Archive for the ‘Public Servant’ Category

Bicycling in Carson City

My presentation at the Carson Communicators Toastmasters club

Bicycling in Carson City

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Public Service as an Employer of Choice

I joined Nevada Department of Transportation, a public sector organization, in December 2008. Many factors influenced me to join the public sector. I was hoping to get involved a variety of assignments. I thought state job is more stable compare to private sector in the long run. In my case, both are true and I am enjoying my profession. Also, I wanted to work for the transportation system than working only on projects. The public sector job provided me the opportunity to learn the policies that influence the transportation. I should mention that it is amazing to know how the currency flows in and out to build and maintain the transportation infrastructure. Previously I worked for Nichols Consulting Engineers (NCE), a private organization with 70 employees.  I would say I felt “free” to take care of the business at NCE. Now, I work with 1750 employees, thus lost that freedom a bit. I think it is the trade off when we work for a bigger organization regardless of public or private sector.

I found an interesting policy brief by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the problems faced by the Public sector. This brief focuses on the challenges in many countries at federal level. I believe that the issues and the needed changes are well applicable in the state and local governments. The primary challenges are:

  • A large part of the employees are retiring and the generation entering into the workforce is smaller than the generation retiring.
  • Loss of competitiveness of wages. While wage is not the only reason in attracting the highly qualified workforce, it is important to attract the younger generation.
  • Younger generation consider public sector as bureaucratic and old-fashioned.
  • Citizens are losing the trust on the government. This affects the public servants.
  • In many countries, the promotion opportunities are not clearly linked to the performance. It is usually based on the seniority.

So, How to get rid of these shortcomings? Many countries adopted their own strategies. Canada adapted salary increases together with performance based elements. Austria focused on personal development and lifelong learning. Norway directed training program for younger employees. Italy has launched a broad public administration reform effort and an action plan for e-government. Korea has opened 20% of the top civil service posts to open competition. Both private and public sector employees can apply for these posts.

In addition to above, a lot of non-monetary incentives are introduced over the years. Some Examples of non-monetary incentives are:

  •  A culture of co-operative leadership, open communication, co-operation and recognition
  • Flat hierarchies, sufficient scope to display initiative and to make decisions on one’s own work
  • Good working conditions, working methods and organization
  • Opportunity to control work time: flexible working hours, dates of annual leave, etc.
  • Good opportunities for training and personal development
  • Distance working
  • A family friendly personnel policy to help reconcile family and working life
  • Opportunities for educational leave or leave for other personal reasons

It is worth reading the 8 page policy brief. Full report can be found here.

Open Communication Initiations by the Federal Government

In the past, we have seen many websites from the federal, state and local governments. Almost all of these web pages are created by the respective governments, their departments or agencies. People go to these websites to get necessary information mostly for their professional purposes. The information is often spiced up with the political flavor of the party in power. I would say if someone is going to a government website for personal purposes that mean that person is in a desperate need something from government. But things are changing in the recent years. There are many .gov websites created solely for providing information on the well-being of the people and the society. Unlike traditional sites, we won’t see much or any politics. I have listed a few below:

nutrition.gov: Nutrition.gov provides easy access to the best food and nutrition information from across the federal government. It serves as a gateway to reliable information on nutrition, healthy eating, physical activity, and food safety for consumers.

mypyramid.gov: This website is administered by the US department of agriculture. It provides great information on healthy eating.

kids.gov: Kids.gov is the official kids’ portal for the U.S. government. It links to over 2,000 web pages from government agencies, schools, and educational organizations, all geared to the learning level and interest of kids. Kids.gov is maintained by the Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC).

Data.gov: This site provides a wide array of data. The purpose of Data.gov is to increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government.

Climate.gov: This website is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. We can see virtually any data related to the climate. The tones of the analysis are pro-climate change. That doesn’t mean they are politically biased. It got some really good information

Usa.gov: This site provides information on the United States Government. USA.gov is an interagency initiative administered by the U.S. General Services Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies.

fedworld.gov: The FedWorld.gov web site is a gateway to government information. This site is managed by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) as part of its information management mandate.

I am pretty sure there are tons of sites like these on the web. I just listed a few that fascinated me.

