To Drive Performance Success, the Next Administration Must Invest in People Analytics

I was intrigued by a recent article in which two former Office of Management and Budget (OMB) officials spoke of the urgency for the next administration to accelerate performance- and evidence-based management adoption among U.S. agencies. In releasing a paper with a number of recommendations to help incoming federal leaders, they cited the potential for outcomes-based goals, performance-focused data/analytics and data-informed discussions to empower a more effective, impactful government.

“Government should be able to demonstrate with data and evidence that it’s benefiting people’s lives, and government should benefit people’s lives as efficiently and as effectively as possible,” said one of the officials, Seth Harris, who served as deputy secretary in the Labor Department during the Obama administration. Harris, Shelley Metzenbaum, who served as OMB associate director of personnel and performance management during President Obama’s first term and Robert Shea, her predecessor at OMB during the Bush administration, called for the increase of accessibility to performance data/trends and a stronger commitment to revealing, actionable analytics, as opposed to “mindless measurement” or simply “collecting data.” Such initiatives will help agencies answer the following critical questions to drive performance improvement, as highlighted in the paper:

  • “What have we done in the past and how well did it work?”
  • “How will we know if we are making progress and making it fast enough?”
  • “What are we measuring regularly and is it meaningful, measurable and moveable?”
  • “Are there other measures we should be collecting?”
  • “Who is analyzing the data, who gets the analysis and what are we learning?”
  • “Is it complete and accurate enough to be reliable?”
  • “Can we identify the strongest performers and the weakest ones so we can learn from the former to help the latter?”


I wholeheartedly agree that agencies need the right tools to answer these questions. And data and evidence are also necessary ingredients to improving employee performance at agencies. With improved employee performance, improved agency performance will follow, leading to that “more effective, impactful government.”

Today’s modern, performance management analytics solutions enable Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs) and their teams to “see” and assess progress on HR performance goals – therefore raising the performance of their people – from a previously unobtainable, highly integrated, enterprise perspective. With this, they make smarter decisions while achieving strategic objectives more capably and efficiently, at a more affordable cost.

Specifically, these cloud-based solutions allow agencies to accomplish the following:

Identify the best-performing employees, managers and teams. Through online, automated performance management and analytics, agencies easily identify who the best performers are. From there, they can dig deeper to understand the characteristics of these people and their teams, while looking to replicate the success in any of the agency’s under-performing organizational units. The guesswork and sometimes arbitrary grading is removed, with everything recorded on a scale that every concerned party has access to.

Track and manage performance. With online performance management, employees and managers can easily track and manage goals and performance. Easy-to-use dashboards and reports provide up-to-the-minute insight into performance and engagement. They also help improve engagement and help align employee goals with agency goals and mission. With employee and agency goals aligned, the agency establishes a culture of high performance that elevates performance of the entire agency.

Assess skills gaps. It’s one thing to be an excellent scientist or budget analyst. But that doesn’t necessarily translate to being a wonderful communicator, collaborator and team contributor. Organizations today are recognizing that “hard skills” aren’t enough, and that “soft skills” related to communications and overall decorum matter. Through online performance tools, agencies track employee skills and competencies along with planned and potential job vacancies to ensure critical positions are filled quickly.  They also “tag” employees with abundant soft skill sets for future leadership development and establish necessary development plans.

Feedback and coaching. Agencies can improve employee engagement through continuous monitoring of goals and development plans. This improved engagement leads to better performance and retention rates. Online recording of regular manager-employee “catch ups” encourage regular communication and allows for easy tracking of interaction and any changes to goals and performance. Employees get the ongoing coaching that so many crave.

Reduce turnover. Employees too often leave because they’re either unhappy, or they conclude they can “do better” somewhere else – like the private sector. That’s why it’s so important to proactively measure engagement in every agency area. Through insightful analysis of satisfaction surveys and more, CHCOs discover which areas have the most engaged employees and which are struggling. Then, they incorporate best practices from the “haves” to elevate satisfaction levels among the “have nots.”

Identify talent shortfalls. With total visibility into all talent-management areas, CHCOs see whether they have the people in place to perform required functions. This goes beyond a mere evaluation of whether you have enough qualified personnel in, say, finance. It’s about determining competencies within different areas of finance, to ensure all bases are covered. Budget analysts and auditors both work in finance, for example, but they don’t do the same thing. However, CHCOs need both to advance their missions. Thanks to total visibility, they’re able to pinpoint where talent shortfalls exist and direct recruitment efforts accordingly.

Performance is entirely dependent upon people – the mission is lost if the right kind of employees aren’t in place, or they don’t have what they need to do their jobs.

If the next administration follows the advice of both parties and invests more in analytics – people analytics — “mindless measurement” and simply “collecting data” will give way to actionable insight – and improved agency performance.

Back To List