3 Ways to Engage Government Employees

May 5, 2014

how to engage government employees

In a recent Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, only 43% of government employees reported that their leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment. Government employees are often criticized on their work, while at the same time are expected to solve some of our most pressing problems. As Robert Lavigna, author of Engaging Government Employees, says: “This paradox–attacking public servants while at the same time expecting them to solve problems no other sector can handle–places government leaders and managers squarely in the middle of an extremely difficult situation.  Those who lead the 18,000,000-strong public-sector workforce must somehow find ways to motivate their employees despite harsh criticism and shrinking resources.”

Stewart Liff, author of A Team of Leaders and Managing Government Employees, gave a session this afternoon at ASTD 2014 offering the latest strategies in the areas of motivating employees and team development. Mr. Liff gave specific advice on how to connect teams around a sense of purpose, best practices in team design, managing performance, and dealing with difficult people.

Here are 3 tips from the presentation:

  1. Look at your systems before blaming the employee. Often it’s the manager or the situation that is causing the problem. “Remember,” Stew Liff told the crowd “People want to do a good job.” In fact, many public servants were moved to work for the government because of a desire to help the greater good. Focusing on what unites your team will build engagement, which has been shown to improve performance.
  2. Treat people seriously and build trust. In some parts of the government, top management and leadership can change often, so maintaining a level of trust is imperative. “Apply the golden rule” of treating them the way you’d want to be treated. This will go a long way toward winning their trust and inspiring commitment.
  3. Develop your staff. “Treat employee development seriously,” continued Liff. Investing in your people will not only improve engagement, it will keep your organization competitive.

Edward T. Reilly, CEO of the American Management Association, was in attendance. “We need to restore confidence in government,” said Reilly. “AMA is committed to developing leadership skills and wants to work with our Government partners to help improve the skills that lead to performance. Government managers and employees have unique issues to overcome but we have been studying the issues involved and we are glad to be here at ASTD to share our findings with so many Government HR leaders.”

Devora Zack on the Best Way to Motivate Others

For more information on how to lead government employees, check out these resources:

  • Training and development for government employees.
  • For more insights and business strategies, sign up for our free leadership newsletter, Leader’s Edge.

Need to train your team but have limited resources? Try our Seminar Savings Pass.



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About The Author

Christina Parisi is Director of Digital Content at the American Management Association. Previously she was an Executive Editor at AMACOM Books and the Director of AMA Self-Studies.

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