It is Time the Federal Government Returns to Being a Model Employee

After a summer of furloughs for many federal agencies and a sixteen-day partial government shutdown in the fall, members of the Budget Conference Committee came to a resolution on spending limits for the remainder of fiscal year 2014, as well as fiscal year 2015. This bipartisan, bicameral plan delayed sequester cuts for two years, called for a Self Plus One provision within the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, and capped contractor executives’ salaries.

Prior to the release of the plan, how this deal would affect federal managers and their employees concerned those throughout the federal government. Early speculation called for $20 billion in cuts in workers’ benefits. Thankfully, those currently employed avoided being a target for deficit reduction. However, future federal employees hired after December 31, 2013, and with less than five years experience, should expect to contribute 4.4 percent of their salaries to retirement benefits; 3.6 percent more than current federal employees.

While current feds are grateful to not be used once again as Congress’s piggy bank, calling upon employees who do not yet even work for the federal government will only hurt floundering federal recruitment. Serving within federal departments and agencies used to be seen as a greater calling, however, with the three year federal pay freeze, reductions to benefits, and overall contempt aimed at the federal government, young men and women are looking elsewhere to serve their fellow citizens. It is time that the federal government returns to being a model employer.

Federal managers already face recruitment obstacles. Many federal agencies and departments are under a hiring freeze despite the need to fill much needed positions. As the American public continues to call upon the federal government for services and assistance, federal agencies and departments struggle to meet demands with limited human capital resources, causing a strain on federal employees’ abilities to meet missions and goals. Additionally, federal managers face loss through attrition. In recent years, Members of Congress introduced legislation calling for either a “one for three” or “two for three” replacement system for those who leave the federal government. Through this process, federal managers face a shrinking workforce with an increase in workload. Federal managers and executive branch leaders need to examine why those new to the workforce do not consider the federal government as a viable career path. It is imperative managers appeal to the next generation of employees.

If federal managers cannot overcome this recruitment hurdle and the inability to fill these vital positions, the country could face the problem of a hollow government. By eroding the benefits package, the federal government will not be able to attract the best and brightest to serve. This will only cause a race to the bottom in human capital and high rates of job dissatisfaction.

In order to avoid a poor functioning federal government, federal managers need to push for investment in the workforce. Managers must examine what employees need from the federal government as an employer, and how to respond to the needs of a changing workforce. While conventional thinking views government employment as a thirty-year career, younger members of the workforce are instead looking for mobility and career flexibility. These newer hires are more concerned with their own personal job growth, not agency loyalty. Herein lies the need to show these younger workers the federal government is where to hone talents through training and experience. The federal government also needs to be seen as a place that appreciates its employees. If a private business enacted a three year pay freeze despite demands for goods and services, turnover and poor morale would run rampant, leading to inferior production and a failing business.

Though the federal budget and federal pay rates are beyond the control of federal managers, they have the opportunity to facilitate engagement with employees to better understand what they need from their employer not only for career development, but also to ensure the effectiveness of their agency. The federal government cannot function without a fully involved workforce. Whether or not employees plan to stay with their agencies for ten, twenty, or thirty years, federal managers have the ability to internally promote the good works of federal employees, and communicate how their work betters their country and community. The demographics of the federal workplace are changing, and federal managers hold the ability to usher in a new, more efficient and responsive work environment.

Celebrating its 100th year, the Federal Managers Association (FMA) is proud of its long tradition of Advocating Excellence in Public Service. For more information on how FMA works to protect your interests and to join our team, please visit www.fedmanagers.org.

Posted in Hear it from FMA

Tags: career development, Federal Managers Association, federal government, FMA, engagement with employees, federal hiring freeze, federal recruitment obstacles, Budget Conference Committee, furloughs, model employer

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