November 7, 2014
The scores on the 2014 government-wide FEVS survey have been released. Over 392,752 federal employees completed the survey, and the continuing picture is not pretty. For example, only 55% indicated that they were satisfied with their organization while 51% thought the government had a results-oriented performance culture.
Looking at the overall trends in 2014, the scores on 34 items decreased from 2013, 60 from 2012, and 64 from 2011. The largest decrease was for the statement: “My organization’s senior leaders maintain high standards of honesty and integrity.”
Some of this is probably attributable to the highly-publicized scandals that have involved civil service employees in such organizations as the VA, the IRS, and the State Department. Part of it is also undoubtedly due to the polarization in government and the adverse impact it is having on the perception of government employees, the resources they are receiving, etc.
However, while scandals and political polarization always seem to ebb and flow and negatively impact on the civil service, to at least some extent, in my opinion, there are two more important factors that drive the results of this survey: 1) the way government is managed, and 2) the way the work is designed. This blog will address the first factor, while my next blog will address the second.
The Way Government Is Managed
At the senior level, less than half of those surveyed expressed confidence in their senior leadership. In fact, only 38 percent indicated that their senior leaders generated high levels of motivation and commitment. While employees rated their immediate supervisors higher, when you look at their responses to many of the most important and difficult supervisory tasks, a different picture emerges. For example, if you examine the trend on several issues that tend to shape employees’ perceptions:
These numbers are pretty ugly and by and large are getting worse.
So what can be done?
First of all, I start with the premise that it is unlikely that most agencies will have an enormous amount of money to throw at this issue. That is simply the present reality. However, there are several things that can be done which will collectively make a big difference. Let’s review a few of them now.
This always seems to be an issue, no matter where you are. The best way to handle this is to develop and maintain a two-way communication strategy that shares information in a whole-brain manner. After all, you don’t want your employees spending an inordinate amount of time griping because they don’t know and/or understand what is going on. Moreover, by making a conscious effort to both transmit and receive information, you will be in a better position to know what your employees are thinking and feeling and be able to make adjustments when necessary.
Here are some concrete steps you can take which will reduce some of the frustration and discontent among the troops:
A “turned on” workforce is what everyone strives for, but since many government employees don’t feel that way, more needs to be done in this area. Here are some steps you can take to address this issue:
Most people want to be part of a winning organization. They want to work for an organization where performance is valued and people are treated fairly. In order to accomplish this, here are some things you can do:
These are some relatively simple but effective actions you can take to improve your results under the current way that work is designed. In my next blog, I’ll discuss a new way to design work, which will give you an even greater bang for your buck.
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