Engaging Government Employees: Motivate and Inspire Your People to Achieve Superior Performance

Engaging Government Employees: Motivate and Inspire Your People to Achieve Superior Performance

by Robert Lavigna


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You know firsthand that your government workers are not underworked, overpaid, or mindless clones just carrying out the morally compromised work that politicians forced through the pipeline. You are quite aware that these and other common stereotypes of public sector employees don’t apply to your team . . . but are they? Besides having to daily overcome the persona of being a government employee, your hard-working employees face enormous pressures and challenges every day and are asked to solve some of our country’s toughest problems, including unemployment, security, poverty, and education. To be able to return to their desks each and every day with the passion and commitment required to accomplish these overwhelming duties will require a manager who knows how to leverage talent, improve performance, and inspire passion within these true servants.In Engaging Government Employees, Bob Lavigna—with over three decades of experience in public sector HR— gives managers the tools they need to leverage the talents of government's most important resource: its people. Readers will learn:• Why a highly engaged staff is 20 percent more productive • How to get employees to deliver “discretionary effort” • How to assess the level of engagement • Why free pizza and Coke every Friday is not a viable strategy • And moreEngaging Government Employees rejects the typical one-size-fits-all approach to motivation. Drawing on a wealth of empirical evidence, this indispensable resource shows how America’s largest employer can apply the science of engagement to get team members passionate about the agency’s mission and committed to its success.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814432792
Publisher: AMACOM
Publication date: 07/24/2013
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 907,673
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

ROBERT J. LAVIGNA has more than 30 years of experience leading public sector human capital management organizations, including positions with the state of Wisconsin, Partnership for Public Service, the U.S. Government Accountability Office, and the University of Wisconsin.

Read an Excerpt

From Chapter 1

The Power of Employee Engagement and What This Book Is About

 There are many other books about employee engagement, and some are excellent. But this book departs from the others in three ways.

First, I focus on the science of employee engagement—that is, what the research clearly proves about the power of engagement to improve individual and organizational performance. Instead of relying on my insights “culled from my many years of experience” or “my work with many different types of organizations,” I emphasize what the engagement research has proven empirically and how these results apply to government organizations.

Sure, I have experience with engagement, and I will cite some of these experiences as examples, but I don’t trust purely anecdotal experiences and don’t believe they necessarily apply to the situations or challenges other managers face. I don’t rely exclusively on my personal experiences to make the case for why government leaders, managers, frontline supervisors, and employees should focus on engagement. Instead, I rely on the research and empirical evidence.

Second, my focus is government. There are other fine works on the science of engagement, but they don’t emphasize the public sector. In Chapter 4, I highlight the unique challenges government faces, the fundamental differences between the public and private sectors, and the implications of these differences for managers—and for employee engagement. I argue that, in some respects, these differences make it harder to manage in the public sector. As a result, public-sector leaders, managers, and frontline supervisors must approach engagement differently than their private-sector counterparts.

In addition to the hostile environment the government operates in today, other key factors that distinguish the public sector from the private sector include political leadership that changes frequently; hard-to-measure goals and impacts; complicated, rule-bound, and sometimes irrational decision making; multiple external stakeholders with power and influence; an older, more educated, and more white-collar workforce; strong civil-service rules and employee protections; heavy union influence; limited financial tools to influence and reward employee behavior; public visibility of government actions; and, more positively, a workforce that is intrinsically motivated toward public service. I believe that government leaders and managers need to understand these differences and their implications for employee engagement. This argument is a key focus of this book.

The third way in which this book departs from many other works on engagement is that I don’t present a one-size-fits-all approach to improving engagement. There are many engagement models and approaches that their designers maintain can be adopted just about anywhere. In contrast, I don’t see how any single employee-engagement model can apply to all organizations and situations, particularly in government. Just in the United States, there are more than 85,000 government jurisdictions and agencies, and each has its own mission, strategy, values, and culture.

Instead, I believe that every organization needs to measure its own level of employee engagement, analyze the results to identify specific areas to improve, set priorities for action, and then act on the data. While there are some broad principles that apply generally to engagement (which I’ll discuss), there is no single solution that will automatically improve engagement across all organizations. a do present a model in Chapter 7, but it is an engagement process model—that is, a model that a public-sector organization can adapt and adopt to assess its level of employee engagement. The organization needs to then act on these results to improve engagement. The model is intended to help each agency generate the data it needs to draw conclusions about what its employee-engagement issues are and how to deal with them to improve engagement, but it does not prescribe generic solutions. In Chapter 12, I describe what some government agencies have done to improve engagement, but I present these actions as examples, not prescriptions.

From the start, it is important to understand that there is no silver bullet to achieve high levels of employee engagement. Instead, what’s needed is silver buckshot—an integrated series of actions, specific to each government jurisdiction or agency, to measure and then improve engagement.

Here’s a quote that I think sums up the power of employee engagement. According to Jim Goodnight, CEO of SAS, a leading business software company that is also a perennial member of Fortune magazine’s annual “100 Best Companies to Work For,” “My chief assets drive out the gate every day. My job is to make sure they come back.”9

Goodnight’s statement is just as applicable (or maybe even more applicable) to government. And improving engagement is one clearly documented way to make sure that when the chief assets of government leave at the end of the day, they do plan to return tomorrow.

 Excerpted from ENGAGING GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES by Robert J. Lavigna. Copyright © 2013 by Robert J. Lavigna. Published by AMACOM Books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY. Used with permission.

All rights reserved.

Table of Contents


1 The Power of Employee Engagement and What This Book Is About

2 So What Is Employee Engagement, Exactly?

3 Why Engagement Matters: The Business Case for Improving Engagement

4 The Special Case of Public Service and How This Affects Engagement and Efforts to Improve It

5 How Managers Can Respond to the Differences Between the Public and Private Sectors and Improve Engagement

6 Measuring Employee Engagement

7 A Process Model for Measuring and Improving Employee Engagement

8 Steps 1 and 2: Planning and Conducting the Employee-Engagement Survey

9 Step 3: Reporting and Analyzing Survey Results: So What Do All These Numbers Mean?

10 Step 4: Taking Action to Improve Employee Engagement

11 Step 5: Sustaining Higher Levels of Engagement

12 What Public-Sector Organizations Have Actually Done to Improve Engagement

13 The Role of Human Resources

14 Getting Started on the Journey to Improved Employee Engagement

Appendix 1: Action Plan Evaluation Worksheet

Appendix 2: Sample Communication Plan



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