A Guide to Raising Employee Engagement in Under an Hour


Leaders can’t ignore tough news. This includes the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, measuring employee engagement. When your agency ranks high in the FEVS, your employees are fully engaged, live and breathe the agency’s mission, and give each other high fives in the hall.

Okay, that’s just how I imagine it.

If you’re a member of the many agencies who aren’t in the top of their classes, FEVS season can be rough. When your team is only a small part of a larger agency, you have to figure out what in the FEVS applies to you. How do you engage your employees about engagement?

The answer is that you shouldn’t do it alone. Use this exercise to collaborate with your staff and generate actionable ideas for making your workplace better. You can do all this in under an hour.

To prepare, pick a facilitator to run the exercise. You’ll need pens, lots of sticky notes and six of those giant flip chart pages. Easy so far, right?

The FEVS uses five factors to measure employee engagement: performance feedback, collaborative management, upholding merit system principles, training & development, and work-life balance. Write one topic at the top of each of the flip chart pages, and add sixth for “other issues.” Tape the flip chart sheets to the walls around the room.

Minutes 0-5: Set the stage. Take the first few minutes to explain that you’re looking for feedback regarding the FEVS findings and establish ground rules. Here are mine. If you have others, please post them for everyone in the comments below.

  • Give honest feedback. We take it seriously and want to make our workplace better.
  • Be kind to the ideas that are posted. Just because it’s not your problem, doesn’t mean it’s a not real problem for someone else.

Minutes 5-10: Brainstorm individually. Give everyone a stack of sticky notes. Take five minutes to answer two basic questions: 1) What is going well? 2) What could be going better? Participants should write down as many answers as they can think of, one per sticky note. For example, I’d write “My supervisor talks straight with me” on one sticky note. On the next note, I’d write “I have trouble logging in on Mondays and it affects my work.”

Minutes 10-15: Categorize the answers. Everyone should walk around the room and post their sticky notes under the headers where they belong. I’d post my note about my supervisor under “Performance Management.” My technological issues would go in “Other Issues.” Now all of the ideas from the staff are mixed up and in manageable categories.

 Minutes 15-25: Pick a topic. Everyone splits into groups by picking a topic they’re interested in. The group should sort the sticky notes, discussing what’s going on and if any themes emerge. If, for example, the “Other Issues” category is filled with tech problems like mine, that’s really helpful information. We just captured an issue affecting employee engagement that we may have missed otherwise.

 Minutes 25-35: Address concerns. After sorting through the sticky notes, the teams will brainstorm ideas for addressing the problems from the sticky notes. Have them write as many ideas as they can think of on the flip chart pages. You want a high volume of ideas, so both actionable ideas and creative ideas are helpful.

Minutes 35-40: Agree on the top three. Ask the teams to discuss and reach consensus on the top three things that are going well and the top three ideas for addressing what could be better.

 Minutes 40-60: Report out. Each group picks a member who reports the “top threes” out to your entire group. Be sure to take good notes on the recommendations and ask any clarifying questions.

In under an hour, you’ll have a laundry list of ways you can work making your workplace better and you’ve engaged your employees to do it. Once you make an action plan, communicate that plan with your staff. In time, you’ll create a workplace that has higher employee engagement and better FEVS scores.

Lauren Lien is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Richard Regan

Great recommendations. Unfortunately, if a team particularly a small one does not complete the survey with100% participation, your results are not even counted. The results are noted at the macro level. They just don’t count at the small group level. If results are not counted, they cannot be discussed. If results are not discussed, they are not acted upon.