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Today’s Biggest Challenges for Government Agencies With George Kettner of EconSys

Episode summary

When George Kettner founded EconSys in 1990, his goal was to leverage the tools of his role as an economist to improve the operational efficiency of government agencies.

Thirty years later, the company, which offers management consulting and HR services, continues to push agencies to make better data-driven decisions and develop more e-business solutions to improve their human resource community.

On this episode of Government Enabled, Linda Sue Kirschner interviews EconSys Founder and President about the challenges of this unprecedented moment, the ways government agencies still struggle to adapt to technological change and the leadership advice he has to offer.

EconSys has grown significantly over the past 10 years in particular, which necessitated certain personal growth as well.

“When I started EconSys in 1990, I had the technical skills to move forward, but I was not as well-equipped with business and people skills. The past 30 years has been a process in acquiring these additional skills to be a more successful company than we were the day before or the year before,” George says.

Guest at-a-glance

Key insights

The pandemic created unique challenges for every sector. For EconSys, shifting to remote work was the biggest change — as it has been for the rest of the government sector, George says. His company’s work can help government agencies by providing HR assistance through its FedHR Navigator, which enables HR functions to more easily operate remotely.

For EconSys, a major goal is helping government agencies transition away from paper-based systems. Despite advances in technology and the growth of the internet since the 1990s, many government agencies still lag behind the private sector, George says. “We’re doing our best to accelerate the government getting out of paper-based systems and into technology-enabled systems,” he says.

 Econsys works closely with the Office of Disability Employment Policy and state governments to provide program support, and they also partner with the federal Department of Labor. George cites diversity and inclusion of people with disabilities as well as race and gender diversity as an important focus for his company.

Episode Highlights

Resistance to technological change in the government sector

“I would have to say that, with technology coming on really strong over the past three decades or so, technology has had a profound impact on both the government and private sector industries. I might also say that in the human resource area, perhaps government agencies have lagged behind.”

Preparing for a technological transition

“EconSys has adapted pretty well and pretty quickly to teleworking, social distancing and high technology usage. We have been in a transition of allowing our employees to work remotely. We started that transition well before the pandemic hit, so we were well-positioned to move our workforce even more into remote teleworking.”

Letting contractors lead the way with flexibility

“The advice I would give in terms of looking more specifically at human capital people and processes as good practices are for government agencies to conduct market research on technology and processes. We feel that the RFIs that government agencies put out to seek out what contractors are offering is a good practice. We feel that allowing contractors to have a certain degree of freedom in creating new tools for the government is good. And we recommend that agencies work with contractors to go through a discovery phase or a discovery process to learn what the government’s requirements are before committing to large contracts.”

Adaptation as the biggest future challenge

“I think how well we can adjust to external change over time, whatever the curve balls that are being thrown at us, that seems to be pretty important ─ how well we can adjust.”