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Stephen Shih is Deputy Associate Director, Employee Services, Executive Resources and Employee Development at OPM.
The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) is one of the most important tools we have in government. It provides us with a tremendous amount of data on the experiences and views of Federal employees. In 2015, more than 421,700 Federal employees from 78 different agencies completed the FEVS, voicing their perceptions of leadership practices, training and development, work-life, and opportunities for career advancement.
OPM has been working in partnership with agency leaders across government to help them make data-driven changes that will improve employee engagement, which in turn will lead to organizational success. We're committed to fostering conversations about the drivers of engagement identified by the FEVS, sharing effective tools and strategies developed by agencies to improve employees' experiences, and creating government-wide resources to provide all employees with access to critical data and information. For example, OPM recently released more no cost, online courses for Federal employees -- Maximizing Employee Engagement and Introduction to Leave, Work-Life and Workplace Flexibilities as well as a portal focused on employee engagement--UnlockTalent.gov.
OPM is not the only agency taking action. Senior leaders and managers across the Federal Government gained insights from your feedback and are implementing innovative solutions to create a culture of engagement. Here are just a few examples:
Agencies across the Federal Government are making strides like this to build the workforce we need to serve the American people in the future.
But we know cultivating a culture of engagement is an ongoing process of listening to employees, identifying challenges, and working together to develop and implement solutions. That's why it's critical that you participate in this year's FEVS. We need you to tell us what's working and what still needs to be improved.
Leaders at every level from agency heads to front-line supervisors are listening. Take the survey today. Let your voice be heard.
Each year, OPM’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) gives Federal employees across government the opportunity to confidentially tell their supervisors and managers what works well and what needs improvement when it comes to their agency, their specific job and their work environment. Many of you have received an email at your agency email address inviting you to participate in this voluntary, confidential survey. Now is the time for you to express your opinions.
It’s up to each agency to use this feedback, but rest assured, your managers and supervisors take these results very seriously. One of the most important pillars of the President’s Management Agenda calls on agencies to improve employee engagement. This survey is a key tool to help them do that. We’ve seen great change across government as a result of past surveys.
For example, at OPM as a result of the feedback we received from the 2015 survey, we:
I encourage all those who have been invited to participate in this year’s FEVS to complete the survey. We want your opinions regarding your job, your agency, and your workplace as a whole. Each employee’s voice can inspire change. Everyone’s responses help agencies identify areas that need attention. The more responses we receive, the better we understand your opinions and needs.
We make confidentiality of the results a priority. Every piece of feedback you give in the survey is confidential. Any information that would allow personal identification is always withheld when survey results are shared with your manager, others in the agency, or in publicly released reports regarding the survey. So please be as honest as possible. If your agency’s leadership knows exactly how you feel, that’s when meaningful change can happen.
The deadline for completing the FEVS is fast approaching. Different agencies have different closing dates, but the deadline for the first wave of surveys is the week of June 6; the second and final wave closes the week of June 14. If you have questions about your FEVS survey, send an email to the address included in the email message you received inviting you to participate.
The FEVS takes about 25 minutes to complete and can generally be filled out during work hours. Of course, participation in the survey is voluntary. But please consider lending your voice - this is your chance to give your opinions and let your leadership know the issues are most critical to you.
The People and Culture pillar of the President’s Management Agenda emphasizes the need to develop and sustain an engaged, innovative, and productive Federal workforce. Strengthening employee engagement was also the subject of a joint White House-Office of Personnel Management memorandum.
“We believe that employee engagement is a leading indicator of performance and should be a focus for all levels of an agency - from the front line employee to the agency head. Employee engagement is not only a Human Resources function, but a cross-cutting leadership effort that is directly tied to mission success,” the December 23, 2014, memorandum states.
To further this goal, we are sharing a white paper on employee engagement entitled, “Engaging the Federal Workforce: How to Do It & Prove It.” To access the paper, login to www.unlocktalent.gov and go to the Community of Practice page.
The paper summarizes OPM’s review of classic and recent employee engagement research, including definitions, models, measurement practices, and interventions. The paper then presents a definition of employee engagement as it specifically relates to the Federal workforce:
“Employee engagement is the employee's sense of purpose that is evident in their display of dedication, persistence, and effort in their work or overall attachment to their organization and its mission,” the paper states.
Of particular interest for Federal agencies is that the white paper examines the key drivers influencing Federal employee engagement. The research spotlights the important role that performance feedback, collaborative management, support for merit system principles, training and development opportunities, and work-life balance can have in developing a workforce that is more innovative, productive, committed, satisfied, and more likely to remain at their job.
While in 2015 the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey’s Employee Engagement index increased for the first time in three years, there are still substantial opportunities to improve this important workplace indicator. In releasing this white paper, we hope that OPM’s new Federal definition and model will serve as a foundation for capturing and sharing best practices to drive and sustain future employee engagement efforts.
Of the many things OPM’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) reveals, one thing is clear: The more agencies across government engage and include their employees, the more satisfied, productive, and motivated the workforce becomes.
I was glad to be part of a celebration Tuesday of the agencies that have taken that message to heart and either rank highest or have shown the most improvement in the Partnership for Public Services’ Best Places to Work in Government report. The Partnership’s report is based on the great work OPM does to produce the FEVS and analyze the survey’s results.
