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Emily Murphy, Administrator of the General Services Administration, and Lisa Hershman, Chief Management Officer at the Department of Defense, discuss category management and the concept of a hybrid work environment

Hershman: 80% of Pentagon employees able to come back to building, 60% are back

The Defense Department is putting contracting employees through new paces to drive category management practices across the department, according to Chief Management Officer Lisa Hershman.

“At first, I think people were quite skeptical [about category management],” Hershman told “Government Matters” in a joint appearance with GSA administrator Emily Murphy Sunday. “We talked a lot about how this worked in the private sector, but that didn’t necessarily translate with being able to work at DoD. So…we took a different approach. Rather than sit in a classroom and go through training and teach folks new techniques, we integrated experiential training. We have our folks participating in 90-day sprints where they bring actual contracts they are working on…it’s less training and more knowledge transfer.”

Murphy said category management is producing significant savings and efficiencies for agencies across government. “We’ve saved $40 billion,” Murphy told “Government Matters.” “We’ve increased our small business utilization in all 10 categories.  We’ve strengthened our supply chain and our industrial base. We’ve reduced duplicative contracts by 50,000 contracts. [That] reduces administrative costs and makes it easier for vendors to do business with us and letting us buy smarter.”

Some of those contracting officers are among the employees that will continue to work remotely, both through the pandemic, and beyond. “We are allowing up to 80% return [in the building],” Hershman told “Government Matters.” “At one point we got as low as about 17% in the building, in the March-April time frame. Believe it or not, that meant about 5,300 people at the Pentagon, which felt like a ghost town. [Now] we’re at about 60% in the Pentagon, and 30% in our leased spaces.”

External factors, not issues in the building, are the main factors in employees deciding to come back. “[The] biggest mitigating factor[s are] child care and transportation,” Hershman said. “We are watching closely in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., the National Capital region, to watch their ebbs and flows of cases.”

Murphy outlined the impact the pandemic has had on the overall government footprint strategy at GSA’s Public Buildings Service, including compressing the timeline on GSA’s “Workplace 2030” initiative to next year. Hershman described a hybrid approach that she sees the department carrying ahead, even after the pandemic is over.

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