Skip to main content

Justice, Fairness, Inclusion, and Performance.

								 Public service

Thoughts from Our Fellows: Modernize and Reinvigorate the Public Service

May 31, 2021

May 31, 2021

Welcome to Thoughts from Our Fellows, a collection of recent activity regarding the Academy's Grand Challenge of each Month. In May, the Academy focused on Modernize and Reinvigorate the Public Service. Below you will find:

  • The recommendations from our Election 2020 project regarding the first year of the new administration,
  • Recommendations from our fellows for the next four years of the Biden Administration,
  • Management Matters podcasts related to this grand challenge, and
  • The top 5 clicked articles on this grand challenge from our Management Matters online newsletter.
											 NAPA Public Service 72
Election 2020

In November of 2020, the Academy published Modernizing and Reinvigorating the Public Workforce as a part of its Election 2020 Project. The paper's Working Group recommended the following actions:

  • Build interest in public service and government as a career through a funded campaign initiated by the White House and managed by OPM.
  • Develop a modern system of flexible pay and job classification beginning with an EO that maximizes use of administrative flexibilities to streamline processes.
  • Initiate hiring reform that significantly expands the use of streamlined hiring authorities, uses modern assessment processes to identify high-quality candidates, and reduces the number of security clearance requirements.
  • Improve the quality of managers and supervisors in government.
  • Identify talent management in government as a presidential priority.
  • Refocus OPM with an emphasis on responsiveness and flexibility in Talent Management.
  • Identify and implement modern assessment processes, with a goal of eliminating applicant self-assessment questionnaires within one year.

Thoughts from Our Fellows

In addition to our Election 2020 papers, which focused on recommended actions for the first year of a new administration, the Academy also asked its Fellows for advice for the first four years of the Biden Administration.

Martha Dorris: Of course, the challenges facing creating a public sector workforce are complex. For the government to be able to meet the critical functions that ensure the health and safety of the public, the workforce is pivotal. To identify solutions that meet the needs of current and potential public servants, it’s important to understand their needs, expectations and concerns on a real-time basis. Anecdotally, we hear stories that college students don’t want to enter public service at the same time you hear that they can’t find a way to enter public service. I don’t believe we have an accurate assessment of the true issues and challenges because the data is either outdated or so large that no one has been able to synthesize it.
The government needs to create a task force that represents government and industry to advise the government on solutions to meet the issues identified by these current and potential public servants. One of the goals of this task force is also to create pride for those current employees in being public servants. The task force can identify lanes (e.g., leadership development and training; hiring; performance management; career development; diversity, equity and inclusion; and creating purpose driven organizations) that can be executed and monitored for progress. Governments serve as the lifeline for the public to be able to live happy, healthy and safe lives.

Michael Maccoby: Clearly, governments need to clear away unnecessary bureaucracy and develop systems that are efficient and responsive to the needs of citizens. However, government is composed of many different cultures with different needs. What is common to all these cultures is the need to develop leadership that engages employees by clarifying purpose, facilitating collaboration and continual development and at the same time partner effectively with political leadership. Only with this kind of leadership will the many cultures of government retain and recruit the talent needed to achieve their critical missions.

Jim Williams: I think a Public Service Commission, chartered by the President, akin to the 9/11 Commission, should be engaged to examine the current state of public service and make recommendations for fulfilling the future needs of government. This could look at public service as a system of people, process, technology, policies, facilities, etc. It should produce a desired future state which includes new ways of work such as remote work, a hybrid workforce of robots and humans, new ways to collaborate and work together on shared challenges, new ways of completing the entire HR lifecycle, including hiring, developing and managing human resources and how to make government service or public service attractive and attainable for the next generation of people, including addressing inequities amongst race, women, non-degree, and disabled people and veterans. And making recommendations for the type of tools and data that will be need for accomplishing all of this new vision.

Renee Wynn: Each agency, at all levels, should issue regular stories about how they support the public. Real stories. Social media should also be used to share the good agencies do. Own the story you want to tell. When people see the good, the mistakes and missteps reported by the press will be less impactful. Public servants will regain their pride in working for the benefit of the taxpayers.

Related Podcasts

Grand Challenge: Public Service Spotlight
NAPA podcast-logo
Public Service Spotlight: Dr. Robert Lightfoot

Fellow: Robert Lightfoot

Season: 1 Episode:55 | May 24, 2021

Grand Challenge: Public Service Spotlight
NAPA podcast-logo
Public Service Spotlight: Betsy Fretwell

Fellow: Elizabeth Fretwell

Season: 1 Episode:54 | May 17, 2021

Grand Challenge: Public Service Spotlight
NAPA podcast-logo
Public Service Spotlight: Basil Gooden

Fellow: Basil Gooden

Season: 1 Episode:53 | May 10, 2021

Grand Challenge: Public Service Spotlight
NAPA podcast-logo
Public Service Spotlight: Donna Shalala

Fellow: Donna Shalala

Season: 1 Episode:52 | May 03, 2021

Top 5 Articles on Modernize and Reinvigorate the Public Service


FCW: Few agencies sought Schedule F conversions, by Natalie Alms

Just 14 out of hundreds of eligible agencies and departments provided any written response to a Trump-era executive order establishing a new category of the civil service called Schedule F meant to encompass a range of policy-related and supervisory roles, according to documents obtained by FCW under the Freedom of Information Act.

The executive order, released in October 2020, tasked agencies with compiling preliminary lists of positions to be reclassified under Schedule F by Jan. 19, 2021, just one day before the inauguration of President Joe Biden. Biden revoked the executive order on Jan. 22.

Read The Full Article

Federal Times: Feds get more options for specialized education programs, by Jessie Bur

Federal employees looking to obtain a bachelors or masters degree to further their government careers will now have six more options to choose from, as part of new academic agreements the Office of Personnel Management announced May 7.

The Federal Academic Alliance program, which now partners with 23 colleges and universities, offers federal employees and in some cases their families reduced tuition rates and scholarships for degree programs deemed essential for closing government skills gaps.

Read The Full Article

Federal Times: Biden: Federal employee awards highlight 'noble' public service by Jessie Bur

President Joe Biden applauded the Partnership for Public Service’s 2021 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals finalists May 5 as a reminder of the important work that federal employees do to serve the American public.

“This is the 20th anniversary of the Sammies. These awards aren’t just the Oscars of public service, they’re a reminder that public service is noble, an impactful profession,” said Biden at a May 5 event honoring the 2021 finalists.

Read The Full Article

Federal News Network: 2020 FEVS: What we learned about the federal workforce during COVID-19, by Nicole Ogrysko

The COVID-19 pandemic forced agencies to expand or add new workplace flexibilities, and recent data from the 2020 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey sheds new light on just how often the workforce used those programs.

OPM shortened the 2020 employee viewpoint survey and included new questions to gauge the pandemic’s impact on federal employees. The data, the agency has said, may inform how the government plans for future emergencies or expands or extends existing flexibilities for federal employees in the future.

Read The Full Article

Federal News Network: 7 ways to modernize the federal financial workforce, by Jason Miller

The government doesn’t need more financial management employees who are just accountants. That’s not taking a swipe at all those number crunchers. It’s just that the modern financial management employee must bring a set of skills that are much different today than 30 years ago when Congress passed the CFO Act.

Read The Full Article