Like the changing seasons, every May begins the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) for most agencies and bureaus. Each year communication plans are made to “market” the FEVS. Leaders make eloquent speeches to employees about how much their opinions matter. Sadly, except for a small percentage of leaders and employees, not much more thought goes into taking the FEVS or even discussing the results. For those of us that do dive deeper into the enormous world of FEVS data, we know that there are endlessly different ways to analyze the information.
Why does the FEVS information matter?
Let’s be honest, how comfortable is the average employee telling their supervisor exactly what they are feeling? How often can employees safely talk about their leadership, work environment, pay, workplace skillsets, etc.? Without having this kind of honest feedback, leaders would be operating in the dark. Perhaps some highly perceptive leaders may be able to glean some of this information from employees, but the majority will be clueless regarding areas for improvement in their organization.
The FEVS provides an opportunity for employees to give open and honest feedback to leadership, without the fear of reprisal (thanks to the confidentiality rules that are in place). By answering an in-depth series of Likert scale questions, employees at all levels (including leadership) give a snapshot of what is working well and what is not within an organization’s layers.
What matters most from the FEVS data?
I’ve partnered with leaders from numerous agencies and bureaus helping to analyze FEVS results, create indices and develop employee engagement action plans. Throughout all these efforts, I consistently notice that most leaders and action plans overlook the easiest data point from the FEVS – the participation rates. The true tale of an organization’s level of employee engagement comes down to how much of the workforce is willing to share their thoughts and opinions. Similarly, here is another way to look at the importance of participation. If employees are not willing to participate in the survey, then how will you know what to fix/address?
How do you empower employees to participate?
Getting more employees to participate in a survey is not as simple as it seems. Sending reminders to employees telling them to take the survey or having leadership give speeches is not enough. Leadership must make employees see that their feedback matters. To do this, you need to:
- Talk about the survey and the results throughout the year. It is not a one-time event each year. Employee feedback does not go away.
- Learn from the survey results and create tangible actions that link to the issues raised. Show employees that you heard what they told you and you are doing something to make the issue(s) better.
- Link positive results, successes and/or changes to the survey results. For example: you told us X and based on your feedback, we improved by doing Y.
- Do not dismiss the survey process. You set the tone and excitement level for your employees. They will model your behavior.
- Avoid making the survey into a game or contest. Employees will see through these efforts and will lose trust in you.
Andy Reitmeyer is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. He is the Associate Director for the Engagement and Retention office, Internal Revenue Service. He is responsible for leading engagement strategies for IRS. He has been part of the IRS Engagement and Retention office since its inception. Andy’s tenure with IRS includes numerous domestic and international senior leadership roles. Andy earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Point Park University, a Juris Doctor from Taft University and a Certificate in Executive Leadership from Cornell University. In addition, he has a French Language Diploma from the French Government. Andy is a graduate of the IRS Executive Readiness Program. You can read his posts here.
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Thanks for writing about this! I LOVE this line. Applicable for all surveys/ collecting feedback “Learn from the survey results and create tangible actions that link to the issues raised. Show employees that you heard what they told you and you are doing something to make the issue(s) better.” You have to show people that you actually read and listen to feedback and do something with it.
Andrew, I didn’t know participation rates were such a struggle for the FEVS. But you’re right, I guess if people don’t feel like their opinions are valued, why would they spend time on it?