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FEVS 2013: job satisfaction declines again; how did your agency fare?

In case you missed it, the 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) was issued by OPM on Friday.

Federal Times reports:

  • “Federal employee job satisfaction ratings dipped again this year across a broad array of yardsticks.”

  • “Of 77 areas measured by the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, 53 showed declines in satisfaction and most of the remainder were flat, according to an OPM summary.”

  • “The strongest signal of discontent centered around compensation; 54 percent of this year’s respondents answered positively when asked how satisfied they were with their pay, a five-percentage-point drop from last year and down from 66 percent in 2010.”

According to the new OPM Director, Katherine Archuleta, “The 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results present two very clear conclusions”:

  • “First, the Federal workforce remains resilient in the face of historic challenges. Over 90 percent continue to be willing to put in extra effort, are constantly looking for ways to do their job better, and feel their work is important. Their levels of engagement are generally holding steady despite declining satisfaction.”
  • “Second…In addition to continued decreases in satisfaction with pay, one of the biggest drops this year was whether employees had sufficient resources needed to get their jobs done. This drop contributed to fewer employees recommending their organizations as good places to work. Any employer seeing this meaningful level of decline would be very concerned.”

QUESTIONS

1) Do you agree with the overall FEVS results (captured prior to the shutdown)?

2) How did YOUR agency fare compared to others?

3) What needs to be done to boost job satisfaction for feds?

4) Do YOU have the appropriate resources for your specific job?

5) Is YOUR agency providing adequate training and career development?

6) What aspects of YOUR job are most and least satisfying?

7) What advice would your give senior executive leadership at YOUR agency to enhance morale and increase productivity during these challenging times?

DBG

* All views and opinions expressed are those of the author only.

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Profile Photo David B. Grinberg

More interesting findings from the 2013 FEVS as reported by the Washington Post (bold added for emphasis):

  • “Government-wide scores on pay, opportunities for advancement, whether innovation is encouraged and other markers of how employees feel about their jobs dropped in almost every category over last year’s survey.”

  • Telework continued to be a bright spot, with 76 percent of employees reporting satisfaction with their agencies’ policies. Supervisors’ growing flexibility with balancing work and home life for their staffs has proven to be a good alternative to bonuses and other financial incentives that are disappearing, the survey found.”

  • “The survey also highlighted demographic differences in job satisfaction among the government’s oldest and youngest employees. Those born in 1945 or earlier — a tiny fraction of the workforce — had the highest morale overall, while those born between 1965 and 1980 were least satisfied.”

  • “The government dived deeper into demographic data it received for a second year about veterans, disabled, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees. Veterans make up 28 percent of the workforce, gays and lesbians 2.7 percent, and the disabled 13 percent.”

  • “Only 19 percent agreed that pay raises are commensurate with how well they do their jobs.”

  • “Without a more predictable and responsible budget situation, we risk losing our most talented employees, as well as hurting our ability to recruit top talent for the future,” OPM Director Archuleta wrote of the survey results.

  • “These are dismal numbers, and anyone concerned with the ability of our government to recruit and retain the thoughtful, innovative and dedicated people we need to take on challenges now and in the future should be alarmed,” Colleen E. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in a statement.

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Profile Photo Terrence Hill

I don’t even have to look at the results anymore because my agency is always on the bottom. Here are my responses to your 7 questions:

  1. Yes – I think that the FEVS is a trusty barometer of agency morale and engagement.
  2. Bottom, as always. Unless we start to treat employees differently, we are destined to remain at the bottom.
  3. In our case, we need to engage our employees by establishing a social network and ideation platform to come up with solutions.
  4. None of us have sufficient resources, but mainly because we operate inefficiently.
  5. Training is reserved for technical (law enforcement) and leadership/management training. The rest has been eliminated due to budget cuts.
  6. Most satisfying is when I can manage programs that engage the workforce. Least is when I have to justify everything I do to our lawyers.
  7. I would advise my management to start listening to employees – they have the solutions that management is struggling to find. Don’t try to solve this on your own. You need to engage your employees!

Thanks for asking David! I hope that we don’t let another year pass us by without engaging our employees. They have the solutions. We have only to ask!

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Profile Photo Earl Rice

1) Do you agree with the overall FEVS results (captured prior to the shutdown)?

I would agree. The most significant would be to look at the 2010 data in relationship to the 2013 data. There are very significant degradations. I have to say that if they would have used line graph portrayal instead of “arrow” portrayals, the true impact would have shown very significant decreases.

2) How did YOUR agency fare compared to others?

Middle of the pack (but my Agency has a separate congressionally mandated survey that is used instead of the OPM one).

3) What needs to be done to boost job satisfaction for feds?

This is the real contention I have with the surveys. They gather all data, crunch all the numbers. But nothing changes. The downward trend from 2010 to 2013 is a perfect example of that.

4) Do YOU have the appropriate resources for your specific job?

No, never have had such in my current agency.

5) Is YOUR agency providing adequate training and career development?

This is going to be wildly divergent depending on supervisor and funding allocation. Some will be and many will not.

6) What aspects of YOUR job are most and least satisfying?

I am thinking about this one. It seems that the “least satisfying” covers 90% of the job.

7) What advice would you give your senior executive leadership at YOUR agency to enhance morale and increase productivity during these challenging times?

