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At the Office of Personnel Management, every day we work to support the President’s Management Agenda’s goal to recruit, hire, and retain a world-class workforce. We develop human resources policies for everything from benefits to employee engagement to performance management to diversity and inclusion. And we believe strongly that the policy decisions we make must be grounded in research.
Connecting research to policy is so important to us that it’s a goal in OPM’s Strategic Plan. This week, OPM partnered with American University to host its first research summit. We brought together researchers and policy experts from 20 Federal agencies, 19 colleges and universities, and partners from industry and the non-profit sector. We focused on six specific human capital policy areas: work/life issues; benefits; performance management; diversity and inclusion; leadership; and employee engagement.
Our goal was to determine the current state of research in each of these areas.
At this summit, we wanted to determine where there are gaps in the research we need to make the best informed decisions about human resources policies for Federal employees. We looked at the challenges to closing those research gaps and what research we need to best inform our policy decisions over the next several years.
This summit will lead to enhanced collaborations. OPM already works with researchers around the country as they look at human resources issues in depth. We provide researchers will access to selected OPM data. For example, by accessing the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey data, which contains insights on employee engagement, productivity, innovation, and other employee concerns, researchers have written at least 60 academic papers in recent years.
We must plan and make policy for the Federal workforce of the future. The way we all work is constantly changing. Employees are teleworking more. Workspaces are becoming more open and collaborative. We are asking employees to be more innovative and to think out of the box.
By making sure that our human resources policies are informed by the most rigorous and up-to-date research, OPM can better design more effective human resources policies and help the Federal Government move to the forefront as an employer of choice.
The ultimate goal of this summit and of the work of OPM’s Office of Planning and Policy Analysis is to use these collaborations to help us establish a research agenda for Federal human resources management that will shape human capital policy for years to come.
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.
The results of the 2015 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) are in and they show that employees across the Federal Government are more engaged in their workplaces and more satisfied with their jobs than they were a year ago. While there is still plenty of room for improvement, there are signs that the Administration’s focus on employee engagement is beginning to pay dividends for the workforce, and ultimately for our customers, the American people.
I’d like to share some highlights of the government-wide results as well as share an important update on how you can access some of the data. The employee engagement and global satisfaction results of this year’s FEVS can now be viewed by the public in visual formats on UnlockTalent.gov, OPM’s innovative digital dashboard. This tool, which allows customized views of the data, was previously available only to the leadership of Federal agencies.
One highlight in the government-wide results that is especially meaningful for me and other leaders this year is a 1 percent increase in the employee engagement index score, to 64 percent from 63 percent in 2014. Although the change may appear to be small, it is in fact statistically significant, and many individual agencies experienced larger gains.
The FEVS provides a powerful way for agency leaders to evaluate their engagement programs and office cultures. As leaders, we know that employee engagement drives performance and is closely tied to mission success in the Federal Government, which translates into better customer service for the American people.
Agency leaders have actively responded to feedback from prior years’ surveys and those efforts are reflected in the results. Compared with 2014, more employees in 2015 perceive their agency conditions as conducive to employee engagement, which is defined as an employee’s sense of purpose, manifest in the level of dedication, persistence, and effort that he or she puts into the work and into the overall commitment to an agency and its mission.
Internal engagement efforts are more likely to be successful when employee feedback is used to make workplace changes. That’s why these results are crucial. Agencies that experienced increases in employee engagement of 3 percentage points or more also saw an increase in employees’ confidence that the survey would be used to make the agency a better place to work.
Another important index also increased by 1 percent government-wide: The global satisfaction score in 2015 was 60 percent, up from 59 percent in 2014. That score tells us that employees are more satisfied with their jobs, their pay, and their organizations and that they are more likely to recommend their agency to others.
This year, 50 percent of the employees who were surveyed responded, for a total of 421,748 responses from 82 agencies. The response rate was 3 percentage points higher than last year’s 47 percent. Overall, 75 percent of responses to the individual survey questions were more positive than they were last year.
And the results underscore the dedication of Federal employees. The survey found that 90 percent or more of employees view their work as important, are willing to commit extra effort when necessary to get their jobs done, and consistently seek out ways to do their jobs better.
Other trends remained strong in 2015: By and large, employees expressed that they enjoy good relationships with their supervisors and are satisfied with telework and alternative work schedules. Areas where the results show we need improvement are: Adequately dealing with poor performers and recognizing differences in performance levels within work units.
Employees’ ratings of senior agency leaders, which declined by 3 percentage points in the 2014 survey, rebounded somewhat in 2015 with a 1 percentage point increase. But it’s clear that we need to continue our focus on engagement and building confidence in our senior leadership.
As of today, everyone can access the employee engagement and global satisfaction data with our visualization tool, UnlockTalent.gov, which tells the story with graphs, charts, and other visual means. It is a very helpful way to analyze the results agency by agency.
Here are five things you’ll want to know to get started:
Clicking on UnlockTalent.gov will take you directly to the data, no sign-in required.
This tool has been an invaluable resource for leaders throughout the
government, and I am pleased that it is now available for all to use.
Every employee is a part of the change and we want to keep the momentum
going. If we continue to work together, the progress will show in future
Note to our readers: OPM will release the full 2015 FEVS government-wide report soon.
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