Friday, January 21, 2011

Gov't Employee Accountability - Is there an app for that?

There should be. I was thinking the other day, after another dreadful encounter with a federal coworker, that there should be a mechanism that people who work with someone have to provide their supervisor with feedback. A comment card for each civil servant if you will.
First, I should tell you about the encounter. I was trying to excess a Blackberry for an employee who retired in December.Dorothy Madison (that is her name) is the lady who you turn this type of equipment in to. So I tried emailing her. No answer. Then I called and left a voicemail. No return. Called again and this time she was in so I told her I would be right down. When I get there she is nowhere to be found. So I wait for fifteen minutes. Get bored and frustrated. Called again to set up a drop-off (you can't leave these things because you have to sign off on it). Not returned. I walk down to her office again and the gentleman who sits across from her recognizes me and helps me immediately.
The worst part about it is that her horrible, atrocious customer service is allowed to continue and never addressed because, most likely, her supervisor is unaware of this behavior. As long as a federal employee does exactly what their boss wants them to do within a reasonable amount of time then they will at least get a fully satisfactory performance rating which will make them eligible for bonuses which are calculated as a small percentage of basic pay. In response to this and as a thought exercise in how to improve government customer relations, I imagined there should be an application that employees can use to document their interactions with employees. The feedback could then be used to provide better annual performance evaluations - "so a few people have reported that you repeatedly blow their emails off..."
Going a step further, I thought the app could integrate social networking features with an office leaderboard of best customer service appraisals so that competition could be introduced which could initiate a positive feedback loop of improvement. As far as I'm concerned, and maybe I have a skewed perspective, competition is always a good thing. People would become more consistently helpful in an effort to earn one more five- or ten-star rating to push themselves up. From a Jack Welch-type management style it could help to identify the bottom 20%, those that you would want to get rid of, and because firing in the government is so notoriously hard it could form evidence for going down that road.
When I started to think along an implementation line, I quickly ran into the problem that groups of employees would collude to artificially raise their scores.
But it was a fun thought exercise that I think could improve the severely-underserved customer relationships in the federal government.