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How to Improve Employee Satisfaction by 50 Percent

When the mortgage industry bottomed out, Ginnie Mae doubled down on improving employee satisfaction.

Since the onset of the credit crisis in 2008, the housing finance industry has been in a constant state of change. Despite the uncertainty facing the market in recent years, Ginnie Mae has emerged as a source of strength and a stabilizing force in America’s recovering housing system. As we build for the future, we’re working hard to build a high-performing and collaborative workforce committed to the mission of the organization. Though not void of challenges, Ginnie Mae’s leadership has spent the past three years embracing a multi-year hiring initiative designed to assemble a cohesive yet diverse team geared toward flexibility, long-term success and growth.

The result? These efforts have resulted in a dramatic increase in employee satisfaction, as demonstrated by Ginnie Mae’s results in the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. Across the board, we have seen significant improvements year over year. Most notably, using data extrapolated from the 2012 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey,Ginnie Mae calculated its organization satisfaction levels as 48.4 percent in 2011 and 72.7 percent in 2012 – an overall increase of 50.3 percent.

In making these improvements, Ginnie Mae’s senior leadership team grappled with some key questions:
  • How does the organization solicit new talent without overshadowing or losing the institutional knowledge that already exists?
  • In an industry experiencing significant change, how do you make yourself malleable enough to be prepared for whatever the future may hold?
  • What can we do to invest in our employees?

These questions don’t have easy answers. When we try to pinpoint how we view an engaged workforce, it comes down to a simple idea:  we want our employees to want to come to work every day, to contribute, and to want to stay for the long-term.  That means transforming our corporate culture. But how to do that in today’s environment?

Government agencies have been asked to do more with less. To expect employees to do more, leadership must also improve its own efforts. It is our responsibility to involve employees in the decision making process when we can. We also need to provide them with the appropriate tools and resources to understand the organization’s direction. At Ginnie Mae, we make sure that every employee has a complete understanding of who we are and what we do. We also share our direction and strategy with employees. We crystalize our message so that everyone can clearly articulate the “Ginnie Mae story.” Letting the team know what’s going on and why it matters provides them with a defined mission and purpose that helps inspire their best efforts every day.

Clear messaging alone won’t transform your culture. It’s about investing in employees. Ginnie Mae’s executive leadership team is committed to doing so. It’s personal for us. Investing in employees doesn’t always mean monetary rewards. For example, every employee has access to anyone on the senior management team. Right to the very top levels. We don’t want anyone to be reluctant to share ideas or concerns, or fear proposing new approaches to doing things. We encourage quite the opposite. In fact, Ginnie Mae’s active Employee Advisory Board (EAB) – now in its third year – recently released the second round of its biannual Management Feedback Survey, a tool that allows employees to provide anonymous feedback about their managers. In turn, managers are asked to identify two items from the results on which they can improve.

Two years ago, Ginnie Mae leadership encouraged the EAB to design a budget and introduce an awards program for employees who demonstrate qualities we want to instill in an evolving culture. These awards acknowledge employees for reaching specified milestones, exemplifying leadership on a project or initiative, or assisting someone in need of a helping hand. Dedicated training opportunities – beyond those supported by the Office of Personnel Management – and a healthy tuition reimbursement benefit have also been launched to demonstrate that ongoing professional development is essential.

In addition, our staff has grown 79 percent since 2009, bringing key skills and functions in-house. We’ve retained much of our team and replaced those who have retired with new personnel with fresh perspectives. We’ve also set the right tone at the top, remaining steadfast in empowering employees to make decisions.

We remain unwavering in our commitment to a transparent, high quality performance management environment, providing our workforce with autonomy, but more importantly, allowing them to make mistakes and learn from them. We all must make mistakes to grow and, ultimately, that is exactly what we want for our employees – to grow and remain strong into the future.  

Mary K. Kinney is the Executive Vice President of Ginnie Mae, and the Chief Operating Officer of the corporation. As Executive Vice President, Ms. Kinney administers Ginnie Mae’s multi-billion dollar Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS) and Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduit (REMIC) programs. She is responsible for managing Ginnie Mae’s daily operations, including contracting, budget and legislative initiatives, and overall risk management of the organization. Additionally, Ms. Kinney maintains liaisons with key officials and executives of housing and securities industries, the investment community, members of Congress, and other departments and agencies of the federal government.

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