Uncle Sam Will Ask Feds About Pay, Job Satisfaction This Spring

OPM Director Katherine Archuleta sent a memo to agency leaders on Friday notifying them of the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. OPM Director Katherine Archuleta sent a memo to agency leaders on Friday notifying them of the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. Carolyn Kaster/AP

The Office of Personnel Management will begin soliciting feedback later this month from federal employees on compensation, morale and job satisfaction as part of its annual workforce survey.

OPM Director Katherine Archuleta sent a memo to agency leaders on Friday notifying them of the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, which OPM will administer across government beginning in late April and ending in June. Some results will be available in late August, with full results announced in the fall, Archuleta said.

“In my visits with you, I know you are keenly aware of workforce morale and intend on using the results of the FEVS to improve the work experiences of all your employees,” Archuleta wrote, noting the adverse effects of sequestration, furloughs and the October government shutdown on federal employees over the past year.

Job satisfaction among federal workers dropped nearly across the board in 2013 -- a year marked by furloughs, a pay freeze and proposals to reduce federal employee compensation, according to the most recent FEVS. The 2013 survey reflects the input of 376,577 federal workers. Just 44 percent of employees in the 2013 FEVS said they had sufficient resources to do their jobs, down from 48 percent last year and 50 percent in 2010.

While overall job satisfaction fell between 2012 and 2013, most notably with pay, officials always have noted that the survey is not just about satisfaction, but about how employees perceive how they are treated in the workplace and the level of commitment they feel to their jobs. More than 90 percent of participants in the 2013 survey reported a desire to put in extra effort, look for ways to do their jobs better and view their work as important, according to OPM.

More employees were satisfied with telework in the 2013 survey, and said their supervisors treated them with respect than the previous year, making up the only two categories with an increase in positive responses from 2012.  

In some ways, 2014 so far has been an improvement over last year, though it’s unclear whether that will be reflected in the upcoming survey. The three-year pay freeze on federal civilian workers was lifted, and sequestration, though still in effect, has been partially repealed for fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2015. But because respondents provided feedback for the 2013 survey before October’s government shutdown, the 2014 FEVS could include more negative feedback.  Many people inside and outside of government remain concerned over the morale of federal workers and the effect budget cuts, benefit reductions and negative political rhetoric have had on agencies’ ability to recruit and retain talented personnel.

Three Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, including Ranking Member Elijah Cummings of Maryland, asked the Government Accountability Office in March to determine why federal employee morale is low, assessing recruitment and retention, performance and productivity, the achievement of agency missions, how well OPM helps agencies improve employee engagement and lessons learned from agencies that have significantly improved employee engagement.

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