Get back to the core mission, back to the basics. If it doesn’t directly relate to the mission, don’t do it. The resources to do the “nice to have” things is long past. Additionally, cut the layers of bureaucracy Agency wide. An example could be I have been doing a report for almost a year that no one ever looks at. So why bother with it. Also, the record keeping has turned into a nightmare. Keeping records in 4 different systems, when only one is the actual database of record. And stop using the other 3 data bases to manipulate the data to show higher performance. Use the data base of record, and that is it. And, lastly, reduce the number of positions at the Headquarters in DC. The Headquarters has become way to inflated FTEE wise, with each little special project thinking they are the most critical element, when they fall into the “nice to have” and contribute very little to the core mission. Take the saved FTEE from HQ, and put them back in the field. [I know none of this will ever happen. In fact, the opposite has been occurring for 10 years, and there is now indication this trend will ever change.]

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Profile Photo Julie Chase

1) Do you agree with the overall FEVS results (captured prior to the shutdown)?


Somewhat…depends on the agency. We are short manpower big time & everyone is in a morale slump.

2) How did YOUR agency fare compared to others?

DoD is undergoing a death spiral. Unfortunately from the wrong end.

3) What needs to be done to boost job satisfaction for feds?

The same things we have been begging for all along:

a. UPDATED and “WORKING” computers.

b. Stop with the paper mountain lil ol me has to climb to procure software, hardware. I don’t need 30 people on an email distribution list to pour over every “i” and every “t”, just to get a renewal subscription on software.

c. The smart pay govcc is another paperwork nightmare. My supervisor is at the point, he doesn’t want us to use the darn thing. Too complicated.

d. Explain “mandatory” sources better. I can’t purchase TAA, but the contractor the fed contracts with “CAN” and does, and sells it back to us for a ridiculous upcharge.

4) Do YOU have the appropriate resources for your specific job?

See number 3. Three unfilled billets….will become 5 unfilled billets by May. Enough with the hiring freezes on GS 9 and WG 10 and below. CUT FROM THE TOP. The foundation is crumbling.

5) Is YOUR agency providing adequate training and career development?

Are you kidding me? Training? What is that? Thanks to the GSA luxury suites and the DoJ $16.00 breakfast, we are lucky if we get a “feel good” class at the installation training building. Besides, clerks like myself and admins NEVER have any out of area training.

6) What aspects of YOUR job are most and least satisfying?

least satisfying:Unfilled vacancies. Doubling up of duties…except for the WG who are under bargaining units and if it’s not in the PD, they are not doing it. GS’ not so lucky. It’s divvied up among the GS’. A lot of things, just don’t get done.

most satisfying:

The people I work with and the military I support.

7) What advice would your give senior executive leadership at YOUR agency to enhance morale and increase productivity during these challenging times?

I would say, “Hey you, look down here…yeah see me….your “foundation”…I’m not doing too well. There are many cracks and the mortar is crumbling…because we don’t have enough cement to fill in the cracks.”

By the time a “report” of what is being done and “not” being done, reaches the top tier, the report is not pushed through “as it was written”….it is embellished so the Borg things we are doing a “great job, with less”. We are not stupid down here in the trenches….we know, reporting is a big joke.

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Profile Photo Mark Hammer

I see that, once again, one of the very worst survey questions ever devised – I am willing to put in extra effort when required – was used, and got the same 96% positive response it has traditionally received. The item has such heavy demand characteristics as to be a waste of survey space. Workplaces that are hubs of harrassment, backstabbing, intolerance, uncompensated overtime, and general misery, will get the same result as places where you only wished you could be so lucky to work. But, senior officials will always want some sort of happy shiny good news story to tell, and this one is particularly resilient as those sorts of things go. Don’t let your justified cynicism about how that particular result is dangled as a success story detract from the honesty with which the other survey findings are portrayed.

I haven’t dug deeply…yet, but will simply note, as I often do, that workforce composition is a powerful influence on such survey results. One of the enduring trends is that employees with more tenure tend to be more sour, and recent hires are more positive. It is not uncommon for those with only a few years service to be more positive than those with more than 3 years tenure. Positive and negative shifts of 1-2% can often be a simple reflection of changes in age/tenure distribution of the folks who respond to the survey. If you go through hiring freezes, such that new hires are more sparsely represented, and all the other employees are a year or two farther along in their tenure, you can expect wholesale drops of 1-2%. Conversely, a spate of recruitment, and bump in the number of younger new voices reflected in the survey results can be expected to “improve” them. There may well be no real underlying change. There might be, but you’d really need to factor the new hires out of the results for several years to compare ONLY those at risk of being sour. And if their results have improved, then you know you’re on the right track.

According to the 62-page report David links to, folks under 30 made up some 4.7% of respondents, and they tended to have lower response rates than the oldest employees. Whle their response rate was generally on par with other tenure brackets, those with 3 years’ service or less comprised 7.2% of those who responded. If someone wants to dig up what the comparable proportions were for last year’s FEVS, your understanding of the overall results may lie there.

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Profile Photo Mark Hammer

Just a quick addendum to a point I made earlier. By my calculations (based on the published reports), roughly 7.2% of respondents for 2013 had 3 years’ service or less. By contrast, the share of all respondents in 2012 that had 3 or fewer years of service was roughly 16.5%. Small wonder that so many results dropped by a point or two. That’s not to say that the zeitgeist is not a little more sour, but the tenure distribution effect can be expected to be substantial.

And that’s what happens to survey results when you stop hiring and promoting in order to save money: your respondents are more likely to be those who’ve been around for a while. Check back with me in a year, and I’ll bet you we get the exact same thing here in the Canadian federal employee survey (which gets done every 3 years, rather than annually).

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