Gov’t Eval TIG Week: Diana Harbison on Using Evaluation to Enhance Employee Engagement

My name is Diana Harbison and I’m the Director of the Program Monitoring and Evaluation Office at the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, which links U.S. businesses to global infrastructure opportunities. According to a recent survey, USTDA has some of the most engaged employees in the United States government. There are countless articles – and entire consulting businesses – built around the concept of “employee engagement,” but I think the reason USTDA is successful is, in part, that our employees are engaged in evaluation.image of USTDA "Catalyzing US Expertise to Power Africa" infographic

My office, as well as the rest of the Agency’s staff, collects feedback from our partners – over 2,000 last year – to evaluate the commercial and development results of the activities we have funded. We utilize this data to inform our daily, project-specific decisions. We also gather as a group once a year to review our results and discuss where we should focus our resources. This allows us to prioritize the countries and sectors where we work, and to identify new approaches for collaborating with our stakeholders – including our most important customers, the American people. We often employ data to communicate how our partners have or could benefit from our programs.

We also love to tell stories, like the time a South African pilot stood up and told an audience that she had been unsure about her career path but after participating in an aviation workshop we hosted, knew what she wanted to do next and was excited about the future. Or the time a small business owner told me that his first USTDA contract helped him expand his business in just three years, and he now has hundreds of millions of dollars in business, working with new clients. We have so many stories about our accomplishments that we have begun sharing them publicly on our website as staff commentaries.

My colleagues are committed to our mission and engaged in their work every day. Instead of simply doing what is required, they utilize our results to go beyond and do what is possible. So when I’m asked how USTDA continuously drives performance results and maintains such an engaged staff, I say it’s because everyone values – and evaluates – their work.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Gov’t Eval TIG Week with our colleagues in the Government Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our Gov’t Eval TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


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