(Gov Exec’s Tom Shoop interviews John Sepulveda,
CHCO, VA, and Robert Buggs, CHCO, Education.
Picture is from ClearanceJobs.com, one of our
fellow underwriters for the Press Club event.)
On Tuesday, I heard two top Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs) confirm what we have been sharing with our clients as the way ahead in 2012: Even amidst budget issues, agencies and their workforce need to get the story out about their value. In fact, with government employees being slammed as under-worked and over-paid, the present is the best time to show taxpayers the ROI on their taxes and government leaders the ROI they receive from investing in employees. Employees can then genuinely believe their own management finds them worthy of enhancing skills through education and training.
The occasion was a Government Executive leadership briefing at the National Press Club on human capital challenges, co-underwritten by TMP Government. Both John Sepulveda, Assistant Secretary for Administration and CHCO at Veterans Affairs (VA) and Robert Buggs, CHCO at Education, acknowledged that retention and recruitmentneed a boost from branding. Mr. Sepulveda noted that getting everyone on board for this effort remains challenging as many in government still feel alien to branding. Yet with retirements happening and possibly fewer high quality applicants (see the recent NACE survey), government has to get across the significance of critical work, e.g. reducing homelessness of veterans.
Mr. Buggs mentioned that the two strongest statements of federal branding he knew were President John F. Kennedy’s first inaugural address with its call: “”Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country” The second was the U. S. Army’s “Be All You Can Be” brand, which ran for 21 years and came from legendary N. W. Ayer copywriter Earl Carter. This latter brand was based on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which has influenced the TMP approach to employer value propositions. Maslow saw that once people have satisfied basic physical and psychological needs, they sought higher fulfillment in becoming the person they “were meant to be,” e.g. a calling.
In our branding process, we parallel this self-actualization need, with the self-expressive aspect of a value proposition, when a person aligns their personal goals with the agency mission. It follows that the best way to get and keep people is for them to feel genuinely that they are achieving their highest potential while working for your aims. The Kennedy line reinforces that this ideal employee is sufficiently self-actualized to be able to “put service before self.”
Of course, enunciating a value proposition is only one step in creating brand salience, i.e. ensuring that job seekers will remember you at the time they apply. Current government employees are extremely influential in shaping attitudes, and, as Mr. Sepuveda said, they have been “punching bags” over the last few years. These employees need to see that they are valued and worthy of investment.
Hence, the CHCOs pointed out the need for training and additional retention measures. The hiring process needs to have its value affirmed, too. At the top end, CHCOs need to assume a strategic advisory role with agency heads to help them understand the staffing demands of incipient programs. On the tactical level, hiring managers had best speed up processing applications and reduce the still unfavorable time-to-hire that loses prospects to the private sector.
We’ll add that both need to be able to articulate who you are, how you benefit the American people, and what you offer your workforce.