Do you like where you work?

Do you like where you work? It seems like a simple question on the surface, but for agencies who are fighting for personnel, budgets and morale the question is gigantic.

So every year the Office of Personnel Management goes out to agencies and asks that question.

In the past few months OPM has asked 1.6 million Federal employees to provide their perspective on the business of Government, and to tell us about their experience – what they see working, and what needs to be fixed.

The Partnership fo Public Service then takes that raw data and crafts their Best Places to Work rankings. The rankings provide a roadmap for agency leaders to build a more committed workforce and, ultimately, more effective agencies. (The full rankings will be available on December 13th).

Tom Fox is the Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service. He told Chris Dorobek on theDorobekINSIDER program that agency morale makes a big difference.

“The high level findings indicate that there is some decrease in job satisfaction. Just shows that there is proof that there is an impact on the constant battering feds receive. But there was good news. Public servants are incredibly mission driven. So if you can connect the mission to what they are doing you do see an uptick in approval. Leaders need to be out there. They need to be honest, engaging and up front,” said Fox.

Analyze your data, including unlikely data points. Start by checking out your agency’s ranking, which measures overall employee job satisfaction and commitment, and then take a look at other issues around senior leadership, supervisors, work-life balance, sense of empowerment, and opportunities for training and development. In addition, I would suggest you look at your agency’s overall response rate and your employees’ answer to the question: “I believe the results of this survey will be used to make my agency a better place to work.” If your results on either one are lower than average or on the decline, this is a red flag.

Celebrate your success and admit your mistakes. At every level of an agency, the leaders need to directly address the results. Everyone will see the rankings, so why not begin the dialogue with a frank message to employees from the top of the house? The message should touch on the positive signs from the rankings and reinforce the policies and programs in place that may be the reason for the progress. It is important to be honest about addressing the poor performing areas and commit to making things better. Those who run and hide or rationalize their poor results will certainly achieve similar or worse outcomes next year.

Engage the front lines to solve your problems. Use town halls, action-planning workshops and innovation/employee suggestion programs to collect ideas. Then take this feedback to develop a set of next steps, get stakeholder buy-in and set expectations for change. Even agencies with high rankings need to maintain the goodwill and improve. Just be sure to communicate the plan of action to your employees as soon as possible.

Make it happen! Follow through on your promises by being transparent with employees and take responsibility when you cannot take action on an idea. Given the current operating environment, you’ll undoubtedly need to maintain maximum flexibility. Your employees will be forgiving if you keep up with the communication and you trust them with the truth.

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