Before COVID-19 began sweeping the nation, I was just like any other independent young adult living in a new city away from their parents. My city happened to be Richmond, Virginia, where I was working to build a life and reputation of my own. Now, in the midst of the uncharted times of COVID-19, my once bustling Friday nights have been reduced to sitting across from my parents on a stiff couch watching Cary Grant films and discussing the specifics of my dental plan. My 30-year-old sister, who is also back home, is never far, too often perturbed by the limited vegetarian options at home. And it has been nostalgically pleasing! While independent adulthood has it charms and returning home can seem restrictive, I would urge you to consider this perspective. There’s no better place to reset mentally, emotionally, and financially than at the place where it all began, your childhood home. In addition to saving on groceries and utilities, it’s been wonderful to sit at home with loved ones and reflect on the past, discuss the present, and pray for the future. I now usually awake to a wonderful breakfast (courtesy of my mother) as opposed to a bowl of cereal or granola bar. I enjoy an early morning telephonic yoga session, where I used to be glued to a computer monitor, and I still get to enjoy the voices of my colleagues throughout the day by way of conference calls. I somberly ponder how life would be if I were doing this on my own, but fortunately, I find myself like the other 2.7 million Americans 25 and younger, living with new roommates, MY PARENTS. Unfortunately, many young Americans haven’t had a choice during this global pandemic and were forced home for financial reasons. Nevertheless, in order to make this transition smoother, consider these recommendations from the renowned psychotherapist and family therapy expert, Dr. Jenn Mann: Consider paying rent to your parents. Dr. Mann believes that if you’re still earning a salary, you should have a conversation with your parents about your household contribution. Think of it as a fee for [...]
“This is no ordinary year,” Governor Ralph Northam announced with his signature smile to the House Appropriations, House Finance, and Senate Finance Committees as he convened Virginia’s General Assembly for the 2020 Special Session. Governor Northam continued, “The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives, our economy, and our budget.” The governor’s remarks come as no surprise. COVID-19 has brought a myriad of unprecedented challenges to the Commonwealth. At the crux of these challenges is a projected $2.7 billion revenue shortfall over the biennium. A shortfall that is made even more acute by the fact that prior to the economic recession, Virginia had experienced some of the strongest metrics in more than two decades. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in February 2020, the unemployment rate sat at a remarkably low 2.7%. Just two months later, at the height of lockdown and business closures, the rate had risen to nearly 11.2%. Although the latest statistics for June show the unemployment rate has fallen to 8.4%, this is hardly cause for celebration. During the Great Recession, the unemployment rate in the Commonwealth peaked in February 2010 at 7.5%, or 0.9% lower than the current rate. While this may seem like an insignificant figure, in humanistic terms, 0.9% of the Commonwealth’s labor force equates to a population adjusted figure of more than 38,000 Virginians who are unable to find gainful employment – or just under the populations of the cities of Hopewell and Colonial Heights combined. To right the listing economy and accomplish the necessary budget reductions, Governor Northam has stated his intent to not reinstate spending on some of his top priorities, such as pay raises for teachers and state workers, investments in behavioral and mental health, and reductions in public university tuition. In their stead, Northam proposed a variety of measures aimed at public health and economic relief, such as $88M for eviction relief and affordable housing, $85M for expanding access to broadband internet, criminal justice reforms such as increased consistency in law enforcement training and oversight, and easing some of the administrative burden associated with absentee voting. Governor Northam’s proposals include no state [...]
Research shows that small, interpersonal connections matter to building a sense of belonging and organizational culture. As Grace mentioned in her post last week, a central thesis of Daniel Coyle’s The Culture Code is that successful groups are created and not innate to the organization. One of the ways organizational culture is created is through belonging cues. These cues include small actions such as profuse eye contact, questions, few interruptions, and small attentive courtesies that add up to an increased sense of belonging over time. While belonging cues are vital to creating a sense of belonging and positive work environment, many of these traditional cues are difficult to implement during COVID-19. During the past two weeks of the Virginia Sectors Leaders Program, my small group discussed the challenges of creating belonging and vulnerability virtually. Instead of opening doors for others, we let colleagues into our Zoom virtual meetings. We type questions in chat rooms rather than engaging with our colleagues face to face. For new hires, many are entering organizations completely virtually with little to no in-person interaction. In a world becoming increasingly virtual during COVID-19, how do we ensure that our employees (especially new hires) feel a sense of belonging in our organizations? How can we leverage virtual platforms to foster belonging? Similar to belonging cues in the office, creating a sense of belonging virtually requires several small, intentional, and repeated interactions over an extended period of time. Below are some action steps managers and supervisors can implement to foster belonging in a virtual environment: Strategies to Foster Belonging Virtually* Recognition—Continuing to recognize employees increases morale and can make workers feel more secure in a new teleworking environment. Being intentional with recognition, by sending a personalized note or phone call, can help further build belonging. One-On-Ones—Many of our meetings now consist of Brady Bunch style tiles with anywhere from three to 100+ people on the call. Even when working in smaller teams, it is important to still make time for regular one-on-one check ins with employees. These check-ins offer a break from meetings and make it easier for employees to discuss their concerns and [...]