My Personal Brand

A few months back, I started a process of branding myself. I did not get confused with many options. Only after a week long thought, I decided to go with Public Servant focusing on the transportation sector. It is a good fit to me as I am a state employee in Nevada. I work in highway infrastructure building and maintenance sector. All the highways are owned by federal, state, and local public agencies except the negligible miles of private roads. So public sector is inevitable in this industry. I am proud to be part of that community.

There are not many efforts in the public sector to brand its products and services. Also public sector is behind the rest of the world when it comes to branding. I did some research to explore the social media activities in the transportation agencies. The results were not satisfactory to me. Most of the tweets are from organizations – not from persons. There is no personal touch in those tweets. There is virtually no active blog though a lot of websites.

In my branding efforts, I am trying hard to reach public sector employees who are enthusiastic about social media and people who want to learn more on the transportation agencies and their products and services. During these days I learned a lot about social media and how to employ them for the professional and business purposes. I understood well about many-to-many communication.

Over the years there were several presences about me on the web. Most of them did not appear with my consent or my knowledge. I used to have a fear of online presence. I used to think that twitter is a celebrity thing. When I first got into the Facebook, I twisted my name so that it won’t appear on the name search. During the last few months my web presence increased tremendously. Nowadays I don’t bother about online presence and I feel happy about it.

Nevada State Employee Recognition Week, May 2 – 6, 2011

Nevada will join states across the nation in celebrating Public Service Recognition Week, May 2 – 6, 2011. This week is designated annually to celebrate the numerous contributions of our public employees and to educate the community on how they make life better for citizens. The Governor has issued a proclamation declaring the week of May 2 – 6, 2011 as Nevada State Employee Recognition Week. For more information please follow the link.

 

Public Servants

Who is a public servant? I define all the public sector employees whether they work for federal, state, or local Governments. I have seen some other definitions that include the politicians. Military people are usually not included in the public servants category. It is kind of contradictory to me, but military actions are uniquely labeled as military service. The employees of nonprofit organizations like American Red Cross are also not considered as public servants. There is an interesting article on a conservative website United Liberty. This article reflects the life of politicians and true public servants. The article is biased on political party line.

I am a fan of CNN news. David Gergen is one of the frequent analysts in many of the CNN news and opinion casts. I noticed a name stand Harvard-Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership behind him. So, I decided to check it out. I read few of their blogs and scanned through their website. It seems this center is focused on leadership in policy making and common good.  I should mention that their blog is very impressive and informative. Also many of the well-known economic and policy analysts, who often appear on the TV shows, teach or hold different positions in this center. My understanding is that this center does not focus of training the private industry people who want to be a CEO.  OK!!! That makes sense based on the name of the school.

The week of May 1-7 is public service recognition week. We celebrate honoring all public servants for their effort throughout the nation to provide essential services, solve and prevent serious problems, and help make sure our safety and advance the common good. Fifty years ago, in his state of the union address, President John F. Kennedy declared, “Let the public service be a proud and lively career. And let every man and woman who works in any area of our national government, in any branch, at any level, be able to say with pride and with honor in future years: I served the United States Government in that hour of our nation’s need”.

Subsidies for Transit Services

Transit services are a must in some places to ensure the mobility. Also, we know that most of the transit services are operated by public agencies and they are not financially self-sufficient. The tax money is pumped into these systems in some or the other way. Most of these subsidies are from the highway users. We pay more gas and other fuel taxes than we needed to build and maintain highways. I am trying to explore the equity aspects of these subsidies.

The city transit riders are literally subsiding the sub-urban transit riders. It is mainly because the transit fares are flat in many areas. Similarly peak hour riders subsidize the off-peak hour riders. It is obvious that these two categories pay the same fare, but peak hour traveler experience uncomfortable crowded ride while off-peak rider enjoys a relaxed ride. Also the funds collected during the peak hour are used to run the off-peak time services.

The other interesting aspect is that a rail passenger enjoys more subsidies compare to a bus rider. It is mainly because of the high investment costs needed for the rail infrastructure. But, an average bus passenger is poorer than the average rail passenger. It is based on a nationwide study and in most places bus transit mainly serves the low-income people. That is not the case for rail or light rail services. They are established only if there is a must need for them. But, rail brings other benefits to the city it serves. It is fast. It can carry many passengers comfortably compare to bus services when the distance is not short.