A GAO report has said that “constructive performance conversations” are the number one indicator of employee engagement at all DHS components while four other indicators vary among them.
GAO was performing the latest of many evaluations of management issues at DHS which have put the department near the bottom annually among comparable agencies in employee engagement rankings drawn from the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and in the Partnership for Public Service’s best places to work in government report.
In the 2019 FEVS, it said, DHS did achieve its benchmark of a 61 percent positive rating on the “employee engagement index” that OPM compiles based on responses to a number of questions—although that only returned the department to the level of 2010, the first year OPM started producing that index.
In a deeper look at the data, GAO found for example that a survey respondent who answered positively to the question “my supervisor provides me with constructive suggestions to improve my job performance,” would have, on average, an individual engagement score 14 percentage points higher than someone who did not answer positively.
It also found variation by component among the other top four indicators: career development and training, work-life balance, inclusive work environment, and communication from management. The latter was most consistently ranked the lowest of the five, but for example career development and training was ranked second at CIS, FEMA, ICE and CBP but only fourth at CISA, while inclusiveness was ranked second at CISA and TSA but only fifth at CBP and fourth at CIS, the Secret Service and ICE.
GAO said that while both DHS in general and its components individually have implemented steps to improve employee engagement, some elements are lacking such as outcome-based performance measures. It said the department agreed with a recommendation to address that issue as well as to make sure that components review and assess the results of their efforts.