TSP Officials to Reflect on Declining Employee Engagement Results

Agency saw decreases in both satisfaction and engagement on this year’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

Officials at the agency responsible for administering the 401(k)-style retirement savings program for federal employees said they plan to talk with their workers to address a recent decline in scores on a survey of federal employees about their job satisfaction.

The Office of Personnel Management this month released the results of its annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. Employee engagement and satisfaction improved slightly governmentwide compared with 2016, but the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which administers the Thrift Savings Plan, saw a marked decline in its scores after years of steadily positive reviews. The agency’s global satisfaction index fell from 68 in 2016 to 60 this year, while its employee engagement score dropped from 72 last year to 66 in 2017.

Gisile Goethe, director of the agency’s Office of Resource Management, said much of the decline derived from questions related to FRTIB’s leadership and supervisors.

“With regard to supervisors, although scores decreased slightly from last year, the overall response regarding how employees feel about their supervisors remains high—higher or equal to the government-wide response rates,” she said. “In the ‘Leaders Lead’ and ‘Intrinsic Work Experiences’ categories, we had a decrease, and a significant one when it comes to ‘Leaders Lead’ questions.”

Michael Kennedy, chairman of FRTIB, suggested that the drop in scores might be in part because of the timing of the survey. OPM distributed the questionnaire in May, just weeks after Greg Long announced he would be leaving his post as executive director after a decade of service. In August, TSP announced that the board had appointed then-Chief Investment Officer Ravindra Deo to serve as executive director.

“You know, we had a lot going on in April and May, so I might suggest that if we redid the survey today, maybe we’d get different results,” Kennedy said.

Goethe said officials are planning outreach efforts to the agency’s rank-and-file employees to identify what caused opinions to change over the last year and what leaders can do to fix it.

“There is action we’ll be taking as an agency to really look to drill down on the root causes for not only what you see here on ‘Leaders Lead’ and ‘Intrinsic Work Experience,’ but on others as well,” she said. “We briefed staff last week, and we’ll have communications going out by Tuesday and Wednesday. The Center for Organizational Excellence helped us out two years ago, and they’ll be coming in again with a different focus for us to work with employees.”

Suzanne Tosini, COO and deputy executive director of FRTIB, said the agency should not wait for recommendations from outside groups before taking action to improve employee morale.

“I think we have to understand what’s truly going down, but I do believe on a lot of these issues, there are things we can do within each office to address specific issues,” she said. “We don’t need to wait for outside help for that. Some of us just need to sit down, talk and understand what it is.”