Shaping the Federal Workforce of 2025: Employee Engagement and Motivation

As you may have heard, TMGov recently joined the GovLoop family. So we’re excited to share information from their recent in-person training, “Shaping the Federal Workforce of 2025: Employee Engagement and Motivation.”

During the training, over 200 government human resources professionals gathered to discuss trends and opportunities to improve employee engagement and best practices for motivation.

In the first session, Dr. Robert Goldenkoff and Chelsea Gurkin from the Government Accountability Office shed light on the importance of having an engaged workforce. Engaged employees are:

  • Passionate about and energized by what they do.
  • Committed to the organization, the mission, and their job.
  • More likely to put forth extra effort to get the job done.

But government-wide engagement has declined since 2011. The OPM measures the Employee Engagement Index (EEI) in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS), with questions about leadership, supervision, and day-to-day work. Leadership is the worst scoring component, with negative response to statements like:

  • In my organization, senior leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment in the workforce.
  • My organization’s senior leaders maintain high standards of honesty and integrity.
  • Managers communicate the goals and priorities of the organization.
  • Overall, how good a job do you feel is being done by the manager directly above your immediate supervisor?
  • I have a high level of respect for my organization’s senior leaders.

So what can leaders do to improve? The next session, led by J. Peter Leeds and Julie Osowski of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, discussed three key components of employee engagement, and how to tackle them.

1. Job and work
Employees must be engaged in their actual work to be engaged (cue ‘duh’), but what makes a employee motivated to do their job? Skill variety, task completeness and significance, autonomy and feedback are important job characteristics that can help motivate or de-motivate employees. Managers and leaders need to work to ensure employees understand the value, impact and connection of their work to the agency’s mission. Managers should also have one-on-one conversations with their employees about their key motivation drivers and help ensure that employees are well-matched to their jobs.

2. Rewards and Reward System

For rewards to work best, employees first need to believe that:

  1. Effort leads to high performance
  2. High performance will likely garner rewards
  3. Rewards are valuable and worth the effort

When rewards were put to the test, only 23% had a high motivation score, meaning the rewards were not motivational. Ways to improve the rewards system are to administer the right rewards in the right way. Not everyone is motivated by the same rewards. Some people may be motivated by financial rewards (pay, incentives) while others are motivated by receiving recognition or praise. Managers should work to guarantee performance leads to rewards, tailor rewards for each of their employees, and ensure fairness and transparency.

3. Effective supervision

Supervisors play a critical role in employee engagement – 87% of engaged employees agree that their supervisor has good management skills, while 64% of unengaged employees disagreed*. GovLoop has a ton of free resources on management practices, but new managers can also benefit from attending leadership training.

Check out the training slides here for more details! And sound off in the comments – are you an engaged employee? Which of the engagement factors resonates most with you?

* 2005 Merit Principles Survey

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