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It’s about time: Agencies’ underutilized data may hold the key to reducing burnout

By Andrew Edelson

With employee burnout and turnover at an all-time high, government agencies will have to get creative to keep getting their jobs done. Luckily, it’s an easier task that takes fewer resources than agency leaders might imagine.

From a societal perspective, the slow rebound from COVID-19 benefits us emotionally, physically, and intellectually. We are rebuilding crucial connections: getting out into the world, seeing our friends, resuming our gym workouts, and getting our children together with their friends and teachers in school. 

From an agency perspective, however, we haven’t simply picked up where we left off. We’ve seen abundant soul searching, job jumping, and early exits from the workforce, which have left the employees who remain shouldering an extra-heavy burden. While both the private and public sectors have found it challenging to replace lost workers, the private sector has the upper hand with greater flexibility in budgets, perks offered, and more nimble hiring practices. 

Government employees see less of that innovation. They are filling the holes during drawn-out government hiring processes, wearing multiple hats for long stretches of time, and typically not receiving additional compensation for it. Not surprisingly, Eagle Hill research finds that 43% of government employees say workload is the number one cause of burnout. On top of that, 52% say alleviating administrative burden would reduce their burnout. 

While government agencies may not be able to change hiring processes or incentives, they can work more creatively to ease the hardship on their current employees while making smarter workforce planning decisions. Focusing on a few meaningful metrics out of all the data they already collect can make a big impact for agencies and be done with relatively little effort.

Readily available data agencies can utilize to boost employee experience

Time Reporting
Service level agreements
Position Descriptions
icon of programs
Org charts
Federal Employee
Viewpoint Survey (FEVS)
Succession plans

Let’s examine a few in more detail:

Time reporting

Time reporting data already provides clarity into where, how, and when people are working. But its true potential is being left untouched. Taken a step further, time reporting data analysis could give insight into time spent on tasks relative to their value, areas that burn budget faster than they should, and which employees perform the lion’s share of necessary work. 

Performing contextual analysis could move time reporting beyond a rote agency requirement to answer questions that really matter, such as:

  • Did the task further the mission? 
  • Does the task’s importance justify the time spent on it? 
  • Could the time have been spent more beneficially? 
  • Did the task further a personal or career goal? 
  • What concrete benefits did the task yield for the agency?

This is crucial information for both the team and the organization as a whole. Team leaders may find they need to redistribute responsibility and workload on certain tasks or use the information to make a case for more or different resources.

Service level agreements (SLAs)

Service level agreements provide another example. Agencies may already be collecting data about their performance against SLAs. The next step would be to assess that data against such questions as: 

  • Do we have the right people with the right skills in the right areas?
  • Do we need to spend more time training our employees?
  • Or perhaps, are we overservicing our customers—doing things for them they should be doing themselves?

Invoice processing 

Or consider invoice processing data. If it takes days to process an invoice, analyzing all the touch points along the way could highlight a range of issues, such as time employees spend correcting errors that were made before the invoice was submitted. In this case, analyzing one metric with new context could cut cycle time, improving not just the volume of invoices flowing through the process, but also the experience of each employee, who benefits from exposing and removing the frustrating bottlenecks in their job.

These examples all bring improvements through small steps. Too often, government leaders who feel overwhelmed by what they need to accomplish with the limited resources they have don’t pause to consider alternatives. We say it’s worthwhile, even essential, to think about the feasible. A little upfront investment in new types of data analysis can provide remarkable information without adding to teams’ workloads and stress. If government agencies can understand the real demands on their employees and the value of the work they produce, then they can optimize and elevate their workforces, and improve their attractiveness to new hires by offering a more fulfilling (i.e. mission-focused) work experience.

Need help getting started?

Eagle Hill helps clients start the process with our six-week Initial Rapid Assessment, where we unpack these criteria and more to help you get started and build a tailored workforce planning strategy for your organization.