We in this room know that the federal workplace has problems:
We must create a better workplace. We must create a workplace where federal employees work together and want to work together on a clearly defined agency mission; a workplace where federal employees understand their role and are sufficiently empowered that they can perform their role; a workplace where federal employees are excited about their job and want to give their discretionary energy.
By discretionary energy, I mean that energy which cannot be extracted from an employee by a supervisor. Discretionary energy is that energy an employee wants to give because of the challenge and excitement: the workplace. It is the kind of workplace where employees willingly work harder because they are respected, challenged, and empowered.
That workplace can be created only in the context of a successful labor-management partnership. And that kind of workplace is critically necessary to agency success over the next few years.
No agency will be successful over the next few years unless it has a successful labor-management partnership.
I define a successful agency:
It will have a base of political support and funding support. An agency cannot achieve this success without a successful partnership:
Agency goals cannot be reached without successful labor-management partnerships. There is no mystery to this. And now we have data to prove our point.
We recently did a 165 question census survey in the IRS. The question that most closely correlated with high job satisfaction was effective use of knowledge, skills, and abilities. If an employee agreed or strongly agreed with the proposition that her or his knowledge, skills and abilities were being effectively utilized, she or he rated job satisfaction as high. The correlation between the two questions was by a 2-to-1 margin. No other question had that kind of correlation.
This information does not surprise us. We have known anecdotally that an employee challenged to use their skills is an employee satisfied on the job. But now we have the data to prove it.
And we have the data to prove that those who rate job satisfaction as high are high performers and work in higher performing groups.
It is only in the context of a successful partnership that a workplace is created where an employee's knowledge, skill and ability can be effectively utilized. While there may be a few employees in every agency who are satisfied with their job and their work, a successful partnership creates a system where every employee has a chance for job satisfaction.
Even though we recognize that partnerships are good and must be created, creating partnerships is hard work.
In many agencies the easy stuff has been accomplished: plans have been made, labor-management problems are on the decline, cost avoidance is on the rise.
And just as things are going well, several things might be occurring:
We in the federal sector have a tendency to be insular. We tend to think we are unique and our problems are unique. Many of us think that the link between successful partnerships in the private sector and high performing profitable corporations is not applicable to the federal sector. And that often translates into a justification for maintaining the status quo.
Rather than unique problems, I think we are in a unique time -- a time when agencies will be scrambling for a share of an ever declining budgetary pie.
Those agencies with an energetic, enthusiastic work force who produce quality work valued by the public at a decreased cost will survive and be supported. An energetic, enthusiastic work force can only occur in the context of a successful partnership. These are the agencies who will be successful. These are the agencies who will become models for the future.