Happy Fellows Friday! Over the past three months, the majority of Virginia state employees have transitioned to teleworking from their homes. It has been a major adjustment for many during a time filled with such uncertainty and fear; however, the noble and selfless group of individuals we call our public servants never skipped a beat and continued to dedicate themselves to serving the wonderful citizens of Virginia. Through their continuous commitment and faithful service, they unquestionably have made an invaluable impact on the Commonwealth. And I, for one, am honored to be a part of such an altruistic group of individuals who demonstrate such behavior. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Throughout the first 12 months of my fellowship, I have found this quote to best represent my experience working as a public servant. It has been a privilege to work with some of the most passionate, dedicated, and engaged individuals who work solely for the citizens and on behalf of “the Old Dominion.” The experience has been remarkable and I hope that it is just the beginning of my exciting life-long journey as a civil servant. In times of crisis, what people need most is hope. Hope that there are people that care who truly want to make a difference. Hope that, by uniting, we can overcome the obstacle in our way and that it, too, shall pass. Hope that someone will reach out a helping hand to a person in need. Hope is what public servants provide us in times like these. Knowing that there are individuals who sincerely believe in working for the public good and have a fiery desire to shape a better future for all brings me hope. To all the public servants out there, thank you for your unwavering sacrifice and dedication. During time of darkness, your hope is the light that shows us the path forward. Joey Roman is a Virginia Management Fellow currently serving at the Virginia Retirement System (VRS).
Greetings! Welcome to the Virginia Management Fellows’ weekly blog, or “Fellows Friday” as we like to call it! The intent of the Virginia Management Fellows program is to strengthen the succession planning bench for leadership and management roles in all branches of state government. Over the course of two years, our cohort of eleven fellows will complete three eight-month rotations in three different state agencies. This blog is a space for us to share our broad range of experiences in public service. As Virginia Management Fellows, we are to learn about and contribute to the work of several different state agencies. This unique opportunity allows us to gain insights on how Virginia’s public servants are working to improve the quality of life in our Commonwealth. These improvements may range from working directly with citizens, to helping Virginia’s government run more efficiently. Each fellow brings their own perspective to the program, and the topics we choose for our blog posts will blend our current work with our diverse educational and experiential backgrounds. Every week, one of the fellows will author a blog post with a topic of their choosing. We hope you will continue to check in with us weekly for Fellows Friday! Until next time, The Virginia Management Fellows
An open letter to Commonwealth of Virginia employees: In honor of Public Service Recognition Week, Cohort 2 of the Virginia Management Fellows (VMF) program would like to recognize our fellow public sector employees who continue to provide critical services under these difficult circumstances. From those processing unemployment benefits at the Virginia Employment Commission, to those providing life-saving health services at the Virginia Department of Health, to those performing the routine tasks that keep the government functioning—the employees of the Commonwealth have met these challenges with dignity and grace. Know that your diligence has undoubtedly impacted many and inspired at least eleven others to assist in carrying this heavy torch with the same vigor you’ve exhibited each day. As Virginia Management Fellows who are just halfway through our fellowship, this pandemic has allowed us to fully understand how the Commonwealth rises to serve during times of crisis. Each of us has experienced how our agencies adapted to these new demands. In contributing to this important work, we are all afforded unique opportunities to both learn about governance and serve the people of Virginia. We continue to expand our professional skills and have a greater appreciation for public service thanks to the incredible work of our mentors, supervisors, and coworkers. Each of you not only deeply care for the citizens of the Commonwealth but also take the time to mentor and guide us for a future dedicated to public service. Although none of us anticipated working in government during a global pandemic, we are incredibly grateful to belong in such a dedicated community of public servants. And so—from all us Fellows—we wish you a happy Public Service Recognition Week and thank you for the work you all do. With sincere gratitude, Virginia Management Fellows Cohort 2 A Special Thank you to our Participating Mentors and Supervisors Kelly Hiers (VRS) Tom Allison (SCHEV) Rear Admiral Ann Phillips (SNR) Wendy Kang (SCHEV) Deborah Lochart (DBHDS) Paul Saunders (ELECT) Shannon Webster (DPOR) Sarah Herzog (SFC) Dave Nichols (ELECT) Ashley Reed (DHP) Taneika Goldman (DBHDS) Lyndsi Austin (DHCD) Charles Whalen (DCR) [...]
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