How to retain good employees

The other day I was reading @mjmclean’s blog post about managing the web communications team in the government and I came across this presentation from the Innovation Management Institute promoting their innovation management process.

Their process is quite similar to that proposed by William Eggers‘ (author of Government 2.0) presentation from GTEC last year -

  • Idea Generation – create systems to generate/maintain the flow of good ideas.
  • Selection – Filter good ideas; efficient sorting process needed.
  • Conversion – Convert ideas into products, services & practices.
  • Diffusion – Manage stakeholders & disseminate ideas widely.

Eggers encouraged us to fail fast and fail small.  Alter the risk to reward ratio in order to overcome our fear of failure.  It’s that fear that leads to stagnation; and it’s that stagnation that has our best people leaving the government at a time when it’s anticipated that close to 50% of the workforce is eligible for retirement. Crisis alert!

Justifiably, everyone’s talking about employee retention.  How can we keep good people in the government? Allow us to study, learn, question and attempt interesting projects!  I can vouch for the power of being provided with the opportunity to try new things, manage the risk, possibly fail, but being allowed to try again.  This is a process that keeps passionate ‘intrapreneurs’ (Eggers’ word) engaged and excited to come in to work everyday.

Interesting work will keep us here

Do we have the capacity to innovate?  One way to build this capacity and reduce the risk of failure is through the intelligent use of expert consultants.  Too often I see consultants hired to do the most interesting work of the organization.  This is a sure way to have your best people quit and become consultants!

Worse still is the fact that these papers often end up on a shelf somewhere collecting dust. Why? Because nobody within the organization was included in the writing of them, so they are not invested in seeing them implemented. Or maybe they’ve never done this type of work so they simply don’t know how, but would love to give it a try. I love to see specialists hired to help build the capacity of the permanent employees that would be needed to implement these strategic plans and projects.

Learning is rewarding

We need to build up increasingly skill-rich multi-literate specialists within the government that can take on a variety of roles from different categories of skills. For this type of cross-pollination to occur, a multi-pronged approach to learning must be attempted, beyond classroom and theoretical training. Consultants must be used to skill share; to demonstrate and advise on best practices. Mentor relationships should be supported and encouraged by formalizing the process to find suitable mentors.  Time can be included in contracts for time to meet and discuss soft issues and share experiences throughout the implementation process. Advanced knowledge management perhaps, but things that managers have within their control to make happen. HR already supports these (often) underutilized services.

What can I do?

If you’re a public servant, wipe the dust off those vision papers and use them as the evidence or data in conversations when you’re planning what to do next. Don’t start from scratch, hire another consultant, or just do whatever you did last year. You can create your own process and bring in experts as needed. They’ve already done the heavy lifting, it’s up to you to realize the vision.

If you’re a manager, encourage your employees by providing positive feedback and opportunities to grow.  Research published in the Harvard Business Review (March 2009) indicates that the greatest incentive we can offer our employees is positive feedback. Let’s go one further and encourage innovation and risk taking so we actually have some positive feedback to give.

Either way, if you want to read a little more on the topic, don’t miss the Deloitte paper on Web 2.0: The future of
collaborative government

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About Laura

As a Business Analyst working for the Canadian federal government in Web usability, I have the opportunity to be a part of a growing movement of professionals implementing user-centered design principles.
This entry was posted in Improving the Public Service and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to How to retain good employees

  1. canserve says:

    Thanks for this post. I have been following your blog for some time, and have now started my own. Reading blogs like yours gives people like me the confidence to hop into the conversation.

  2. Laura says:

    Thanks for the feedback Kim! I thought I heard a splash somewhere in the blogosphere! ;)

  3. Laura says:

    Update: @wdeggers book Innovation State: The Public Innovator’s Handbook is out http://bit.ly/dleuw2

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention How to retain good employees | -- Topsy.com

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