HR).

MissionSquare Research Institute, formerly the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, released updated survey results on the impact of COVID-19 on the state and local government workforce. While the morale of state and local government employees increased in this survey by 15% to 56%, there were 31% of survey respondents who stated that, due to the pandemic, they are considering changing jobs, with one-quarter indicating they want to stop working in the public sector. The results are based on a survey of 1,203 full-time state and local government employees that was conducted in May 2021. Previous surveys were undertaken in May and October 2020.

Going forward, keeping their families safe from contracting the virus is the overwhelming top concern cited by 81% of respondents, followed by staying protected from contracting the virus at work (64%). The other top concerns focused on benefits, pay, or hours reductions and being furloughed or losing their jobs. Close to 80% reported that the pandemic has impacted the nature of their jobs.

State and local employees have positive feelings about working in the public sector during the pandemic, with:

Despite the positive feelings, there are 50% who indicated that the risks they are taking during the pandemic are not on a par with their compensation and 31% who are considering changing jobs. Stressed, burned out, fatigued, and anxious are the top emotions that survey respondents reported. Over 40% noted a negative financial impact from the pandemic, with 31% reporting that they have taken on more debt. Almost 80% declared that the pandemic has impacted the nature of their jobs. The respondents recommended the following actions that employers could take to improve the workplace:

A little over half reported that they were extremely or very satisfied with their employer and trust their leadership to make good decisions regarding employee safety. The respondents are most satisfied with their job security, leave benefits, and health insurance.

Governments have been on the front lines in fighting the pandemic and need to ensure that they can recruit and retain the talent they need to continue to provide critical government services. Public sector leaders should be concerned about the large percentage of employees who are considering leaving their jobs, coupled with a previous MissionSquare report in which governments reported that 38% of their employees are accelerating their retirement plans due to the pandemic. As public employees return to work, with 58% indicating they are now working fully in person, governments need to be empathetic, communicate the safety plans they have implemented to address employee concerns, and, to the extent possible, provide employees with flexibility.

Today's post comes to us from Neil Reichenberg, Former Executive Director of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA”HR). Neil is currently teaching a course on human resource management in the public sector at George Mason University.

As schools increasingly resume either full or part-time in-person education or move to a hybrid model of in-person and remote learning, K-12 public school employees report increased stress, fatigue and anxiety based on a recent report issued by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence. The report contains information from an October 2020 survey of 1,205 state and local government employees of which, 494 were public school employees. The report also includes comparative information from a similar survey conducted in March 2020 with the most dramatic change being the sharp decline in general satisfaction with the employer which fell from 69% in March 2020 to 44% in October 2020.

Public school employees report a greater impact from the COVID-19 pandemic as compared to other state and local government employees. Other key findings from the report include:

The survey results point out the need for public school leaders to provide compassionate leadership, offer flexibility to employees, and focus on the wellbeing of employees during these stressful times. Failure to do so could result in the loss of experienced talent that will negatively impact school systems for many years to come.

Today's post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member Dennis Miller, Associate Vice President of Human Resources and Benefits Administration at The Claremont Colleges. 

As we wrap up calendar year 2020, which has been an exceptionally difficult year worldwide to say the least, thought must be given to the working paradigms organizations must consider in 2021 and beyond - especially those in local and state government, healthcare, and higher education.

According to an article from September 24, 2020, authored by Sheiner and Campbell from The Brookings Institution, revenues from state and local government are forecasted to be reduced by $5.44 trillion by the end of 2022 due to the effects of the pandemic, primarily from less revenue derived from income, sales, property, and corporate taxes. To be sure, the reduction in revenue will likely roll-forward well beyond 2022.

These revenue shortfalls will no doubt lead to these same entities lobbying for relief programs to be offered by the federal government, something we've already seen happen in 2020. These organizations will also probably initiate their own internal reform measures to help mitigate the issues the best they can while remaining financially viable. 

One area of interest that continues to percolate is the volume of employee positions at a given employer that are able to work from home (WFH) compared to positions that do not support the WFM model - for obvious reasons. 

Pre-pandemic, in local and state governments and higher education, it was a tough sell to have employees engage in a WFH program. Generally, policies did not support this model and except for using a WFH model only on an “exception basis”, many organizations simply did not support the idea.  Some view the WFH model as ineffective for a variety of data points (some data points more valid than others), and managers will often prefer to see their employees “in person”. 

