How is the Dept. of Health & Human Svcs. Getting Hybrid Work Right? 9/15

The Getting Hybrid Work Right call series has become a well-attended and wide-ranging discussion for HR leaders on all aspects of hybrid work. On this week's call, i4cp' s CEO Kevin Oakes and Senior Research Analyst Tom Stone facilitated a conversation with special guest Russell Robinson, Sr. Training and Engagement Advisor, Program Support Center at US Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS). Here are some highlights from the call:

  • The Program Support Center acts as a vendor for other federal agencies, providing support in areas such as financial management, grants, accounting, logistics, occupational health, and more.
  • During the call, we ask the following participant poll: "Has your organization's culture changed since the onset of the pandemic?"
    • 9% Yes, it has become much better
    • 56% Yes, it has improved somewhat
    • 10% No
    • 26% Yes, but it has deteriorated somewhat
    • 0% Yes, but it has become much worse
  • Robinson noted that for his area of government, he voted that the culture has deteriorated somewhat. Engagement and productivity have increased a bit, but at the expense of well-being.
  • Like most organizations, training went virtual over the past 2+ years. There has also been a shift to shorter trainer, due to lack of capacity for learners given how busy they are.
  • In terms of procurement, Robinson seeks out offerings from women- and minority-owned businesses. He also looks for training offerings that include short pieces that can be used as pre- and post-work.
  • A current emphasis is on learning culture, especially with front-line supervisors, as they will make or break so many things in the organization.
  • In terms of return to office, HHS naturally focused primarily on safety, but less so on maintaining relationships. So that is an area of focus now: having meaningful time in the office.
  • Robinson uses pulse surveys (leveraging Waggl) as an employee listening tool. You need to be able to cite recent data when forming policies. Importantly, the survey is just a tool -- you also need to analyze the data, and share the action plan with employees. This is how you can avoid survey fatigue. Robinson noted that people are not over-surveyed, they are under-actioned. So if you aren't going to share the action plan after getting the data, don't do the survey at all.
  • Robinson focuses employees on developing a personal routine to maintain their own wellness. Some keys include the ability to delegate, process improvements where needed, the use of wellness apps, encouraging 50-minute meetings rather than full hour, and more.
  • Financial wellness is increasingly a focus, and will be a major focus this fall and into 2023. For many, it connects significantly with mental/emotional health.
  • Robinson has a 9-word mantra for leadership focus: Strategic, Agile, Emotionally Intelligent Leaders Empower Employees and Customers.
  • In the past, manager apathy was sometimes an issue in trying to increase employee training and development. Now there are multiple touchpoints with managers throughout the year, and giving them addition support mechanisms to keep development front and center.
  • Another key is hiring managers and leaders who come in with a learning culture mindset, and including that as a key part of the interview process.

Links to resources shared on the call: