Demise of House Page Program Due To Electronic–Not Talent–Management
4 Considerations For Managing Talent In Your Business
As the dust settled and the stock market crumbled following the debt-ceiling agreement and subsequent downgrade of the U.S. credit rating by S&P, a quiet announcement was made that signaled the end of an era, but which has broader talent management implications. The Page Program within the US House of Representatives will end at the end of August after nearly 200 years.
The joint message was issued by House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi citing both the cost of the program and the lack of need for Pages due to technology. Although the timing immediately followed the debt-ceiling and downgrade drama, apparently the program had been evaluated independently in recent years and this was the recommended outcome.
Of course it is understandable and prudent that such programs should be evaluated for their efficacy and value. At times like these, we can’t afford to prop up a program that no longer works.
But did they explore other options that were both cost-effective and an efficient use of the teens’ talents while exposing them to the inner workings of Congress and the government? The Pages represent our future leaders. They’re eager and untainted, full of energy, passion, and a commitment to public service for the right reasons.
My concern and disappointment isn’t about politics, but rather poor talent management. To what extent did they attempt to evolve the program, expanding or redefining the roles of the Pages to reflect modern times? Surely we can find another productive way to leverage this pool of talent which boasts many congressmen as alumni as well as Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
I’m not advocating that we keep the House Page Program going just for nostalgia. But these kids represent something more than messengers and gophers for our highest elected officials. They’re “super interns” with a front seat to learn first-hand about how government operates, and will hopefully take their experiences with them in their professional lives.
And while technology can certainly take credit (or blame) for the perceived lack of need for the House page program, there’s something unsettling about the expectation that our elected officials can be trusted to manage (and monitor) themselves through technology. I am by no means a Luddite, but I like to think of our politicians being “above” technology in favor of sitting across the table from someone to agree or debate the issue of the day.
One of the most troubling aspects of this program’s demise is the further distance it puts between government and people, both literally and figuratively. In addition to the Pages playing an active role in the day-to-day activities on the Hill, to what extent do we want our representatives relying on conducting business through email and other electronic means? Today’s leaders continue to find new ways to disappoint their families and constituents through scandalous and questionable behavior. We know we haven’t seen the last indecent tweet or heard of the latest John Edwards/Arnold Schwarzenegger scandal – it’s only a matter of how soon the next one will surface.
Incorporating a few dozen teenagers in Washington also helped a new generation to connect with their leaders, discover future ambitions, and see the positive outcomes of our democracy on a daily basis. Having your representative say “Follow me on Twitter” doesn’t quite make up for the experience and only serves to create more cynicism where there had been a glimmer of hope.
For now the Senate page program remains intact. Let’s hope that we can find a way to keep our future leaders excited and engaged in politics through a reestablished page program or one that will be talked about 200 years from now.
Here are 4 considerations for managing talent – not just electronic messaging – in your business:
- Are your communications dominated by electronic or in-person interactions? Would you prefer more or less face time among your employees?
- How accessible are your company’s leaders to your workforce, especially your bright, young talent?
- How often have we heard that people waste time sending and reading emails all day and then do their real work at night or on weekends? Are your people doing their work, or managing their email?
- How often do attendees in your meetings – no matter how senior – ignore the discussion to distractedly send, receive, and wait for emails under the table? Do you have rules against use of electronics in your meetings?
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/speakerboehner/5979329730/