External events like government shutdowns, hiring freezes, budget cuts, and a general hostility toward public servants take their toll. But this climate shouldn’t discourage you from trying to make improvements. In fact, it should spur you and your agency’s leadership to focus even more on engagement. These efforts are needed more than ever.
To focus limited resources and time, let’s take a closer look at three items to focus your action planning on. These are things actually under your control and are realistically possible to implement—and they can still make a noticeable impact.
Why should you listen to me? In a previous job, I led the effort to plan and implement changes that boosted my agency subcomponent’s FEVS scores across the board by three to 12 points. These three suggestions are based on that experience and designed to help employees feel informed, appreciated, and treated fairly.
#1. Internal Communications
Internal communications is a force multiplier, because it allows you to get credit for everything that is going right. Plus, it’s a way to constantly remind employees about their connection to the mission.
Create mechanisms that enable employees to review information at their own pace, such as a news blog, and move your agency to a sharing culture in which leadership and managers share more information sooner. Communicating about developments that are still uncertain also can reduce anxiety in a time of change.
#2. Awards and Recognition
Everyone appreciates being recognized, and it doesn’t always have to be a formal ceremony or a large monetary award. Focus on frequent but low-cost recognition, and that includes peer recognition. Research shows that people prefer to be recognized in front of their colleagues rather than just by leadership, or even the whole organization. There are numerous existing programs in the public and private sector you can adapt.
#3. Performance Management
Even agencies with high FEVS score struggle with performance management because it’s human nature to worry that others are getting unfair advantages. Find ways to give managers time to focus on doing this right and to communicate clearly about what people should expect. A performance board of high-level managers regularly reviewing a sample of performance reviews and plans can help ensure the process is consistent and meaningful to everyone. That, in turn, combats the employee concern that they are being treated differently than everyone else.
You might already be doing some of this. If so, great—and maybe you can expand or deepen your efforts. No doubt, none of these are cure-alls, but hopefully they give you a starting point. Good luck!