Our talent pool is right in front of us.
The beginning of a new Administration in Olympia or Washington, D.C. is naturally a time of new beginnings and transition. Every governor, including Governor-elect Jay Inslee, begins her or his term with a genuine commitment to entice new blood to engage in public service. One important logistical challenge faced by Inslee is how to open the door of public service to people who previously have not seen it as a viable option.
Olympia enjoys iconic status as our state capital, and has worn the title well for most of our state’s history. A major management and leadership challenge today, however, is how to secure the benefits of the full 6.8 million Washingtonians as a public resource for public service without remaining effectively tied to living in Olympia.
The question today is: How can we entice some of our best and brightest from the private sector, non profits and philanthropy, academia and other industries to accept the mantle of public service? It’s partially about salary and benefits, career growth, professional development and job satisfaction. But it’s also about family priorities and flexibility, commute times and quality of life.
Our state employees are overwhelmingly talented, engaged and highly professional folks. I continue to be impressed by the passion and drive so many exhibit to serve the public with responsible approaches to important policies. I learn something new from each and every state employee I meet. Not all live and work in Olympia but many of course do. And we face a retirement eligibility boom in terms of age and loss of institutional knowledge and skills.
As a large enterprise, we in state government should accept that Olympia is a good town but we are not achieving our state’s potential by limiting those who would serve in top positions within state government to those who are willing and able to live near Olympia. It is extremely difficult to serve as a senior or key mid level executive in state government without spending virtually everyday in Olympia.
I am not suggesting we move the capital, I am suggesting we open move our mindset away from yesterday toward a more modern approach of intellectual capital and talent. We need to expand the size of our talent pool to compete with top notch organizations in the state for talent and not self select away so many people for the wrong reasons.
I encourage our new governor to make Washington a top state government to truly embrace telecommuting and remote location office usage. With one well designed executive order he could relax the rules about agency leadership and management and others working in offices in Seattle, Bellevue and elsewhere so that we can create an expectation around performance and not merely input of office time.
There are regional offices from Everett to Seattle to Bellevue and Tacoma the there would be only minor incremental costs of office space and other facilities. Yet the notion that it’s socially and culturally acceptable to work in a regional office as a senior administrator is still an uncomfortable proposition. We should change that. Without making the leadership of Olympia nervous, we could responsibly and reasonably find ways to expand the talent pool for executives and key mid level managers and others in state government simply by allowing people to work more effectively out of district or regional offices. The manager still has responsibility and accountability for her or his team, they just have a wider arena in which to do it.
I encourage Gov.-elect Inslee to double down on efforts to find a reasonable middle ground where we can maintain the core integrity of our state capital in Olympia without creating an expectation that managers must sit in their Olympia offices and desks within sight of the State Capitol Building 7x24x365.
We are the home of Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks and thousands of amazingly creative start up companies that are by their nature global enterprises. In my own startup software company headquartered in Seattle our VP of Product Development lives in Atlanta, our VP of Sales lives in Sacramento, our CEO lives in Austin.
Let’s modernize our thinking and our approach to allow executive agency leaders to improve their quality of life by improving their own options and that of employees to live, work and play throughout our state. Washington is a 100,000 person, $65 billion enterprise. How we manage our people, how we encourage personal and professional growth, how we recruit and retain the best and brightest to public service matters.
Our talent pool it right in front of us.
Your partner in service,