Whether it was the Department of Labor, whose score went up 4.4 points, or the Housing and Urban Development, whose score increased by 8 points, or the Federal Maritime Commission, whose score rose by nearly 15 points, there was continued progress this year.
And congratulations to NASA, which maintained its top ranking among large agencies; the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which was on top among mid-size agencies; and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, which led the way among small agencies as the best places to work, according to the Partnership’s report.
Progress and results like this do not happen by accident. It takes hard work and leadership throughout an organization, and I salute the agencies across government that have taken this challenge seriously.
At OPM we provide leaders and managers a suite of tools to help them improve employee engagement. For example, the FEVS survey provides valuable data. This year, OPM produced more than 26,000 agency- and office-level reports, up from 21,000 last year. And those reports were sent to agencies a month ahead of schedule.
Having data at this micro-level allows managers to drill down into the information and learn what engagement strategies worked and where more work needs to be done to unlock the full potential of the Federal workforce.
We know that employee engagement is a leading indicator of excellent performance. To help leaders most effectively use the FEVS data to enhance engagement, OPM created an interactive tool we call UnlockTalent.gov. We are continually refining and updating that dashboard, and for the first time this year, the public was given access to this valuable information.
OPM has also created an index we call the New Inclusion Quotient – or New IQ. This initiative is designed to help employees and managers foster diversity and inclusion in the workplace. So far, more than 15,000 Federal employees have taken our training on how to create and sustain a diverse and inclusive workforce.
And more data analysis is coming. OPM’s policy analysts have drilled down into the FEVS data to determine the key factors that influence employee engagement. We will soon be providing agencies with a full analysis, but I can report that we found that the five main drivers of employee engagement are: meaningful performance feedback conversations; management styles that foster communication and collaboration; adherence to merit system principles; employee training and development, and work/life balance.
At OPM we are committed to providing leaders and managers across government with the tools they need to create and maintain an engaged, inclusive, diverse, and talent Federal workforce that can best deliver on its mission to serve the American people.
OPM today released the complete Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results for 2015. The report contains the scores for the three major indices – employee engagement, overall job satisfaction, and workplace inclusion – plus lots of supporting detail from the survey and the trend lines for individual agencies over the past few years.
The report provides a first look at this year’s scores for the New IQ, which is a measure of employees’ sense of inclusion in their workplaces – meaning how fair, open, cooperative, supportive, and empowering they perceive their workplaces to be. The New IQ score rose by 1 percent government-wide to 57 percent. That small but statistically meaningful increase is important because we know that employees who feel a strong sense of inclusion are better performers on the job and contribute more of their talents to the vital public service missions of their agencies.
The New IQ increase also tracks the improvement we saw in the employee engagement and global job satisfaction indices in two earlier releases of the FEVS results in recent weeks. Both engagement and global satisfaction rose by 1 percentage point over 2014, to 64 percent and 60 percent, respectively. The Administration has made improving the government’s workplace culture a priority, and the trend lines reflect that.
When I dove into the full report, I was especially gratified by the progress made by individual agencies. Agency leaders and managers really can make a difference when they use OPM’s data to make meaningful changes that improve work environments. For example, since last year, 30 of the 37 large departments and agencies made gains in their scores measuring global job satisfaction, which includes how satisfied employees are with their jobs, their pay, and their organizations. (OPM recently highlighted the success of one large agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in boosting its scores.)
It’s clear that some agencies truly excelled in their internal efforts. One small agency, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, made double-digit gains in all three indices. Its engagement score went up by 14 percentage points, its global job satisfaction score by 17 points, and its workplace inclusion index by 12 points.
We asked our colleagues at the board how they did it. They credit better communication, employee recognition programs and greater focus on relationships with senior leaders. Agency managers increased the regularity of staff and all-agency meetings, ensuring that employees got relevant information faster. They also created many opportunities for employees to get together to discuss topics of interest, ranging from pay and performance to dress code guidelines. These events are good opportunities to not only collect valuable employee feedback, but to foster collegiality and closer working relationships. The reaction from employees to these initiatives was overwhelmingly positive and the agency plans to expand the programs.
Finally, I am encouraged by the government-wide results that demonstrate how important our work-life programs are to employees. In 2015, satisfaction with telework increased to 78 percent, up 1 percent from last year. The growth of telework across government continues, and I encourage every agency to consider it as a vital workforce tool. Employees are also just as, if not more, satisfied than last year with their employee assistance programs, alternative work schedules, and health and wellness programs.
All of this is not to say our work is done. There are several areas where agencies continue to focus on making improvements. For example, scores for senior leaders have rebounded somewhat (up 1 percentage point) but still have a ways to go. And employees in a mission critical occupation – IT specialists – post more negative responses on questions related to recruitment, retention and development than employees in other occupations.
Agencies now have senior accountable officials who have been tasked with increasing employee engagement by customizing programs to an agency’s needs and by working closely with the leadership. I know that this, coupled with the focused efforts of leaders and managers throughout government, will help us keep our momentum going.
I want to send a special thanks to every employee who gave feedback in this year’s survey. Their willingness to share their thoughts and concerns is the starting point for change and for an evolution that keeps us moving in the right direction. Federal employees and the public can now explore the 2015 FEVS on their own with OPM’s terrific digital resource, UnlockTalent.gov.
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