Following the release of the 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FedView) results, you’ve likely heard the gloomy outlook: plummeting job satisfaction amid a year of budget reductions, pay freezes and furloughs. To some extent, the gloom and doom is warranted – positive government-wide responses to the survey dropped across the board for essentially every question asked and you can feel morale dropping across the federal sector.
However, the story is more nuanced when you start to look at individual agency responses instead of the government-wide results. In the current environment, the temptation is for federal employees to accept the falling FedView numbers, especially in light of the current pessimistic outlook. But, employees and leaders both should resist the potential environmental bias and dig into their own results to see what their story is.
A quick analysis of 2013 FedView results reveals that, despite government-wide headwinds, agencies’ results varied. While the overall FedView results indicate waning employee morale, leaders and employees alike should hone their analysis to identify their agency’s engagement strengths and where there is the most room for improvement. There are two key steps that everyone should take when analyzing agency-specific results: prioritize the most important questions for the agency and put the data in government-wide context.
Prioritize the Most Important Questions – Keep in mind that not all questions in FedView are created equal. With over 70 questions in all, the breadth of the FedView results is extensive and, at times, complicated to sift through. Some questions are much better measures of employee engagement than others, and prioritizing the right questions from the start can transform the maze of data points into a simple comparison. CEB’s engagement research, based on surveys of over 11,000 employees from the private and public sectors worldwide, has identified and prioritized the top drivers of engagement. Look for questions that reflect connection to the mission, empowerment and effective performance management to see a picture of employee engagement at your agency. Keep in mind that engagement levels are not only a reflection of today’s environment, but also indicate future expectations. To better understand the true state of engagement, look to questions that indicate employees’ opportunity expectations.
Put Data in Government-Wide Context– Data by itself can be misleading. The initial reaction is often to look at the high scores to see where an agency did well and the low scores to see where it struggled. However, this often hides the true story. To get a more accurate sense of the current state of your organization, compare agency data to the current government average. This will help you understand if your organization fared better, or worse, than others. Also, to gauge the magnitude of the change, look to see if your agency’s scores are shifting faster or slower than government averages. Taking these two steps will help you more readily see where there are challenges and successes at your agency.
There is no question about it – the federal environment is challenging, and it’s not easy being a federal employee today. However, not all agencies are faring poorly – as in years past, scores in engagement vary, with some agencies faring better than others. Regardless, each agency has a story that includes successes and challenges. Focusing first on high priority areas and then comparing those areas to government benchmarks and overall trends will help you best understand the results and what they mean for your agency.
Kris van Riper is a managing director and Derek Bekebrede is a research analyst at CEB, a member-based advisory company.
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