As per the request in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a new report from the National Academy of Public Administration, “Elevating Human Capital: Reframing the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s Leadership Imperative,”is on target. Government needs to invest continually in improving its human capital management policies and practices. The payoff will be improved agency performance and the gains could be significant.
Human capital management is more than implementing laws and regulations, and more than policies or practices. It happens every workday and impacts the lives of employees and their families. When employees feel they are disrespected or not valued, they look for new employers. Those who feel locked in, often become disengaged, some even destructive. The factors that influence how employees feel about their work experience include the messages from leaders and interactions with local managers, not the policies announced by the HR office.
Businesses should be looking to the government as a model. The latest idea on business websites is that when employers emphasize their purpose, it helps with recruiting and engaging top talent. The subject has been discussed at the World Economic Forum and by the Business Roundtable. To state what should be obvious: Agencies were created to serve a societal purpose. The best source to understand the importance of purpose is a 2010 book The Why of Work, by the highly regarded organization consultant, David Ulrich and his psychologist wife, Wendy Ulrich.
The importance of purpose is clear in the scenes of hospital staff saying goodbye to patients treated successfully for COVID. Their satisfaction is almost palpable. We saw the celebration of the mission crew when Perseverance landed on Mars. The satisfaction from federal accomplishments is frequently displayed in movies and TV shows. The challenge of tackling problems and the anticipated gratification of success contributes to better performance. High performing organizations have employees who embrace the importance of their work. Those organizations celebrate achievements throughout the year. It builds collaboration and esprit de corps, contributing to better performance.
Government performance also plays a role in recruiting and retaining talent. Careers in government have always attracted a segment of young job seekers but many more would be attracted if agencies were valued by the public for their accomplishments. When agencies are respected for their service to the public, it enhances the way everyone views the organization, including career counselors, professors, and parents. Rebuilding is more than numbers; it is about attracting and engaging top talent.
Author: Patrina Philips