Top 3 – USA

Hello bloggers

This is the last in my recent sequence of blogs from the USA IPMA-HR conference 2010, hosted in Seattle, Washington State.

I’m actually hoping that a few US colleagues from the IPMA-HR might read this post and if you’re feeling brave you may even like to post a comment about my ramblings below! I know you’re out there…because you’ve told me in Seattle last week that you read my blogs from across the Pond – so why not give it a whirl? Don’t be shy now!

Whilst at the conference last week I took the opportunity to conduct a mini-research survey of my very generous and gracious US hosts, who gladly gave me some time to complete my study. I asked US HR directors (HRD’s) what were the top three issues preoccupying their thoughts and actions at present?

My survey would not pass muster as a statistically sound exercise and for the purist HR academics amongst this readership I confess my research methods are probably flaky, but I contend the results are nonetheless interesting – I hope that’s true whether you’re from the US or the UK.

The mini survey consisted of 20 HR directors covering local, state and federal government services – in ‘UK speak’ equivalent to local, regional and national public servants.

So, coming straight in at number one, top of the pops USA HR issue was employee engagement. In fact the conference itself echoed this – notably keynote presentations from John Christensen (see FISH! post) and Rodd Wagner (of Gallup) both of whom majored on the importance of successful employee engagement to maintain good productivity and customer relations during these much straightened times for US public service. Sounds familiar doesn’t it UK HR colleagues? It should do, as an IRS study in early 2010 revealed employee engagement was the UK HRD’s number one priority – in fact for all sectors.

At number two, USA HR issue was transformation and reorganisation. Associated with this issue was the challenge for US HRD’s to equip leaders in their organisations with the right capabilities to lead and achieve the scale of change required. Again, UK colleagues I suggest this has a resonance with our own contemporary preoccupations.

Not far behind at number three was reducing the employee overhead cost via (difficult) negotiations with obdurate trades unions including diminution of terms and conditions, implementing layoffs (redundancies) and introducing furloughs (a furlough is a temporary leave of absence from employment without pay).

I believe all of this has a very familiar sound to it…I think it reflects the economic travails of the so-called developed world and the consequences for employment. However, the so-called developing nations such as India and China paint a different picture of economic recovery…but them again so do their employment conditions and relations.


By | 2017-07-30T12:23:32+00:00 October 11th, 2010|Categories: Dean Shoesmith|4 Comments


  1. Bill Cole 11th October 2010 at 10:08 pm - Reply

    Well Dean you finally convinced me to comment on your blog. I hope that some of my other American colleagues chime in as well.

    While all three topics are good, issues surrounding employee engagement are at the forefront in my jurisdiction. Organizations with poor employee engagement suffer from low morale, high-turnover (when the economy improves), poor customer service, and increased disciplinary issues. This environment more often than not causes HR to become reactionary as opposed to proactive and strategic.

    We are working with managers and supervisors to help address the engagement issue by increasing communication at all levels of our organization. It is imperative that employees have the opportunity to express their concerns and opinions and believe that they are being heard by management. Some of our labor unions have become (reluctant) partners in this initiative.

    I be curious to see what some of my other colleagues on both sides of the pond have to say on this important issue.


  2. Dean Shoesmith 12th October 2010 at 8:14 am - Reply

    Many thanks Bill – and well done for taking the plunge…I think you might be setting a trend as the first USA-based colleague to comment on a PPMA blog post, so congratulations!

    I agree with you that employee engagement should be top of our priority list…in fact there’s good evidence (MORI, Gallup etc) that correlates employee engagement and organisational performance as a direct cause and effect relatiosnhip – so it seems to me at any time this is a critical issue. Arguably in these times of public sector retrenchment it’s more critical than ever. If the organisation’s leaders don’t engage with the workforce and prove demonstrably that they’re listening and action-taking they will struggle to meet the challenges ahead.


  3. Mark Van Bruggen 12th October 2010 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    Dean… Very good observations about the issues facing government HR in America. The conference rightfully concentrated on the importance of Employee Engagement. In my state (New Jersey) we are in an economic crisis in which employees have not been hired or promoted in over 6 years! Employee morale is at an all-time low. But as a result of the conference, I have a personal renewed sense of energy regarding the importance of my job and I am working with my staff to help them discover the importance of their work as well.

    I am working on ways to bring the “FISH” philosophy to the NJ Civil Service Commission and incorporate a little more joy in the workplace.

    There is so little that can be offered to our employees at this time. I couldn’t agree more… bringing the right attitude and perspective to the workplace is more important now than ever before. Thank you for sharing your perspectives of the similarities between our HR issues in America, and the issues of your colleagues in the UK.

    Was great seeing you in Seattle.


  4. Dean Shoesmith 13th October 2010 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    Mark – firstly many thanks for your feedback, which is very much appreciated. It was great seeing you and other IPMA-HR colleagues in Seattle – I believe that now, more than ever, international co-operation and liaison is a means by which to address the global recession and recovery – my point is exemplified by recent concern expressed by the IMF about the need to avoid international currency wars. That co-operation also extends to learning and development – including my honour to be at your excellent conference. Through mutual understanding and co-operation I believe we can adopt the ‘FISH’ principles, rise to the challenges before us, and demonstrate the value of public services…whether in the US or the UK.


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