Motivating Federal Employees: Is Pay the Most Important Factor?

Pay is one important factor that individuals consider when searching for employment or assessing their satisfaction with their current job. However, research conducted by the Partnership for Public Service for their annual Best Places to Work rankings indicates that pay is not THE most important factor.

Tom Fox, Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service, spoke with Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER about how federal agency leaders can motivate employees in the age of the persistent pay freeze.

 

 

Know what REALLY motivates employees

While many factors are involved in shaping how employees view their workplace, the 2011 Best Places to Work rankings show that the primary factor in the federal workplace is exceptional leadership, followed by a belief by employees that their skills and the work they are doing fits in with their agency's mission.

"If anything," Fox says, "pay is a de-motivator. It can lead to dissatisfaction more than it can lead to satisfaction." Pay freezes, along with recent research that shows that federal employees are underpaid, make it an even more powerful de-motivator. So what can leaders of federal agencies do to motivate their employees? They can start by listening.

 

Listen, listen, listen

Leaders should be open  and honest about the pay situation and should follow up with employees to discuss what motivates them. These interactions not only allow leaders to gain important knowledge about their employees, they also help build trust by showing that leaders care about their employees. Listening to employees can also provide information about how to navigate the turbulent times ahead.

Provide feedback

Agency leaders should provide employees with feedback on a regular basis. According to Fox, "now is the perfect time for federal leaders to have one-on-one conversations with their employees about expectations, performance and results, as well as offer feedback and coaching to help them continuously improve and succeed."   Managers can prepare for these conversations by asking themselves five key  questions: Have you prepped for a performance review like you would for a meeting with your agency head ? Have you been crystal clear about expectations ? Have you identified your employees’ strengths and weaknesses?  Is your feedback specific enough?   What suggestions can you offer for an employee to improve? Fox provides more detail about each question in his blog post.          
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