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Awards and Job Satisfaction Surveys Issued to Boost Federal Workers' Morale

Courageous DHS employees receive honor, while randomly selected feds across government get a chance to voice their opinions.

The Homeland Security Department honored 10 of its own employees and two local law enforcement officers on Thursday for acts of valor that “saved individuals from harm, rescued another’s life and protected infrastructure in support of the nation’s security.”

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson instituted the Awards for Valor in 2014 as part of an effort to boost the sagging morale at the department. The actions of the 12 honorees included both on and off-duty performance.

At a ceremony Thursday, Johnson said the awardees receiving the highest honor he could give put “others before themselves,” and demonstrated “integrity and duty above all else.”

“Like so many others at the department who preserve our freedoms and protect the homeland with integrity and respect, the Valor awardees performed well beyond what is expected, responding in extraordinary action to help another in need,” Johnson said. “It is an honor to shake their hands today and thank them for their selfless service.”

The Coast Guard was the most recognized DHS component, which three second class technicians receiving an award. Christopher Leon, an Aviator Survival Technician, saved four people at sea during the night after their vessel had submerged. After the saving the first three, the helicopter from which Leon had deployed ran out of fuel, and he stayed with the last survivor for two hours until the helicopter returned.

Two Customs and Border Protection employees received the Valor Award, including Border Patrol Agent Jerome Schmitt, who provided two hours of emergency medical care to a U.S. citizen at the U.S.-Mexico border who returned from Mexico with gunshot wounds.

Normally tasked with providing security at federal facilities, two Federal Protective Service employees were honored for separate instances in which they prevented an individual from jumping in suicide attempts. Jerry Bartgis saved a former Agriculture Department employee who had just been terminated, while Kevin Adams saved a woman from jumping off a bridge on his way home from work.

Other honorees included Secret Service, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, and Transportation Security Administration employees.

While Johnson strived to improve morale at his department, the Office of Personnel Management is looking to do the same across government. OPM sent out the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey to hundreds of thousands of feds on Thursday, hoping to glean what agencies can do to improve the experience of their workforces.

The FEVS has played a key role in the “people and culture” pillar of President Obama’s management agenda, and is the most significant tool through which the administration tracks its morale-boosting efforts. Last year, OPM provided more than 21,000 reports to agencies based on the results of the survey, including through online tools that allow senior managers to break down data at every level.

In a blog post on Thursday, OPM Director Katherine Archuleta pleaded with federal workers to participate in the survey, saying “real change in the workplace must start from the bottom up.”

“You’re the expert in understanding what it’s like to work for your agency,” Archuleta wrote. “So, tell us what’s working and what’s not.” 

Employees who received the survey have until early June to complete their confidential responses. 

(Image via  / Shutterstock.com)

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