2011 predictions: Federal employee engagement will fall

Many experts are predicting workforce issues will be a huge challenge for Federal agencies. As part of my 2011 Predictions series, Paul Rowson, Managing Director of WorldatWork, shared what he thinks agencies will have to deal with in 2011. I talked to him on the show today about these predictions for next year:

1. With pay frozen, expect HR to be under siege with exception requests for dual compensation waivers. Top performers will feel the pain first and feel it the greatest, especially those in high demand jobs. Managers will be challenged to attract, motivate and retain top talent. Many have not managed in the midst of frozen pay and resources. It’s a radically different leadership environment. With no promise of a pay increase for two years, frozen budgets, and potential retirement recalculated based on “high three” annuity pay, top talent will find a way to cash in on retirement rather than stick it out. I know that most are predicting folks will hold tight, but top talent has more employment options than their peers. Talent attrition at all levels will be an interesting metric to monitor.

2. 2011 will be a trial for federal workplace flexibility. The challenge will be administration, resourcing, and managing expectations around entitlement, fairness, performance, trust and vulnerability. Front line managers will have their hands full and will need clear guidance and support, including dealing with their own workplace flexibility needs. Expect fits and starts. Creating a flexible work culture is not as simple as it looks. The federal government could serve as a model for demonstrated best practices.

3. Employee engagement will drop and the 2011 Federal Employee Viewpoint survey will be a lead indicator of what we might expect to come in 2012 if pay and budgets remain frozen. Unfortunately, I don’t believe we’re in a position to measure and quantify the loss in engagement other than soft costs, survey result comparisons, and anecdotes. Shifts in the survey and agency best places to work in 2011 will be telling – after the fact.