How NIH Implemented Culture Change Using Data and Feedback

To get a pulse of employee sentiments across the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), supervisors rely on the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS). But it took managers weeks or even months to comb through the FEVS data. It was labor-intensive, time-consuming and costly. So Camille Hoover, Executive Officer and Associate Director for Management, turned to colleagues at NIDDK to help create a framework for using FEVS data effectively.

Her approach involves partnering analytics with the voice of the employee to inform leaders’ strategies and resource allocation, and to show where engagement activities are paying off. Her advice to agencies: Create a vision and identify core values. These can’t just be lofty goals that you hang on the wall. They must translate to the frontlines where employees do day-to-day work.

“The result was a masterpiece that brings to life the voice of the people,” Hoover said. The tool is called EVS ART, derived from EVS at the “heART” of a healthy organization. It was created for and by federal employees to enable leaders to drill down and compare data, increase awareness of engagement levels, and view FEVS scores in an actionable and targeted way.

The tool offers heat maps and color-coded indexes measurements of sub-offices to better understand employee sentiments, target areas for improvement and use OPM guidance for interpreting results. Managers can see suggested opportunities for improvement in areas where scores fall below a certain threshold.

Focus groups, town halls and ideation tools are some of the ways to have a two-way dialogue with employees about values and expectations. Hoover considers employees who directly report to her to be ambassadors on the frontline because she cannot possibly connect with every person.

Hoover shared an example of how EVS ART helped transform an underperforming agency that had a vote of no confidence across NIDDK. The organization is forward-facing and interfaces with all 1,300 employees at NIDDK. The corrective course of action included:

  • Instituting new standards and accountability measures for productivity.
  • Working with leaders to create a new vision and changing out leaders who did not embrace that vision.
  • Creating opportunities for new performers and ensuring mediocrity wasn’t acceptable, meaning there were consequences for poor performers in rank-and-file and management positions.
  • Ensuring that employees knew what changes were happening and why, and giving them opportunities to voice any concerns.

These changes transformed the organization, Hoover said. Complaints fell and partnerships with scientists began forming. EVS ART validated that the intervention was working.

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s guide “2020 Outlook: Human Resources Trends to Watch in Government.” Download the full guide here.

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