Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS): Management in Government

January 6, 2015

In the first two blogs that I wrote on how to improve scores on the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, I indicated that there are two primary factors within the control of government managers that can drive their results on the survey. They are: 1) the way government is managed, and 2) the way the work is designed. Since I’ve written blogs on how to improve under both factors, I’m going to return to the first one again, because it is likely that over the next few years, most organizations will not have the time, energy, and political will to transform their organizations into teams of leaders. While I firmly believe that this is the way government will ultimately go, radical transformational changes likes this typically take decades to implement, and as we all know, the government rarely moves quickly to embrace change.

The way government is managed

As I stated in my first blog, 38% of those surveyed indicated that their senior leaders generated high levels of motivation and commitment. Although employees rated their immediate supervisors higher, on many of the most important and difficult supervisory tasks, there is still a long, long way to go, as shown below on the scores to the following questions:

managing government employees

So how can government supervisors manage better?

In my first blog, I provided a series of recommendations on how to improve your scores from a management perspective. In this blog, I’d like to address this issue by focusing on the ways employees want to be treated.

Simply put, in my experience, employees want to:

  • Be treated like adults
  • Be treated fairly
  • Know what’s going on and why
  • Have the chance to grow

While there are certainly other ways of looking at and improving employee satisfaction, by understanding this perspective, you will find that there are a number of relatively simple things you can do that will make a difference. Let’s look at each in more detail:

Be treated like adults

By this, I mean treating your employees as valued members of the organization, rather than as easily replaceable parts of a machine. It means saying “thank you” when they do a good job. It also means being honest and direct with them and always telling them the truth. None of these approaches are difficult or complicated, but unfortunately, far too many supervisors do not do this well.

Be treated fairly

This means treating everyone the same, regardless of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, etc. It also means treating people the same whether you like them or not, which is actually far more difficult to do. In other words, people should receive the appropriate appraisal, reward, promotion, etc., based on what they do, not on whom they know. The fact that many supervisors don’t do this well is highlighted in many of the responses to the questions of the FEVS… and that is why I strongly suggest that supervisors post employee performance, provide them with report cards, use spreadsheets, etc. – to ensure that people are both being treated fairly and see they are being treated fairly

Know what’s going on and why

The more people know what’s going on, the less time they will spend around the water cooler or sending text messages complaining about what management is or is not doing. In my experience, if people had access to the same information that management had, by and large they would make the same decisions. That is why I encourage all managers to be transparent. By this, I mean share the appropriate performance data with the employees and also let them know what is happening in the organization, both nationally and locally. After all, if employees understand the forces at play and the strategies being implemented to respond to them, they will be more trusting of management and less likely to assign insidious reasons for management’s actions.

Have the chance to grow

Everyone wants to get ahead. That’s simply human nature. Moreover, wouldn’t you want employees who strive to improve rather than merely stay in the same old job for decades? The point here is that good supervisors take an active role in helping their employees get ahead by working with them to build a strong Individual Development Plan (IDP), providing them with career counseling, letting them know what they need to do to improve, etc. Making such an improvement may result in some employees moving onward and upward in their careers, but others will take notice, and you will be inundated with other high potential people who will want to work for you.

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Managing government employees is important, and lessons from the FEVS can help inspire you to be a better manager. Learn more with these AMA resources and seminars.

About The Author

Stewart Liff is an HR, visual performance management and team development expert, and the president and CEO of the consulting company Stewart Liff & Associates. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including Managing Government Employees and A Team of Leaders.

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