Smart Management

The Simple Way to Grade the Public Workforce

One of the hardest things for state and local governments to do is evaluate employees. Though assessments can be used to help decide whether an employee gets a raise or not, this isn’t customary practice. Assessments are used to help managers and employees improve an agency’s performance and to assist in retaining productive employees. But for governments with so-called pay-for-performance systems, high marks on an evaluation can translate into giving an employee a bonus, a raise or a promotion.

Developing and using robust personnel performance measures can be critical. “Turnover is so high and training costs are so significant that there’s a big advantage to those who can select, train and retain productive employees,” says Michael Brink, senior director at the firm Huron Consulting Group. Unfortunately, once you start evaluating individual employees -- and particularly when those evaluations are tied to that person’s salary -- there’s always the possibility that the men and women whose future is tied to those assessments are going to think the system is unfair. As one state human resources official told us, the three biggest employee issues in her state are “skepticism, uncertainty and fear.” READ MORE

B&G Report: Questionable Credit Ratings, Tax Credit Disclosures and Gas Tax Secrets

You’d have to go far to find a taxpayer who is particularly fond of the property tax as a way for cities and schools to raise money. Yet, according to the Council on State Taxation (COST), people are far more willing to comply if they believe their property taxes are fair and efficient. With that in mind, COST has published a new version of an intriguing study, last done in 2011, measuring several elements of property tax administration and management: perceived fairness, transparency and consistency.

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How Denver's Attracting Top Private-Sector Talent from Places Like Chipotle

When Denver went searching for a new Chief Information Officer (CIO), the local government was facing an uphill battle. The city's Technology Services agency was struggling: employees weren't happy; workers were stretched thin; and other city agencies viewed the department negatively. But the agency turned itself around by getting creative in the hiring process to bring in top talent from outside government. 

The agency turned to a panel of experts to focus on drafting a unique job posting rather than the standard, run-of-the-mill government job posting that lists key duties and qualifications. The panel's revamped job advertisement (which you can view in full at the bottom of this column) began with “Can you imagine being part of a team running a major metropolitan city? Can you imagine actually doing something about the issues facing your community?” and ended with “You could change the world.” That language helped get the attention of a number of top candidates, including the CIO of Chipotle. READ MORE

Cybersecurity: Why It’s Not Just About Technology

With cybersecurity breaches on the rise, one thing is clear: The current defenses of U.S. organizations -- both public and private -- do not rival the skill, persistence and prowess of those who seek to wreak havoc on our information-technology infrastructure and operations. What many organizations are doing in response to this growing and pervasive threat often stops with efforts to secure their systems through technology without a continued focus on building and sustaining a culture of deterrence and vigilance.

The problem with this approach is that attackers and their tools are always changing. While no one doubts the need to establish a systematic, technology-based way to protect against breaches, attention is rarely paid toward building a culture of security from the bottom up. For organizations that do, the results are easily quantifiable: According to a recent survey commissioned by PricewaterhouseCoopers, CS magazine, the Secret Service and Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute, organizations that conduct ongoing employee training and awareness programs see their financial impact from security breaches drop to an average of $168,000, a quarter of what those without such programs lose ($683,000). READ MORE

Managing a Crisis Before It Happens

I like crises. Mind you, I don't like being in them; I just like reading about them and thinking about how I might manage them. (I don't read Stephen King novels, but I suppose the effect is the same.)

You, too, should think about crises because, knock on wood, you are likely to find yourself in one at some point in your public-leadership career if you haven't already. And these things go better with a little forethought. READ MORE