Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Employee Engagement Isn’t Enough

Milena Vuckovic/

The most recent Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results show that most major indicators of employee engagement fell last year, creating a cumulative drop of almost 5 percent from 2011 to 2013. In response, agencies have doubled their efforts on engagement strategies, but the continued reality of budget limitations, staffing shortages and increased workloads have added complexity to the environment. Leaders across the federal sector are rethinking how work gets done, adding potential transformations and reorganizations to the list of challenges affecting employee engagement. All of this begs the question: Is engagement enough to manage through change?

As they move into an environment marked with change and transformation, organizations that solely focus on engagement to drive workforce performance and commitment will miss two critical components needed for success:

  • Alignment to hone focus on the areas of greatest importance
  • Agility to enable flexibility in the workforce to adapt to change

While each component brings its own individual benefit, the combination of engagement, alignment and agility position the workforce for the greatest possible success in a changing environment.

Creating Transparent Alignment

Change presents difficulties for even the most progressive organizations. It disrupts the foundation that motivates individuals to work—or more specifically how an individual aligns with the mission of the organization. FedView results show a downward trend in this area—in fact, the percentage of employees who agree that they know how their work relates to the agency’s goals and priorities has declined by two percentage points in the past two years. With organizational changes, transformations and reorganizations on the horizon, this trend could accelerate if employees are not given the necessary role clarity to focus their work on their agency’s goals and mission.

Organizations that create transparent alignment across their workforce mitigate the negative impact of change and build engagement. A survey of more than 11,000 employees by CEB, a member-based advisory company, found that role clarity increased engagement by more than 13 percent, making it the second highest driver of engagement. Employees not only need to see how their tasks support their organization’s mission, they also need to align their performance goals with those of their supervisors and senior leaders so they can understand how their work helps others contribute to that mission. By communicating effective and consistent messages across all levels, agencies can ensure that employees never lose sight of what they must accomplish to sustain and improve organizational performance.

Improving Employee Agility

Organizations that focus on employee agility achieve more than three times the impact on employee performance than organizations that focus only on discretionary effort, according to CEB research. Particularly in environments of transformation and uncertainty, agility is key to an organization’s ability to adapt, enabling workers to take an active role in responding to changes and creating ownership and commitment across the workforce.

In an agile workforce, individuals exert control over change, rather than feel they are the victims of change. Agile organizations empower employees to adjust, by granting them room to innovate and by encouraging collaboration across teams. Agility often develops in cultures that are risk-tolerant, in which employees are given space and encouraged to find creative solutions within guidelines set by managers. In these environments, employees are encouraged not only to think creatively, but also to self-assess their ideas to avoid risky behavior. Employees are given the control to respond to disruptions and reorient in the moment. An agile organization has the fluidity needed to roll over obstacles created by change.

Together, engagement, agility and alignment create a secure workforce foundation that can withstand the adverse winds of uncertainty. For federal leaders, the key is to understand that employees have the potential to succeed, and even improve on that success, during times of transformation. They just need to be given the training, understanding and encouragement to effectively adapt in the moment, while continuing to sustain their focus on the mission.

(Image via Milena Vuckovic/

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.