Employee engagement has gone from a “niche human resources concept on the periphery of management concerns for federal leaders” to a major focus in the years since the best places to work rankings began, says the Partnership for Public Service, which produces those annual rankings.
However, the government still must put a “heightened focus on engaging employees and addressing their workplace needs,” says a report on the lessons learned over 15 years of those reports.
“Throughout the government, agency leaders and staff have dedicated time to expanding their knowledge of employee engagement, developing strategies and implementing changes to improve their workplaces. Those years of effort have paid off. Despite pay and hiring freezes, government shutdowns, budget uncertainty, political turmoil and increasingly complex mis¬sions, many agencies have made strides in engaging employees and creating more productive work environments,” says a report examining the 15 years of those rankings.
However, it warns that polls show up to a quarter of all workers “may be thinking of leaving their jobs after the pandemic subsides. To stand a chance of competing with the private sector for this talent, federal leaders must build on the lessons of the past year by placing a heightened focus on engaging employees and addressing their workplace needs.”
It said that insights gained from those reports over time include that engagement must be a focus regarding younger employees starting with the hiring process. “One way agencies have found early-career employees who are attracted to their missions is through targeted and intentional recruitment. Rather than passively hoping prospective employees will come to them, the most successful agencies proactively pursue prospective employees needed to achieve their missions,” it said.
Further, the onboarding process should be used to ensure that new employees “have a common understanding of organizational mission and how they fit into it,” it said. Mentorship programs can help give them a route to the advancement they desire, and “enabling and encouraging younger staff to make an impact at their level is another way that the agency leaders have addressed the advancement challenge. In particular, many of the leaders mentioned employee resource groups and how they can serve as a source of empowerment and inclusion for younger employees,” it said.
Agencies also need to continue to foster engagement with current supervisors and senior leaders, it said, since “when career leaders do not have insight into what the issues are, where they are and how to fix them, it can lead to frustration and disengagement at the leadership and staff levels alike.” Training on management responsibilities also is important, it said, since “often, leaders are chosen for their subject matter expertise or tenure within an organization and may not have had the training or opportunities to learn how to be effective managers.”
It added: “Holding leaders accountable for engagement ensures that they will address the issues and chal¬lenges that arise for their staff, which in turn will make the organization more successful, make them more successful leaders and improve their engagement.”
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