My Aug. 23 column reviewed some of the formal awards used to reward high-producing feds. Here are some informal, creative and low-cost ways to honor star producers:
• Show them that they have earned your trust by loosening the reins and giving them work-at-home and alternative work schedule options. If appropriate, give them more discretion and less day-to-day supervision.
• Thank them for their contributions in public forums, such as staff meetings, and explain to attendees what was special about their work.
• Invite them to serve in acting positions that would give them more responsibility, broaden their skills and provide grist for their résumés.
• Discuss their long-term professional goals with them. Then, introduce them to appropriate leaders in their fields and, if possible, arrange training and assignments that will help them achieve their goals. For example, if one of your star producers has set his sights on the Senior Executive Service, review SES requirements with him, try to guide him to projects and training that would help him meet those qualifications and introduce him to SES members who would provide insider advice.
• Help your star employees seek professional mentoring, such as the leadership coaching available through the Treasury Department’s Federal Consulting Group, fcg.nbc.gov.
• Give them choices to attend local and out-of-town meetings, conferences and other relevant events.
• Assign them to special projects that will expose them to the front office, political appointees and other top-level staff, and — if appropriate — to the media.
• Give them first dibs on selecting projects they will work on. Also, invite them to design projects that would advance your office’s goals and give them higher levels of experience.
• Take them with you to top-level meetings and introduce them to high-level attendees.
• Allow them to participate in short-term details that would give them exposure to controversial issues, political appointees and other leaders in their field. You may help arrange such details by discussing possibilities with other managers. Alternatively, consider offering them more formal detail programs, such as those offered by the Office of Management and Budget, which every year selects a group of feds for two- to three-month detail assignments that involve helping to produce the president’s annual budget.
• Ask your star producers to write articles about their work — perhaps a case study, a “how-to” or “lessons learned” — for your office’s or agency’s newsletter or intranet site.
• Encourage them to use government time to attend educational events, such as relevant lectures and brown-bag lunches that are sponsored by your agency, nonprofits and think tanks.
• Send them to prestigious management fellowship programs for feds, such as the Partnership for Public Service’s Excellence in Government Fellows Program, Harvard University’s Senior Executive Fellows Program, Brookings Institution’s Legis Congressional Fellowship or the Voyagers Program of the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council. Also consider federal leadership development programs in the Catalogue of Federal Government Leadership Development Programs (FedLDP) available online at www.opm.gov. Or search for “federal training programs” on Google.
• Review with them criteria for awards honoring outstanding feds and professionals in their fields. Then, if possible, plan assignments that would increase their eligibility for such awards, and — if they fulfill the appropriate criteria — nominate them for awards.
Organizations that might sponsor relevant awards include ones dedicated to public administration, such as the Partnership for Public Service and the American Society for Public Administration; professional organizations for government professionals, such as the National Association of Government Communicators; and professional organizations devoted to your star producer’s field.
Worried that résumé-stuffing credentials and contacts will send your star producer flying from your office? Remember: A caged bird won’t sing. The more inspiring, enlightening and dynamic your star producer’s job becomes, the more likely he will be to stay.