Sure, for leaders, a WFH model requires a different style of leadership and management. But, is not “adaptability” a key quality of any good leader? 

If 2020 has taught us anything about working remotely, it is that the WFH model can be effective for many positions within local and state government, as well as higher education. The healthcare environment is a little more difficult to broadly apply a WFH model due to the nature of the work, although some healthcare workers do enjoy a WFH model. Still, the mindset has begun to shift in government and higher education to support a WFH model, out of sheer necessity, and the last eight months has already shattered more than a few paradigms about working remotely in many industries. 

For those policy makers within government agencies and higher education, as you conduct the annual review of policies and procedures in preparation for the 2021 calendar year, now is an ideal time to integrate a more formalized WFH written program for 2021 and beyond.

Given the ominous financial outlook for at least the next 2 years, there is likely a way to show how a WFH model will actually lower the overall cost of labor when you factor in the cost for providing a physical workspace, and any of the perks that employees might enjoy by nature of working on-site versus working from home.

How has your organization adapted to the WFH model and its related benefits? 

Today's post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member, Neil Reichenberg. Neil is the executive director of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources and has researched and written extensively about HR and labor relations in the public sector and given speeches around the world including at the United Nations and in testimony before the US Congress. Here he discusses the critical importance of government on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” President Ronald Reagan, 1981 Inaugural Address 

I'm not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” Grover Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform 

The above quotes reflect sentiments that, over a period of many years, have resulted in the short-sighted underfunding of government in the United States. Yet, as we have seen before, when there is a crisis, such as the current global pandemic caused by COVID-19 (Coronavirus), it is government that leads the fight. We need to recognize the crucial role that government plays in the lives of its citizens and ensure that it has the needed resources to effectively combat crises.   

Once COVID-19 is brought under the control, we need to step back and give further thought to the role of government in disasters, determine the processes and infrastructure that need to be developed, and ensure that government has all the resources it needs to meet any challenge.  

Some specific areas I would suggest considering are: 

The global pandemic has reminded us, once again, that when things fall apart, it's government with its heroic emergency responders and health care workers, that we look to for help. While cutting costs and corners may make a balance sheet look better in the short-run, it's dangerous and deeply unfair to those we rely on in difficult times. 

Today's post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member Neil Reichenberg, who is the executive director at IPMA-HR. Here he discusses the benefits when governments measure employee engagement, but also the finding that most don't.

The International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR) recently conducted a study focused on employee engagement and retention that found that government employers are seeing positive results from efforts to improve employee engagement, although less than half conduct employee engagement studies. Improved workplace collaboration, increased communication and higher retention were the most common positive results cited by survey respondents to their employee engagement efforts. The report is based on responses from 417 IPMA-HR members and the survey results are available here.

Almost 70% of the respondents indicated that employee engagement is valued or highly valued at their organization. Efforts are being undertaken to engage their employees in the goals of the organization that include involving employees in decision making, particularly in the strategic planning process. Enhanced communication, recognition programs, career development opportunities, and developing employee committees and focus groups were among the other efforts that were cited. As to the sustainability of these efforts, 57% said they would be sustainable in the long-term, 38% in the short-term, and 5% said they were not sustainable. Interestingly, only 36% of respondents from larger organizations said their efforts were sustainable in the long-term.

Overall, 42% of the survey respondents indicated that their organizations had conducted employee engagement studies. Larger governmental organizations defined as those with at least 10,000 employees conduct engagement studies at a higher rate (63%) as compared to medium size governments with between 500 - 10,000 employees (53% rate) and small organizations, with fewer than 500 employees (33% rate). Almost half of the respondents rated the level of employee engagement between 7 - 10 on a 0 - 10 scale with 0 being not at all engaged to 10 being highly engaged. The biggest barriers across the public sector to measuring employee engagement ranged from lack of leadership support, budgetary restrictions, and organizational culture that does not support conducting such studies. Lack of leadership support (33%) was the most common challenge cited when organizations try to improve employee engagement followed by staff cooperation (17%) and budget (17%).

The most popular measures included in employee engagement studies include employee satisfaction, workplace culture, manager-staff relations, professional development opportunities, work-life balance, and compensation. Over 90% of those who conduct employee engagement studies communicate the results to the employees in a variety of ways and take steps such as developing action plans and appointing employee engagement focus groups.

