Jim Hagy of Deloitte on Engaging the Government Workforce of Today and Tomorrow

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Jim Hagy, Deloitte

In December, key leaders and stakeholders from throughout the federal government gathered to discuss best practices for managing human capital, improving efficiency and advancing innovation. The series of events was launched in 2006 and has evolved into the meeting place for strategic-level policy makers and operational-level HR managers, and often serves as the catalyst for new initiatives.

WashingtonExec recently spoke with Jim Hagy, director of Deloitte’s Department of Defense Human Capital practice, who was one of the chairpersons for the event. Below, Jim shares takeaways from the event as well as human capital trends he is focusing on in 2015.

WashingtonExec: Will you share some of the major themes that were discussed at the human capital management for government training event?

Jim Hagy: If I were to look at an overarching theme, I would say that human capital is not just an HR issue anymore, it’s a business imperative. When you look at the federal government or the commercial sector, people are the most valuable asset, and I think there’s been an awakening to that.

Efficiency was another theme. This was more of a business theme that was applied to managing human capital and how to maximize or optimize productivity and engagement, all for the purpose of mission execution. Across the federal government we’re seeing fiscal constraints and mission changes that are necessitating an efficient and effective application of human capital.

WashingtonExec: What emerging trends in human capital are you most excited about?

Jim Hagy: Deloitte conducts a human capital trends survey each year. We survey over 2500 of our commercial and federal clients, and we talk to both business executives and human capital executives in over 90 countries around the world. I’ll hit on a couple of the key trends that I’m most excited about.

The first, and probably the most prevalent trend, is around leadership and closing the gap between hype and readiness. It’s increasingly important for organizations, especially given the demographics that are out there and the generational segmentation, to develop the leaders of tomorrow.

We need to close the gap between talking about leadership and leadership theory, and actually preparing people to be leaders.

There’s a difference between management and leadership. Leaders need to create vision, they need to establish accountability, they need to inspire people, they need to enable engagement, and these are a different set of skills. Preparing leaders to assume those responsibilities and equipping them with those skills is a major trend that we’re hearing out there in the market.

Another one is learning. Fifteen years ago, the CEO of Cisco said the transformation in learning is going to make email usage look like a rounding error. What we’re seeing is that time has finally come. We’re seeing a revolution in learning driven by the explosion in content, flipped classrooms, a learner-centric model, and demand for online or mobile applications and delivery mechanisms. That’s another trend that’s exciting because learning isn’t going to be about sitting in the classroom and listening to a lecture, it’s going to be about delivery of timely, relevant content to the point of need and that’s already started.

Another one that I think is interesting that may not be as well-known is performance management. Our clients are telling us that performance management is broken, so we’re beginning to see a migration away from ranking and rating-based systems to more coaching and mentoring-focused systems and processes. The early data shows the value is there for that migration, as well as the business case.

Finally, we’re seeing an evolving talent ecosystem where there’s a quest for workforce capability. The most progressive organizations are looking at it as a global skill supply chain that goes beyond the classic workforce planning approaches concerning future needs and talent gaps. Now they’re considering a full talent lifecycle and connecting it to some of the talent programs that support that lifecycle. Those are a few of the trends that I think are pretty exciting and will bring about a lot of change.

WashingtonExec: What are the biggest obstacles facing federal workers today?

Jim Hagy: In our survey, we found there is an overload factor, if I can use that term. The average federal worker feels like he or she has too many tasks and requirements and not enough time or resources to get them all done. The challenge is prioritizing those in a way that’s aligned with the strategy and mission of the organization. That sounds simple, but we’ve seen a proliferation of mission requirements that tend to accumulate, and when the budgets get tight and fiscal requirements set in, it gets difficult to re-rationalize and re-prioritize some of those things. Therefore, the resources get strained or constricted, and prioritization is that much more important. So the biggest challenge is creating focus for the federal worker.

Another one I might point to is what people are calling engagement. To me, engagement is related to that focus and prioritization mentioned above, but it’s the way an employee identifies with the mission and purpose of the organization and the way an employee engages with the leadership and colleagues and people. When you look at the best places to work survey or the federal employee viewpoint results, when federal agencies struggle with the results of those surveys, they typically have linkages back to engagement.

The ability for organizations to prioritize work, create purpose and passion, and enable people to engage and collaborate is a big deal because it can be directly linked to productivity and results in overall mission performance.

WashingtonExec: Which characteristics make an employee well suited for government work?

Jim Hagy: An employee who is well suited for government work has that mission focus and, in a lot of ways, nothing can replace that mission focus. When you see employees who are well suited or who are high performers, I can’t think of a case where they’re not mission focused and passionate about the mission of the organization that they support. So that’s the core of it. Of course, that can and should be complemented by competencies that enable that person in their job, as well as the management and leadership cadre that enables that employee. But it starts with the mission focus, the passion for the mission, and then the enablement on the part of leadership and the enablement of their skills.

WashingtonExec: What can agencies do to attract new workers to their organization?

Jim Hagy: Again, it comes back to mission. Many federal agencies have very special missions, high impact missions that serve the public good in so many ways. The ones that are effective in attracting new workers can articulate that impact and tie the jobs that they’re recruiting for to that mission impact.

For example, if there’s an organization that is in the national security business, they can appeal to new inbound or prospective workers to illustrate how critical the mission of national security is, and they can appeal to young workers and even experienced hires in that way. The ones that are able to articulate crisply their mission and the impact of their mission are the ones that attract the best talent.

WashingtonExec: Speaking of those younger new workers, how can agencies better engage Millennial workers?

Jim Hagy: Millennial workers, perhaps even more so than other segments of the population, want that mission orientation, they want to have social impact, they want to have access to leadership so that they can grow and develop, and they want to have high impact experiences. So the question is phrased exactly right—how can agencies better engage Millennial workers? I think the answer starts with that term, engaging them on all those topics: their purpose, their passion, their careers, and their development. Engaging them along that spectrum is the key.

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