Iowa can’t expect to get the best out of state workers by waging war on them

Critics of government are fond of saying the public sector should be run more like business: more efficient, more cost-effective and better at long-range planning. Less often mentioned is one measure of any employer’s ability to produce or deliver value that might trump all the others: How it treats its workers.

That’s not just a function of how much a workplace pays employees relative to the demands of their jobs. More telling is how much value an employer assigns to those jobs and thereby, to the people staffing them. Employees who are made to feel that what they do matters and that they’re treated accordingly tend to give their best. Those who feel like dispensable cogs in a wheel are less likely to.

This isn’t just about psychology, though. In crude terms, the employer gets more bang for its buck when it offers a sincere and credible message about the importance of its mission. And that is as important for public-sector employees as private ones.

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