An Engagement Bridge to Nowhere

Last month in response to a Congressional request, the General Accounting Office released Report GAO-15-585 under their Federal Workforce section entitled “Additional Analysis and Sharing of Promising Practices Could Improve Employee Engagement and Performance.”

The GAO was asked to review how the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) was doing in improving federal employee engagement. The report does three things. It evaluated employment engagement trends from 2006-2014, recommended best practices to improve employee engagement and studied how OPM supports agencies in the pursuit of employee engagement.

In its assessment, the GAO focused on the 6 primary drivers of the Employee Engagement Index (EEI): (1) constructive performance conversations; (2) career development and training; (3) work-life balance; (4) inclusive work environment; (5) employee involvement and (6) communication from management.

Their findings were jaw dropping but not surprising. OPM does not:

• Tell agencies whether or not changes in the key drivers of engagment are statistically significant. They essentially leave it up to the agences to divine the numbers.
• Provide any insight on how the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey questions correlate with the EEI indicators.
• Offer examples of best practices and lessons learned from other agencies as they link engagement to performance.

This peak-a-boo notion of engagement adds to its already slippery reputation of a buzz word that no one fully understands. I challenge you to look up the word engagement on the internet and come to any reasonable agreement as to what engagment means or what engagement looks like.

Once you find that plain English definition of engagement, let OPM know. Then maybe they can pass it along to the rest of the federal government. In the meantime, we will hold our breath and wait for OPM to lead on this workplace issue as the remainder of us tread water in a sea of disengagement.

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