While working for one government client, I was invited to fill out an employee survey. The final question was an open-ended “What else would you like to tell us?” question. Below is my response:
Here are some things I would try to do. Create interesting, functional workspaces. The current offices are drab and undifferentiated from typical offices around the world. Adding more personality to the office space will enliven the overall environment and create a stronger sense of community, belonging, and purpose.
Discuss why taking on the challenge of transformation is important… vital even! Express empathy for the hard work that transformation involves; celebrate the successes. Demonstrate that challenging the status quo and continually evolving is the key to creating a vibrant, rewarding workplace. Stability is important and must be balanced with progress. It must never degrade into complacency, boredom, and stagnation.
Establish clear career paths with clear actions people can take so they understand where they are, where they’re going, and when they can expect to arrive at waypoints along the journey.
Pleasure, fun, and camaraderie don’t just feel good for individuals, they build community, remove stress, support innovation, and reduce churn. Provide opportunities for teams to get to know each other, just relax, or share & develop “random” ideas… build enough unstructured space into budgets, schedules, and even workspaces so that informal unexpected interactions and collaborations can take place.
Don’t write a paper when you can have a phone call. Don’t have a phone call when you can meet in person. Use fewer words. As a taxpayer, I want results, not documentation.
When information is required, make it clear how this information will inform decision-making. Don’t gather information without a plan for why you need it and how you’ll use it. When you receive information, use it. Then provide feedback on how you used it and whether it was effective or not. Then improve.
Examine things more frequently and in small doses. Be honest when there’s friction between teams or between people or when things just aren’t working. Acknowledge that everyone is doing their best and then work together to do even better.
Embrace digital tools for collaboration and information broadcasting (blogs, twitter, public documents, etc.). So much gets lost in translation, reduce the number of times information has to change hands or move from one system or one state to another.
Get comfortable sharing things which aren’t finished. The public may challenge us at first, but ultimately, they’ll become engaged and invested to become champions of the work we’re doing.
Embrace small failures as stepping stones to major successes.
Make desired outcomes known so everybody understands why we’re doing the things we’re doing and how their work impacts those objectives. Yes, this is hard to do at scale… but we’re the government. We’re good at scale.
Finally, keep hiring a diverse workforce. We’re solving big problems that affect everyone, and we need everyone’s help to do this.
Good luck. This is hard, important work with huge rewards.
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