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TSP Officials Tout Sizeable Improvement in Annual Employee Satisfaction Survey Scores

Employee engagement at the Thrift Savings Plan improved 7 points in 2020, while the agency scored stellar marks on its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials at the agency that administers the federal government's 401(k)-style retirement savings program are celebrating sizeable improvements in the Thrift Savings Plan’s annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey scores, including strong marks on its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At Monday’s meeting of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, TSP Director of Resource Management Gisile Goethe said the Thrift Savings Plan improved its employee engagement score from 70 out of 100 in 2019 to 77 last year. The agency’s global satisfaction index increased by six points, from 66 in 2019 to 72 in 2020.

The increases also correspond with a 1.4% improvement in employee response rates, as 74.4% of eligible TSP workers took the survey last year. The annual survey was conducted by the Office of Personnel Management between Sept. 24 and Nov. 5, following two delays due to the pandemic.

Goethe noted that the agency saw improvements in every question that makes up the employee engagement index, and touted nearly universal approval of how agency leadership has responded to the global COVID-19 pandemic. A majority of respondents—51%—reported that the pandemic was “not at all” disruptive to their work, despite the fact that 97% of workers said their work loads have stayed the same or increased. Fully 95% of respondents said that they trust TSP management to “respond effectively to future emergencies” based on their experiences over the last year.

“It was a horrible year to endure with the pandemic and to have to make these kinds of life changes, but it has been a really good year in being able to support our employees and allow them to be able to continue to do the great work that continues to make us a great organization,” Goethe said. “These aren’t incremental steps of improvement, but much larger areas of improvement in the responses on the FEVS survey.”

Board Member Ron McCray asked how the experience over the last year might inform long-term changes to how the TSP operates.

“A number of companies, including those with which I’m affiliated, are thinking about how, post-pandemic, what kind of lessons can benefit the business going forward,” he said. “For instance, at Cornell [University], we have some insights that hybrid learning works better for some subjects than others. I’m not sure to what extent how much freedom we have to do that here, but from an employee standpoint and a vendor standpoint, I would encourage the team to think about what learnings we can glean from the past year that might benefit everybody going forward.”

TSP Executive Director Ravindra Deo said his team is already looking at similar ideas for the agency.

“The short answer is yes,” he said. “We’re looking at the experience over the last year and looking at how that could affect how we think about our structure and our vendor structure, and what requirements we have where it turns out they don’t need to be requirements. We’re definitely thinking of ways we can be more flexible . . . But we don’t want to become too rigid either. We’re definitely looking at it and thinking about how we can become less prescriptive.”

The Office of Personnel Management is slated to publish the full governmentwide results of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey early next month.