07/18/2014 09:58 am ET Updated Sep 17, 2014

Trying to improve morale in government

Reginald Wells is the deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration's (SSA) Office of Human Resources and also serves as the agency's chief human capital officer. Since 2007, SSA has been ranked in the top 10 large agencies in the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings.

Wells spoke about managing Social Security's nationwide workforce with Tom Fox, a guest writer for On Leadership and vice president for leadership and innovation at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. Fox also heads up their Center for Government Leadership.

Q. What have been some of your biggest workforce issues at the Social Security Administration?

A. The way in which we receive our resources has been a real challenge from a human capital perspective. The hiring freezes and the budget issues really have tended to wreak havoc with our ability to hire. We hire in spurts and sputters, and that tends to make it difficult to get the talent we need. There are also issues with morale and engagement because of the negative rhetoric about public servants. We've had to battle that one ferociously. As you know, the federal employee survey results have shown consistently that those kinds of pressures are starting to get into the psyche of federal employees. It's probably making it harder for us to recruit the next generation of public servants.