Smart Management

5 Common Headaches on Government Websites

Just 20 years ago, we wrote an article that called the fact that “at least ten states have begun to post legislative or consumer information on the Internet” a “dramatic development.” Today, even the tiniest communities -- like Union, Ct., which boasts a population of less than 1,000 -- are expected to have their own websites.

But even with all these open electronic doors, users who walk through can be easily disappointed and misinformed.  READ MORE

Building Government’s ‘Employer Value’

It wasn't that long ago that the idea that a governmental jurisdiction or agency should be seen as a "brand," like Coca-Cola or Southwest Airlines, was an unnerving concept to many people in the public sector. In the past few years, however, most have come to embrace the idea, or at least to give it grudging acceptance. But while there are still some holdouts, you won't find many of them among government human-resources managers who face the formidable task of rebuilding public workforces in a post-recession era when vast numbers of baby boomers are heading for the retirement exits.

What's particularly daunting about today's public-workforce challenge is that it's not just a matter of filling empty seats. It's about enticing and retaining the talented, dedicated workers governments need now more than ever. That's where branding serves a crucial role. Every organization, public or private or nonprofit, has what's known as an "employer value proposition." The EVP is a unique set of values and attributes that communicates the organization's image -- for better or worse -- to its target audiences. READ MORE

Problem With Government? There May Be an Ombud for That.

“Many parents of children with special needs ... find it difficult to get the services they need for their youngsters and so they come to us,” says state Sen. Diane Allen, who represents a district in Burlington County, N.J.  

While it's good for lawmakers to know about issues concerning citizens, they often don't have time to investigate every complaint. They also may be biased toward one agency or another. READ MORE

The Difficult Art of Responding to Public Criticism

How do you respond when your agency or jurisdiction is called out for poor performance, terrible customer service or even scandal? When the charges are false, how do you correct the record without appearing defensive? When there's some truth to the allegations, how do you regain public trust (and fix the problem)? This is far more art than science, but one thing is for certain: Nothing is more important than your initial response.

First, some tips on how not to respond. Don't blame the messenger, minimize the problem or circle the wagons. That only raises suspicions. At the same time, it's important not to accept the criticism at face value; you need time to investigate what happened. If there is some truth to the allegations, you'll need to address the problem and recover from the bad press. Don't make matters worse by issuing initial responses you'll need to correct later. READ MORE

Lessons From Cities Trying to Be Better Buyers

Trice Construction was frustrated. For years, the Chicago contractor for sidewalks, curbs, gutters, foundations and pavement had been dealing with the procurement process in the city and its six independent agencies: the housing authority, the park district, public schools, the transit authority, city colleges and the public building commission.

Among the procurement problems that had troubled Trice, as well as other companies, had been the separate and inconsistent procurement systems for each agency. The challenges consisted of distinct dollar thresholds for various bids; a variety of definitions for emergency procurements that don’t go through the regular bidding process; and variations in the number of hours that make up a standard working day. “Each agency had its own set of standards,” says Stephanie Hickman, Trice’s president and CEO. READ MORE