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Tackling Work-Life Balance to Improve Employee Effectiveness at the TSA

The client’s perspective

In 2012 the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was ranked #272 out of 290 agencies in the Work/Life Balance category of the Partnership for Public Service’s “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” ranking. The agency suspected, but could not demonstrate, that poor work/life balance was having an effect on employee morale and effectiveness of its workforce at TSA headquarters and airports around the country. TSA wanted first to develop an understanding of the root causes of its work/life balance problems of its employees, and why current programs were ineffective. 

To address these concerns, the TSA Office of Human Capital (OHC) brought in Eagle Hill to develop a strategic plan for the agency’s Work/Life Balance program. Eagle Hill was also charged with increasing the understanding and buy-in for the program among employees and senior leadership.

A breakaway approach

To start, Eagle Hill assessed TSA’s current workforce culture. We conducted focus groups and interviews with a cross section of the TSA workforce around the country to gather data on the current state of the work/life balance program. Eagle Hill also collected and reviewed existing data, policies and studies and reviewed what other federal agencies and commercial organizations were doing to address similar challenges. Eagle Hill found that TSA faced unique challenges such as poor public perception, physically and mentally stressful tasks, and near 24/7 shift work, that all impacted employees’ home lives and their ability to deliver on the agency’s mission. Eagle Hill produced a report detailing the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats for the work/life balance program and benchmarked TSA’s current program elements against other federal agencies.

Once the analysis was complete, Eagle Hill defined the future state of work/life balance at TSA. Eagle Hill considered factors such as legislative requirements, changing values of workers’ attitudes towards work/life balance, and current use of telework and flexible work arrangements. Eagle Hill identified gaps between the current and desired end state of the workforce. The largest gap was the lack of a direct link between work/life balance and employee performance. Employees and leaders across the agency were skeptical of the benefit of a work/life balance program, especially in a tight budget environment. Eagle Hill worked around this by conducting “road shows” with leaders across the agency to discuss the connection between aspects of work/life balance (e.g. employee wellness, childcare programs, flexible scheduling) and overall outcomes (e.g. absenteeism, turnover, security effectiveness). After gaining the buy-in needed by senior leaders, we then facilitated the development of a mission, vision, goals and initiatives for the new work/life balance program that would address these gaps. This information was consolidated into a concise five-year TSA Work/Life Balance Strategic Plan. 

Eagle Hill developed an Implementation Plan to accompany the Strategic Plan. The plan included an overall implementation timeframe, project plans, a governance structure and list of owners for each initiative. Recognizing the importance of measuring the work/life balance program’s impact on overall mission effectiveness, we developed a Performance Measurement Plan that detailed metrics to show the link between work/life balance and the achievement of TSA’s mission. Eagle Hill also established an executive dashboard for TSA leadership to monitor trends in work/life metrics at airports across the country.

Finally, TSA wanted to open up new communications channels with its employees. From the beginning, Eagle Hill knew that communications were critical for shifting the culture. We developed a Communications Plan that identified stakeholders, communication channels, and timelines to accompany the rollout of the Strategic Plan. This plan included details on the creation of a network of local airport champions. It also included sample communication materials, such as briefings, signs, and email messages.

Results

Eagle Hill worked to present the Work/Life Balance Strategic Plan to key leaders in TSA. Senior leaders across the Agency embraced the plan and offered their support in implementing it within their respective offices. Within six months of the completion of the Strategic Plan and the Communications Plan, utilization of existing work/life programs increased by 50 percent across the agency. Furthermore, buy-in and support for work/life balance at the program office and agency leadership levels have increased significantly. Eagle Hill is now working with TSA to implement additional initiatives identified in the plan to further improve the accessibility and relevance of work/life balance communications. This will continue to improve awareness, utilization, and satisfaction with work/life balance programs, and contribute to improving employee satisfaction, retention, and security effectiveness.