The organizations we reviewed used six key practices in the initiatives that we reviewed to empower and involve employees. Figure 1 identifies the practices and provides some examples of how the organizations used them.

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  • Demonstrating top leadership commitment. Top leadership commitment is crucial in instilling a common vision across the organization and creating an environment that is receptive to innovation. Leaders of the agency organizations we reviewed envisioned needed changes, communicated openly with employees, and instituted organizational changes. For example, the Director of the FAA Logistics Center decided that the Center needed to operate more like a private sector business. He met in open forums with employees to discuss his vision and, with the help of employees and union representatives, reorganized the Center.

  • Engaging employee unions. Effective labor-management relations help to achieve consensus and solve problems expeditiously. In some cases the unions participated in pre-decisional discussions with agency management before changes were implemented. For example, IRS involved its employees' union in pre-decisional discussions a bout proposed new policies.

  • Training employees to enhance their knowledge, skills, and abilities. All five agencies provided formal or on-the-job training to employees to support the changes that were being made. For example, OPM provided on-the-job cross training to a retirement processing team so that the team could adjudicate retirement claims under both the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees' Retirement System (FERS).

  • Using employee teams to help accomplish agency missions. All five agencies used teams to help accomplish agency missions. Teams helped flatten organizations by merging divisions and enhanced flexibility in meeting job demands. For example, VBA regional offices created self-directed employee teams and merged divisions to process veterans' benefits claims from beginning to end. Team members learned new skills and had more flexibility to help each other accomplish tasks.

  • Involving employees in planning and sharing performance information. The agencies involved employees to varying degrees in planning and shared performance information with them. For example, one IRS division used an employee team to help develop its strategic plan and shared performance information. One way that FAA's Logistics center shared performance information was by posting performance data in charts, graphs, and tables throughout the building so employees could see the Center's progress toward achieving organizational goals.

  • Delegating authorities to front-line employees. Employees at each of the agencies had been delegated authorities. In some instances employees were formally authorized to approve specified dollar levels of program assistance or procurements. For example, FEMA's public assistance coordinators were authorized to approve up to $100,000 in financial assistance to citizens adversely affected by natural disasters or other emergencies. In other instances, teams of employees were provided new authorities to make decisions related to their work processes, workloads, training needs, and work schedules.

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Figure 1: Six Practices Used to Help Empower and Involve Employees

For the initiatives we reviewed, the agencies undertook changes that represented a significant shift from their traditional operations and, as such, encountered organizational and cultural barriers that needed to be overcome as they sought to empower and involve employees. These barriers included a lack of trust, resistance to change and lack of buy-in from front-line employees and managers, and a variety of implementation issues, such as workload demands. The agencies developed strategies to address these barriers, such as maintaining open communication and reassigning and hiring personnel. Managers and employees adapted to the changes at their agencies over time, particularly once they perceived benefits, such as improved communication, from the new practices.

In implementing the practices to empower and involve employees, agencies identified a range of examples to demonstrate the performance improvements these efforts have accomplished. Performance improvements cited included increased efficiency and improved customer satisfaction. For example, operating as a team has allowed FAA's Logistics Center to substantially reduce the time needed to make emergency radar repairs.

FAA, IRS, OPM, and VBA generally agreed with the contents of this report. FEMA did not comment on the report.

Addressing the Human Capital Crisis in the Federal Government. A Knowledge Management Perspective
Addressing the Human Capital Crisis in the Federal Government: A Knowledge Management Perspective
ISBN: 0750677139
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 89
Authors: Jay Liebowitz © 2008-2017.
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