Changes in leadership, philosophy, direction, and culture occur frequently in organizations. These types of change are often followed by a period of uncertainty and chaos as leaders transition into their new roles and employees adjust to a new way of doing things.
Leadership transitions regularly occur in the federal government. According to the National Academy of Public Administration, no change is more daunting in terms of magnitude and impact than presidential transitions—the very transition of national power. The impact of this transition not only reverberates throughout the entire world, but specifically the federal workforce charged with serving the American people. As William Bridges explains, federal workers must navigate the transition personally and professionally to arrive at some new norm of the business of government.
Since 2000, the General Services Administration with assistance from the Partnership for Public Service (PPS) Center of Presidential Transition has implemented a program for transition--to help calm the flurry of transition. The program has proven to minimize impact on government operations and expedite the new administration’s ability to assume the responsibilities of governing.
“The full transition process consists of three main phases, covering roughly one year, from April or May of the election year all the way through the inauguration of the new administration’s first 100 days….with only 75 days to assume the responsibilities of government…” states the Presidential Transition Guide. These phases include pre-election “planning” phase, post-election “transition” phase, and the post-inauguration “handover” phase.
Each phase prescribes training and presents developmental opportunities for the presidential team, cabinet members, and senior executives. However, it is up to talent development professionals to understand the impact of presidential transition. At the agency level, talent development can strategically position itself to assist new political appointees to implement the incoming president’s agenda, while also preparing other agency personnel to manage the culture change and ensure all staff are equipped to perform in new or evolving roles.
It’s no understatement to say the current transition has been disruptive one. Trump‘s election to president has created a clash of cultures in government—the private sector versus the public sector. And for better or worse, the president has made good on his promise to ensure it’s no longer business as usual in Washington, beginning with forgoing full participation in the GSA/Center for Presidential Transition process, which government senior executives and employees had come to understand and expect.
Amid the flurry of executive orders, there’s a federal hiring freeze, proposed deep cuts to agency budgets to the tune of $54 billion, and an intention to create a more limited and lean federal government. During this time, SESers are tasked with simultaneously maintaining their agency’s core operations and keeping morale from slipping.
As the new administration fine tunes its priorities, there is opportunity for talent development professionals to position themselves as strategic partners in their agency’s transition process. Given the new administration’s business mindset, broad-based opportunities make targeted leadership skill development a top priority, including such skills and issues as strategic thinking, advanced communications, performance metrics, process improvement, emotional intelligence, unconscious bias, change management, employee engagement, and coaching and mentoring.
Talent development can further support employees by providing change and stress management training, as well as project management, critical thinking, problem solving and decision making, emotional intelligence, and communications skills. Not to mention, they may need to address additional skill training targeted to enhance or support new mission critical job positions.
To take advantage of these opportunities, though, the agency’s talent development organization must be involved in mission and reorganization discussions. Talent development professionals must assess talent development’s current impact on agency performance, its capacity to deliver services, and management perception of talent development’s perceived value to agency success.
Next, talent development leaders must collaborate with human resources to take a more active role in its talent management system to develop an integrated strategy that aligns employee development goals to support the new president’s agenda. This will likely affect employee recruitment, retention, and development efforts. What’s more, this proactive approach speeds implementation of the agency’s political appointee agenda by ensuring employee readiness and agency performance.
Bottom line: It’s important for talent development professionals to understand the government landscape and the agenda of political appointees, communicate value to agency management and HR professionals in relevant terms, and develop and implement an impactful strategy that is sure to bring talent development from the background to the forefront. This is no easy task. But for those who seize this unique moment in time to showcase how implementing innovative learning strategies can help political appointees expeditiously achieve the new administration’s objectives, talent development wins!
For more insight, join me at ATD 2017 Conference & Exposition for the session: Presidential Transition: And the Winner Is . . . Talent Development!