Agencies Will Start Hearing What Their Employees Really Think This Summer

Managers are “very anxious to get this data as soon as possible,” said Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta. Managers are “very anxious to get this data as soon as possible,” said Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta. United States Department of Labor

Agencies will receive the latest feedback on employee morale and job satisfaction beginning in August, Obama administration officials said on Tuesday.

The federal workforce now is filling out the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, a tool that assesses how employees feel about compensation, management and their jobs. Managers are “very anxious to get this data as soon as possible,” said Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta during a conference call with reporters Tuesday morning. Archuleta said OPM pushed up by about a month the timeline for sending agencies feedback. The full results of the 2014 FEVS will be released publicly in the fall; typically OPM posts its report online in November.

OPM is making a last push to encourage federal employees to complete the survey. The deadline is June 13, and as of Tuesday, just over 330,000 feds had submitted their feedback, while another 80,000 were in the process of completing the survey, said Kimya Lee, survey analysis manager in OPM’s Office of Planning and Policy Analysis. Lee said that slightly fewer employees had responded to this year’s survey by now than in 2013, but she emphasized that OPM extended the 2013 survey by a week. The 2013 FEVS had a governmentwide response rate of 48 percent.

Archuleta reiterated that the survey was voluntary and confidential, so employees do not have to worry about any backlash for being candid. Also, not all employees may be offered the opportunity to weigh in this year. Many larger agencies send the survey to a representative sample of their workforce.

OPM will collect demographic data, including the agency and job of the employee, but no identifying information will be shared. The 2014 FEVS includes 12,000 data points for agencies to use in assessing how employees feel about their jobs and bosses. “Now people like me, directors and managers, and [Cabinet] secretaries can use this information to take a look at the performance of leaders in our own agencies, and suggest areas where they can improve,” Archuleta said.

New this year is a question asking respondents for their level of education and the highest level of education they’ve completed.

The survey data will be incorporated into a visual, interactive dashboard that will include employee engagement information with agency performance results. Agencies will receive the employee engagement dashboards, which President Obama called for in his fiscal 2015 budget proposal, at the end of this month, said Jonathan Foley, director of OPM’s Office of Planning and Policy Analysis. That will include three years of data on employee engagement and satisfaction for managers to use to improve morale and overall agency performance; the 2014 results will be included when they are ready.

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 reflected 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 the previous 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. It’s also unclear what role agency scandals at the Internal Revenue Service and the Veterans Affairs Department will play in the results. 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.

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