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OPM soon will be releasing the government-wide results of the 2015 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS), and I am happy to report that we are seeing some positive trends in the numbers this year, although we still have more work to do. Participation in the survey was up – the response rate was 50 percent, up from 47 percent in 2014 – and employee engagement index scores improved at most agencies. The Administration’s focus on engagement is having an impact, and I’m looking forward to sharing the results in more detail soon. In the meantime, I’d like to talk about why employee engagement is so important, and to share a success story from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Employee engagement drives performance and is closely tied to mission success in the Federal Government. An agency that engages its employees ensures a work environment where each employee can reach his or her potential, which in turn has a strong impact on the agency’s ability to achieve its mission goals. Individual agency performance contributes to success for the entire Federal Government, which means better service for the American people.
Engagement occurs in every office between employees and their supervisors and should be a focus at all levels of an agency, from front-line employees to the leadership. The People and Culture plank of the President’s Management Agenda was created, in part, to shine a light on engagement and to support agencies’ efforts to strengthen an organizational culture of employee engagement and mission performance.
This past year, each agency was asked to appoint a senior accountable official responsible for improving employee engagement. Agencies then worked closely with OPM’s FEVS team to analyze and interpret their reports. Each agency received detailed, customized reports with data broken down by department, program, and office, with the goal of enabling agencies to examine internal engagement at the “local level”.
The experience of HUD shows just how powerful a tool the FEVS can be. This past year, HUD increased its engagement score by 5 percentage points. It also increased its global satisfaction score by 6 percentage points. This impressive growth came about as a result of the agency’s commitment to increasing internal engagement.
In sharing their story with OPM, HUD officials credited several efforts with making the difference. They created new collaboration tools, and repurposed some existing ones, for employees to share ideas with their leaders. One such tool is HUDConnect, an internal social media platform that gives employees the opportunity to reach out to leaders and each other. They can recommend process improvements or new technologies. The agency also implemented regular emails to the workforce and quarterly town hall meetings as ways to open lines of communication.
Every employee was provided the FEVS scores for the agency as well as analyses of the data. HUD encouraged senior leaders to use www.unlocktalent.gov – a dashboard OPM created last year that puts each agency’s survey data into visual formats and helps leaders to better understand what the numbers mean.
Importantly, at HUD, change came from the top. Secretary Julián Castro made engaging employees a priority – and he made sure employees knew their feedback would be taken seriously. He and Deputy Secretary Nani Coloretti challenged the department to increase participation in the survey from 51 percent to 75 percent, and it ultimately achieved a 74 percent response rate. Coloretti placed a strong emphasis on responding to employees’ requests through internal tools like HUDConnect and Switchboard, two ways to directly solicit employee feedback. She conducted deep-dive conversations with program offices to create a set of initiatives to build a stronger HUD. These initiatives were shared with employees agency-wide and voted on; from this feedback, there are several projects happening now that are expected to improve HUD’s processes and systems and to strengthen its staff.
These strategies are backed up by our experience with Federal agencies collectively. Leadership involvement, improving internal communications, and enabling employees to have more input into how their organization functions are proven approaches to boosting employee engagement and performance.
I congratulate everyone at HUD for their commitment to employee engagement, for maximizing the value of FEVS as a tool to drive change, and for embracing evidence-based strategies in order to achieve progress. Well done.
There are many other agency success stories in this year’s FEVS results, and I look forward to sharing more of them soon on the OPM blog.
As we at OPM and our partners across government work quickly to investigate the nature and scope of the cyberattacks that invaded our network and systems, I want to make sure that our Federal employee family knows that I continue to work each and every day to make sure that the data OPM is entrusted with protecting is secure now and for the future.
I am as concerned as our Federal workforce by these cyberintrusions, and I want employees to know we are redoubling our efforts to make sure our systems are as secure as possible. We know that our adversaries are sophisticated, well-funded, and focused. We know this because in an average month, OPM thwarts millions of attempts to break into our network.
Before I detail the work my OPM team is doing to upgrade our aging systems, to investigate the cyberintrusions, and to plan for the future, I want to make sure all Federal employees know that OPM has continued to operate with strong confidence in the security of the data it handles.
So how did we get here? In November of 2013, when the President honored me with the assignment to lead the men and women of OPM, I quickly realized that the agency’s outdated, legacy system needed to be modernized. My team got to work on the comprehensive IT Strategic Plan during my first 100 days as OPM Director. That plan clearly identified security vulnerabilities in our aging systems. We immediately began an aggressive modernization and security overhaul.
It was because of that overhaul and the tools we put in place to strengthen our cybersecurity that OPM -- working with our partners at the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation -- was able to detect the cyberbreaches of personnel and background investigations data. That work continues, and continues aggressively. We have upgraded our network monitoring and logging capability and added firewalls that allow OPM to better filter network traffic. The remote access for our network administrators has been restricted.
On June 4, we publicly announced that we believed that the personally identifiable information (PII) of about 4 million current and former Federal employees had been compromised. Almost immediately, we began notifying those affected and they are getting access to credit monitoring and other services they may need. As the investigation has proceeded, we recently confirmed that OPM systems containing information related to the background investigations of current, former, and prospective Federal employees may have been compromised. We are working intensively to assess the scope of that attack and we will notify affected individuals as soon as possible.
Each and every day, as we work through the challenges of investigating these attacks and aggressively work on the redesign of our computer network, I am thinking about the millions of men and women who work – and who have worked – to serve the American people.
Our OPM team knows that you have entrusted your sensitive personal information to us. It is a trust we will continue to honor and one that is foremost in our minds as we do the critical work necessary to prevent, detect, and thwart future cyberattacks.
OPM has released a new data tool to the agencies called UnlockTalent.gov. I am excited about this powerful new interactive dashboard because I think it will help Federal leaders foster a culture of excellence and high performance at each and every agency.
With UnlockTalent.gov, agency leaders can take advantage of the valuable information from the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and other HR resources, including Enterprise Human Resources Integration (EHRI) data. It will help them better understand the data and it will give them the extra support they need to create the most effective engagement programs for their employees.
The dashboard is exciting for another reason. It is one of the many ways we are working to meet the President’s Second Term Management Agenda goal of creating a culture of excellence and engagement, leading to higher performance.
There are some great features available as a part of the dashboard that makes it particularly helpful and unique. It is customized to each individual agency’s data with personalized pages. And when users sign in, they have access to five separate tabs: Agency Overview, HR Core Metrics, Employee Engagement, Global Satisfaction, and Community of Practice. Each tab offers a different type of data analysis or set of resources. The Community of Practice serves as a hub for agencies to explore best practices from the Federal Government and elsewhere. The combination of data and resources is a powerful way for agency leaders to be able to think about their engagement programs and office cultures.
We didn’t create this tool alone. OPM teamed up with 14 Federal agencies and the Office of Management and Budget so that the dashboard would be designed based on real input from potential users. We’ll also continue to improve it by gathering user feedback and applying it to updates that will add information and features in the coming months.
I am very proud of the team here at OPM and our government partners for this great product. It is proof of what innovation and teamwork can create and it’s happening all across government. I look forward to hearing from agency leaders about how UnlockTalent.gov is helping them bolster their efforts to engage our talented Federal workforce.
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