If employees and bosses view your agency differently, it's harder to drive change.
I write often about the importance of employee satisfaction and commitment as a way to understand what is really happening in your organization. Paying attention to employee survey data will give you insights into where your employees are experiencing stumbling blocks and can help you learn things about your organizational processes that you may otherwise not have known.
Another data element to consider is how aligned your management is with front-line employees. Considerable disparities in the viewpoints of these two groups could mean they don’t agree on key issues the organization faces—and if they don’t agree on what needs to be addressed, it will be harder to drive change.
While it is common for managers to view their organizations more positively than staff because managers typically have more information and influence on the decisions that impact their work, extreme differences should get the attention of your agency leadership and rouse them into taking a closer look.
That begs the question: How big a disparity is too big?
The Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte examined this issue as part of its Best Places to Work in the Federal Government analysis. We created staff/manager alignment scores for agencies by looking at the differences between the views of their employees and managers and comparing those to governmentwide results. Overall staff/manager alignment scores range from +44 to -44. Agencies with negative scores are less aligned, while agencies with positive scores have greater alignment between staff and managers and are therefore better positioned for instituting change in the workplace.
By comparing staff/manager alignment scores to an agency’s overall index score, which measures employee satisfaction and commitment, we can better understand the risks associated with lower levels of staff/manager alignment. Agencies with low index scores may be eager to make improvements in their workplaces, but low staff/manager alignment scores could cause their change efforts to falter.
The alignment results show that some agencies struggling with low overall scores, such as the National Archives and Records Administration and the National Labor Relations Board, must also overcome a wide divergence of views in the way managers and staff view basic workforce issues
In contrast, better-than-average alignment at agencies like the Agriculture Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors suggest that these agencies may be better positioned to address relatively low index scores.
There also are a few surprises among agencies with traditionally strong Best Places to Work index scores. Those with solid overall scores but lower-than-expected alignment include Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Federal Trade Commission. While these agencies perform well in the rankings, low levels of alignment could still act as a barrier to any future efforts to make improvements.
Read the complete analysis “Positioned for Change: Understanding Staff-Manager Alignment” at ourpublicservice.org.
Lara Shane is vice president of research and communications at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service.
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