Public sector organizations are increasingly focused on retaining their employees with the most successful retention factors being increasing salaries and compensation, offering career development opportunities, providing alternative work schedules, improving hiring practices, gathering information through exit interviews and focus groups, providing orientation programs for newly hired employees, and hosting team-building activities.

Today's post comes to us courtesy of board member Neil Reichenberg, executive director at IPMA-HR.

One of the consequences of working for the same organization - in my case for the International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR) - for more than 37 years is that people tend to ask me, “What has kept you there so long?”

When I reflect on the answer to this question, it takes me back to the very start of my career, and my strong belief in government, which I believe plays an incredibly positive role in our lives.

In his oft-quoted inaugural address in 1961, President John Kennedy stated, "And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country."

Those words spoke deeply to me at the time and they resonate today just as strongly. And I am certainly not alone. Every day, millions of dedicated public servants answer this call and I have been fortunate through my work with IPMA-HR to interact with many talented public employees - they have kept me here just as much as anything else.

Through research that we have done at IPMA-HR, we have found that the top factors driving employee engagement in the public sector are: serving the public with integrity, feeling a sense of accomplishment, and making a difference by working for government. Indeed, for many people, it is the mission of government that drives them to a career in public service.

Dissatisfaction with government/poor political leadership is consistently cited as the most important non-economic problem facing the country today according to the monthly poll conducted by Gallup. This is troubling, especially coming from someone who has dedicated my career to an association that represents public sector. We must do better to be the positive force in people's lives that we want to be.

I'm proud to work at IPMA-HR and believe that we have an opportunity to improve the way government works around the world. You see, in order to succeed, governments need to be able to recruit, develop, and retain talented and dedicated employees who are engaged and committed to the important missions of their agencies. Working with public sector human resource management to find these people and engage and develop them properly can make government better and more effective. As with every other sector, it's the people that truly make the difference.

The promise of making that difference is enough to get me up and to work every day - 37+ years later, there's still so much good work to be done.

The following post comes to us courtesy of board member Neil Reichenberg. Neil is the Executive Director of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR) , a nonprofit membership organization representing public sector human resource managers and professionals.

Reflecting an increasingly tight labor market in the United States, recruitment and retention of qualified personnel with the needed skills for public service topped the list of workforce challenges, according to the State and Local Government Workforce: 2017 Trends report from the Center for State and Local Government Excellence. The report is based on responses to a survey by members of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR) and the National Association of State Personnel Executives (NASPE).

A total of 91% of survey respondents cited recruitment and retention as being important to their organizations. Staff development, leadership development, and workforce and succession planning also were cited as important challenges facing the public sector.

Hiring has picked up significantly, with 74% of respondents indicating that their governments hired employees during the last year, and 47% reporting that they retained contract or temporary employees. This finding is consistent with the annual IPMA-HR employment outlook survey, in which 66% of survey respondents reported that their governments planned to hire for new positions. However, for those who are creating new positions, half say that the increase will be less than 1% of the current workforce and 40% of the new positions will be in public safety. Despite the increase in hiring, there are fewer government workers today as compared to the start of the recession.

The report noted that interpersonal, written communications, and technology skills are the ones most needed by new hires. Police officer, information technology, engineer, and health care are the positions that governments have the hardest time filling. Online job advertising, government websites, employee referrals, and social media are the most successful recruitment practices for reaching qualified candidates.

Reflecting the increasing cost of health insurance, half of the survey respondents indicated that their governments had made changes to the health benefits they offered to their employees. The most common changes included: shifting more costs to employees, implementing wellness programs, and shifting employees to high deductible plans with a health savings account.

Overall, the survey respondents believe that their pay and benefits are competitive with the labor market. However, while 93% believe that their benefits are competitive with the labor market, only 64% indicated that their pay is competitive with the labor market. This finding is supported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which reported in June 2017 that for private sector workers, benefits comprises 30% of compensation as compared to 37% for state and local government employees.

Many of the findings contained in the report are likely to be similar for the private and non-profit sectors in the United States as well.

What about you? What are the major challenges your organization faces in 2017 and beyond? Do any of the findings of this survey surprise you? Tell me about it in the comments section!

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