Response rates to the annual government-wide Federal Employee Viewpoints Survey have been falling in recent years—often attributed to “survey fatigue” among employees—but a recent MSPB publication says that there are lessons to be learned from the much higher rate at the VA.
The MSPB said that in contrast to the 39 percent response rate overall among large agencies the VA—where response rates had been even lower in prior years—boosted its rate to 66 percent by combining the FEVS with its own internal survey. VA officials told MSPB that the “total survey was perceived by employees as being more personally relevant.”
Further, because the VA survey “allows drill-downs to the organizational level, leaders receive localized, relevant data that provides a good foundation for action planning” and performance evaluations of SES members there include whether the data from the AES were shared throughout the organization and whether the data were used to make changes.
“We recognize that not all agencies will be able to implement VA’s strategy because they do not have the resources or expertise to conduct their own internal surveys,” MSPB said, but “there are techniques agencies can use to try to replicate VA’s results while participating in the OPM-administered FEVS.”
Those include: communicating widely and often in support of survey participation; sharing data at the lowest organizational level possible while still protecting employee confidentiality; acting on results quickly; getting employees involved in action planning and implementation; holding leaders accountable for change; and making improvements visible.
“High response rates help agencies ensure that survey results truly represent employee perceptions throughout the organization. The first step to getting there is for agency leaders to demonstrate that they actually value that feedback,” it said.
The FEVS, normally conducted in mid-year, has been postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic.