Making Government Work Better: Government Workers Suggest Ways to Reform the Reforms. (Government)

By Cristol, Hope | The Futurist, July-August 2002 | Go to article overview

Making Government Work Better: Government Workers Suggest Ways to Reform the Reforms. (Government)


Cristol, Hope, The Futurist


Frustrated by a decade of government reforms that did not make their jobs easier or their organizations more efficient, U.S. government workers have some suggestions for future reformers.

Better recruiting, fewer layers of bureaucracy, new technology, and more discipline for poor performers are on many federal employees' workplace wish lists, according to a recent survey commissioned by the Brookings Institution Center for Public Service.

"These are not the recommendations of a selfish, indulgent, job security-conscious workforce. The vast majority are merely asking for the basic tools to do their jobs well," says Paul C. Light, author of the report What Federal Employees Want From Reform and director of the Center for Public Service. The report is based on a first-of-its-kind telephonesurvey in which 1,051 federal workers were contacted at home and given the rare chance to speak about their jobs with impunity.

Most federal employees--73%-say their organizations were reformed in the past five years, yet only 42% think their jobs are either somewhat or a lot easier to perform as a result. Better results were achieved in the private sector, where 56% of private-sector employees say their organizations were reformed in the past five years and 59% say the reforms made their jobs either somewhat or a lot easier to perform. The survey, which involved members of the Senior Executive Service, middle-level managers, middle- and lower-level nonmanagers, and Presidential Management Interns, reveals that public service is often stymied by complacent workers, low standards, poor training, and unreasonable hiring and promoting practices, according to the report. Though the majority of federal employees are proud of their jobs and believe they contribute to their organizations' missions, almost half say their job performance has little or no bearing on getting promoted. Three out of five say the hiring process in their organizatio n is confusing, four out of five say it is slow, and a quarter say it is unfair.

Federal employees also estimate that 25% of their peers are not performing their jobs well.

"First of all, we need some competent people with vision leading the organization, not just political hacks," argues one respondent. "Then we need to set forth clear goals and objectives for middle-level workers and managers to make sure the goals and objectives are clear all the way around. …

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