Just Another Survey

I received my Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) today and for the first time in my career I was tempted to hit delete.

As my finger hovered over the delete button, the following questions flooded my mind.

What Will Be the Repercussions?
How will my engagement be affected by my suggestions being ignored by my agency once again? I am already disengaged so will completing the survey make me more engaged or less engaged.

Another Survey?
The FEVS is too long despite the Office of Personnel Management’s well-meaning attempts to shorten the questionnaire. How about breaking the survey up into multiple enquiries and smaller parts combined with distributing the results in a faster manner?

What Happened to the Last Survey?
Since survey results are communicated so late in the fiscal year, prior concerns are forgotten as they are replaced by newer anxieties that come with the expectation they will be ignored as well.

Why Didn’t Anything Change from Last Year?
I have completed six of these surveys at my agency and I cannot recall one single engagement factor changing for the better due to my responses. If anything it appears that engagement is getting worse than better with every subsequent assessment.

Do My Responses Even Matter?
Since my subcomponent division within the agency is so small, our results have the potential to not be counted at the retail level. Since most engagement happens at the front-line level, the only way our opinions count is if every person in our division completes the survey?

I will not be participating in the FEVS this year. I have enough disengagement drivers already in my workplace. It is less painful to ignore the granddaddy of all federal surveys than to have unrealistic expectations that it will ever alleviate my disengagement.

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Mark Hammer

Richard’s comments exemplify why, unless you have a workforce with constant turnover, it is bad practice and counterproductive to run such surveys too frequently. I completely understand the desire on the part of senior management to have a regular pulse-check. The problem is that there is a difference between something like quarterly financial reports, where the numbers generally make implicit sense, and employee surveys, where it can take much longer to figure just what the dickens the numbers mean, and where unchanging numbers can be demotivating.

I will say, however, that there are a pleasingly large and increasing number of public-administration and organizational-development researchers who use the FEVS data to explore topics of interest to many here, including the sorts of circumstances that motivate or demotivate federal workers. So, while the surveys come too darn often, and while there can sometimes be precious little evidence that the powers that be respond to one’s individual observations, in either timely fashion, or at all, all that data finds its way to people who DO think about such matters, who publish reports and books based on what they see, which are in turn consumed by the folks who DO make the decisions (or at least the ones who advise them). That chain is probably much longer than we’d like it to be, be it’s just my longwinded way of saying there IS value in responding to the FEVS…every stinking year…even if it doesn’t seem to have a tangible effect in one’s own immediate context. It’s like olive trees. You can’t just plunk them in the ground and expect olive oil next year. They take a while to become productive.

Tracey Batacan

Interesting article. If you could improve employee engagement and believe that you could really make it happen, what would you do? Just curious.

richard regan

Did you notice that of the 6 most vital drivers of engagement, managers are responsible for 67% of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey questions associated with engagement?

To answer your question, there is very little employees can do to improve engagement in the federal government.

Have a question for you. What are you doing about the Department of Homeland Security’s low engagement scores. Last year, they were the lowest among all large federal agencies.

Just curious to see how you are making it happen in your own backyard.