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Recognizing innovators at BLS

Monday, November 3, 2014

Every successful organization needs to innovate to remain effective and relevant—and BLS is no exception. We strive every day to provide our fellow citizens with the best value for their taxpayer dollars. To produce the best statistics, analyses, and services, we must foster a workplace that encourages innovation. We recently held our annual awards ceremony to recognize the good work of our staff members who work hard every day to provide the public with data that are accurate, objective, relevant, timely, and accessible. One of the honors we presented was the BLS Innovation Award. I want to tell you about the two groups that received the award this year.

The first group we honored found a way to blend data collection for two different but related surveys. BLS surveys rely on the voluntary cooperation of individuals, businesses, and other organizations to provide information about the labor market and economy. We realize that time is valuable for our survey respondents, and we do our best to make our collection as quick and efficient as possible. This year, a team of BLS national and regional office staff designed and tested a process to combine collection of information on the pay and benefits of workers with information on the physical demands and other requirements of jobs. This combined collection will support the data needs of our National Compensation Survey and the Occupational Requirements Survey. The approach relies on BLS field economists to manage the survey process efficiently and flexibly in a conversational interview process. The result is that collection interviews are shorter and therefore less costly in both time and money. Moreover, the survey process is less burdensome to employers that participate in both surveys. The new process is a win-win for BLS and businesses!

The second group honored with the BLS Innovation Award helped make data collection more efficient in a very different way. A team of national and regional office staff developed a self-paced course to impart better skills to manage time and workload. The course uses new technology as it follows “Kathy,” an animated field economist, through her work. The training module includes a process of reviewing course materials, keeping an activity log, viewing a video on the science of productivity, reviewing quick-reference tips and strategies, and taking a quiz. The training equips field staff with the time-management tools to collect data from respondents and manage caseloads efficiently. These new tools enable BLS to improve our efficiency and effectiveness in producing the nation’s statistics.

In addition to these two groups, a number of other excellent projects were nominated for the BLS Innovation Award. All of these projects (and many others) will help BLS provide better, more efficient products and services in the years to come—and are excellent examples of the innovation taking place daily at BLS.