DOE Takes Steps to Overcome Economic and Attrition Challenges

Budget cuts due to the sluggish economy are forcing government agencies to rethink how they do business. All agencies, including the Department of Energy (DOE), are faced with doing more work with smaller budgets. As this occurs, many government employees are nearing retirement, at which time all of the information, skills, and knowledge that seasoned employees have developed during their tenure might be lost forever. These two concurrent challenges could leave agencies with a lack of prepared leaders and knowledge.

The DOE has implemented programs to combat the above challenges; including employee performance management and knowledge retention programs.

The GEAR Program

GEAR stands for a framework of Goals, Engagement, Accountability and Results. This framework was developed by a working group consisting of representatives from the Chief Human Capital Officers Council (CHCO) and the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations (LMR).

According to a Government Accountability Report, “… effective performance management systems that link individual performance to organizational results will be key to mission success in this difficult environment.” To this end, the purpose of GEAR is to set goals, support those goals by employees and managers engaging in dialogue and learning, and hold individuals accountable for reaching goals.

GEAR was implemented by the DOE in the spring of 2012. The DOE took steps to implement five recommendations for improving the performance of the organization.

These recommendations included: 

  1. Defining and articulating a high performance culture at the DOE
  2. Aligning employee performance management with the organization’s performance management
  3. Implementing accountability at all levels
  4. Creating a culture of engagement
  5. Improving the selection, development and training of supervisors

To address retention of Agency expertise and best practices, the DOE initiated two separate programs. 

The Knowledge Capture and Transfer Program

The Knowledge Capture and Transfer Program is administered by the DOE Office of Learning and Workforce Development. This program is in place to prevent the loss of the knowledge and skills possessed by those employees at retirement. There are three areas of focus within the Knowledge Capture and Transfer Program: 

  1. Executive to Executive – This area focuses on the knowledge, skills, and topics of special interest attained by employees at the executive level and how they should be shared throughout the DOE community. There are several ways to disseminate this information, including interviews, articles, publications on best practices, and written papers.
  2. Leaders as Teachers – This area involves employees with particular expertise in certain subject matters. It involves formal training, development of curriculum to share knowledge with other employees, and other methods of information exchange.
  3. Partnerships with Institutions – Because institutions of higher learning are such rich resources of knowledge and information, this area involves leveraging these learning resources and providing expanded opportunities for developing the talent within the department.

The Mentoring Program

The mentoring program helps foster and develop reciprocal learning relationships in which employees can share their special knowledge, leverage the skills they have developed in their years of service with the DOE, and cultivate talent within the organization. This program matches pairs or groups of employees into mentoring relationships. The program is designed to aid in both the personal as well as the professional development of individuals within the DOE. It involves coaching, guidance, and sharing of knowledge, skills, and experience. 

There are several steps involved in the Mentoring Program process: 

  1. Matching mentors and mentees into pairs (or, in some cases, groups) 
  2. An orientation program for both mentors and mentees 
  3. Training for mentors and mentees 
  4. Signing mentorship agreements to outline the expectations of the mentorship process 
  5. Creating an action plan for developing and making the most out of the relationship 
  6. Participating in developmental activities 
  7. Conducting two separate evaluations on the relationship and the progress of the mentors and mentees 
  8. Annual recognition of the progress and achievements of each pair or group

With these three programs in place, the DOE is moving toward minimizing gaps in leadership and increasing available organizational knowledge. The Agency should expect to perform at a higher level overall, producing better results, even in the midst of budget challenges. 

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