ATD Blog

Employee Engagement: Learning from FLRA’s Success Story

Monday, August 31, 2015

There is often much hand-wringing and lamenting about what to do with a low Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings. Should agencies conduct focus groups to learn more? Should agencies create a strategic plan to address the findings? Should agencies hire a consulting firm to tell them what they should do differently? 

Chairman Carol Waller Pope faced those questions when she because the Chair of the Federal Labor Relations Authority. The FLRA had the lowest score (18.1) in the history of the Partnership for Public Service’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government’s rankings. Chairman Pope eschewed the traditional questions. Instead, she asked herself what organizational behavior she needed to change to increase the scores and sought to model the behavior necessary to improve engagement. Those in her agency followed suit. 


Currently, the FLRA is ranked in the top five in the Small Agency Category. What’s more, the FLRA is more efficient, effective, and productive. 

Join us at the Government Workforce: Learning Innovations conference on September 10, 2015, for a unique opportunity to hear firsthand how Chairman Pope engineered a dramatic turnaround on employee engagement at FLRA. Chairman Pope’s session will be an opportunity to learn what she did, why she did it, and hear about the results she achieved. 

About the Author

Robert Tobias teaches courses in public sector leadership in the Key Executive Leadership Programs. He also teaches facilitation and team development, conflict management and alternative dispute resolution, and managing labor management relations. Finally, he is the Director of the Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation which brings together members of Congress, political appointees, career federal executives, union leaders, consultants, and academics for the purpose of resolving difficult public policy implementation issues. President Clinton nominated and the Senate confirmed him for a five-year term as a member of the Internal Revenue Service Oversight Board. Tobias received the Paul P. Van Riper Award from the American Society for Public Administration “In recognition of his outstanding contributions to both the theory and practice of public administration” and the Warner Stockberger award from the International Public Management Association for Human Resources for “outstanding contributions in the field of public sector personnel management at the federal level.” He has also been elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. Tobias was selected by Thomas Ridge, secretary, Department of Homeland Security, and Kay Coles James, director, Office of Personnel Management to the Human Resource Management System Senior Review Advisory Committee.

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