Management Insights

The Promise and Perils of ‘Moving the Boxes’

As part of a cost-cutting budget designed to avoid broad new taxes but protect service levels, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf recently proposed combining four state departments -- Human Services, Health, Drug and Alcohol, and Aging -- into one consolidated agency. In effect, the proposal would rewind reorganizations spanning decades that provided separate cabinet-level leadership to constituencies arguing that separation would best represent their specialized needs.

As a longtime public administrator, including a stint as Pennsylvania's secretary of public welfare in the 1990s, I've had my hand in a number of these reorganizations that critics often label as exercises in "moving the boxes." I've been involved in some that worked reasonably well and some that didn't. I've learned a few things, and I've heard all the arguments. READ MORE

Are Civil-Service Rules the Enemy of Employee Engagement?

This is an invitation. It was prompted by a recent Gallup report, "State of Local and State Government Workers' Engagement in the U.S.," which includes two lists. One shows public employees' level of engagement with their work in each state, while the second shows the percentage of state and local employees who are what Gallup calls "actively disengaged." Two maps that show the patterns, using different shading, caught my attention.

As the maps illustrate starkly, most of the states with the highest levels of public-employee engagement are in the South. Only Idaho and Wyoming break the pattern. The states with the highest levels of active disengagement -- workers who are so unhappy at work that they "undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish," as Gallup puts it -- are Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and my home state of Pennsylvania. All six of these states' levels of active disengagement are at 20 percent or higher. (A handful of states are not included because too few employees were surveyed.) READ MORE

Our Ever-Older Electorate and What It Means for Democracy

The exit polls from the Nov. 8 election contain a wealth of data. One result that particularly stands out is a glaring generational gap: Donald Trump won the presidential election by 8 percentage points among voters 45 and older, and he lost to Hillary Clinton by 14 points among 18-to-44 year-olds.

That's an age gap that has been widening since it first began to emerge in the early 2000s, and it raises an important question: Just who actually comprised the 2016 electorate? What we still don't know on this most basic of questions -- or more precisely, what we think to be true that's actually wrong -- is fundamentally important to our efforts to improve the participation of one demographic group in particular: younger Americans. READ MORE

How Government Can Be a ‘Best Place to Work’

Each year, thousands of companies vie to win top spots on high-profile lists of "Best Places to Work." Winning, however, is about more than bragging rights. It can help an organization stay competitive in the ongoing battle for talent.

Whether in business or government, there's not enough talent to meet demand. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the nation's working-age population could decline by as much as 9 percent by 2030 as baby boomers retire. At the same time, many high-school and college graduates do not possess the skills that employers need. READ MORE

The Power of Networking in Reforming Criminal Justice

Criminal-justice reformers are working tirelessly to create a system that reduces incarceration while maintaining safety by restoring police-community relations, reimagining what incarceration should be, reducing time spent in jail for those awaiting trial and designing novel crisis intervention teams to help divert the mentally ill into treatment. There is no doubt that the need for reform and innovation is urgent.

Data will increasingly play a crucial role in making these efforts successful. The application of new computer-aided statistical methods -- often referred to as data science -- to the vast "big data" storehouse of public datasets can help with understanding past performance and even with foretelling future outcomes, such as predicting crimes and recidivism. When analyzed and used appropriately, data allows for a better understanding and segmentation of relevant populations, matching people to programs more effectively, and measuring what works. READ MORE