Federal Manager's Daily Report

Federal employees need to see that management is using their feedback on the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey is to improve their workplace as OPM urges, a white paper from the National Academy of Public Administration says.

The white paper, one of a series emerging from the good government group’s initiative to improve government performance, notes that one of the highest negative responses to the annual survey involves whether employees think the results of the survey will be used to make their agency a better place to work.

“This item should be carefully monitored. No agency should be telling its employees they want to hear what employees have to say and then leave them feeling they have dropped their perceptions down a well with no audible splash,” the white paper says. ‘Using FEVS results as a frame of reference when rolling out even a modest management improvement initiative can illustrate that agency leadership takes the survey and employees’ viewpoint seriously.”

It adds that support from senior leadership is essential. “Expecting a supervisor to hold a work unit meeting, distribute detailed FEVS reports for the unit, discuss the results, and plan follow up action without some training and/or onsite facilitation is unlikely to be effective, especially if employees have indicated the supervisor has shortcomings. As a consequence, employee interest may wane quickly and even put future response rates at risk.”

One area to tread carefully, it adds, is using survey results in an individual’s performance appraisal. “Negative findings that could lead to discipline or adverse actions should always be corroborated . . . Sadly, examples of vindictive employee behavior do occur occasionally. Further, developments and senior management action that might lead to the FEVS being perceived as the instrument of ‘witch hunts’ within an agency could have a deleterious effect on employee participation,” it says.