Everywhere you look, federal employees are trying to recruit, hire and retain skilled employees.
IRS, for instance, plans to hire 10,000 people this year alone and another 20,000 over the next couple of years. The Office of Personnel Management has developed special programs to help agencies recruit and hire cybersecurity staff. The relatively new Advanced Research Projects Agency Health at the Health and Human Services Department needs scores of subject matter experts to bring in as research project leaders.
Employee care and development, as well as provisioning staff with the tools and technologies they need, have always mattered. Now, with work modes changing and a new generation joining the federal workforce, employee experience tops the federal personnel agenda.
Make employee CX a priority from before Day 1
“Employee experience has really come to the forefront, especially in this administration, being actually woven into the President’s Management Agenda and the importance of elevating the federal workforce,” said MaryAnn Monroe, senior director for total experience solutions and services at Maximus.
Speaking at the Federal News Network 2023 CX Exchange, Monroe said attention to experience must span a person’s lifecycle as an employee — from recruitment, through hiring, performing on the job and then exiting, whether for another job or for retirement.
From before day one to the final day on the job, “everything that happens in between is that employee’s experience with a company or agency,” she said.
Monroe said Maximus tries to model best practices from the organizational employee customer experience it has with federal agencies so it can adopt and implement these approaches to help refine the company’s employee CX.
Simply removing administrative friction from day-to-day activities enhances prospective and on-staff employees’ perception of an organization, she noted.
“How can we make things simpler and more seamless in how we interact with employees?” she said, citing digital forms and processes for submitting them as an example. If that starts from the moment the company attracts someone as a prospective employee, it can affect the whole journey that they have with Maximus, Monroe said.
Combine human touch with digital best practices
Topnotch information technology is necessary for excellent CX, but it must work in conjunction with internal communications and how people treat one another too, she said.
“Once you have your digital experiences and you’re working through those processes, that first touch of human interaction that we have with employees or potential candidates is a really important one,” Monroe said. It sets the tone for the relationship and a potential employee’s sense of connection — a crucial component in the overall employee experience.
Engagement and connection can work laterally to boost that experience too. Agencies can accomplish that with what Monroe called employee resource groups.
At Maximus, “we have a variety of groups that anybody can join to stimulate professional development connections, networking and professional growth,” she said. The groups include a Black employee alliance and a veterans group, for instance.
Monroe recommends regular employee pulse-taking through surveys, much like the government does with the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. Ideally, such surveys should occur more frequently than once a year and focus on specific areas of employee concern, she advised.
But measurement alone won’t improve things unless an organization acts when management spots a negative trend or other anomalies, Monroe said. In one instance, Maximus leadership discovered there was dissatisfaction with the choice of benefits options offered to its staff.
“Our leadership took that to heart, made that a priority,” she said, and added new benefits to its plans. Agencies can’t ordinarily change benefits options for employees, but what’s important is “taking a look at that data and really paying attention to it.”
Federal surveys have shown for years that the quality of local, unit or bureau management can affect how employees feel about their immediate supervisors. What’s more, it often can impact employee engagement more than information or policies coming down from the secretary or other high-level political officials.
Therefore, Monroe said, it becomes crucial to “develop a connection and a relationship with your employees and your team. Care about them personally and professionally — their growth as professionals — know what drives them personally.”