Over the past few weeks, scores from the latest round of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FedView) were released by OPM. These results will not only help inform agency priorities for 2013, but also serve as the basis for the much-anticipated 2012 Best Places to Work Index.
Many executives follow their agency’s placement on this stack ranking, which can have a noticeable impact both on employee engagement and candidate attraction. Strong or improving scores can bolster an agency’s brand and reputation, and serve as a badge of honor for employees at all levels of the organization. Declining scores on the other hand can confirm employee suspicions of worsening conditions, and encourage top talent to explore job opportunities elsewhere.
Though the index is widely followed, relatively few are clear about how these rankings are calculated, or what they actually show. The Partnership for Public Service derives the index using three FedView Survey questions that indicate employees’ job satisfaction, organization satisfaction and agency advocacy. While these questions are helpful indicators, they are more aligned with outcomes than inputs – and are not instructive about what agencies can do to improve their scores.
To better understand the top drivers of the Best Places to Work Index – CEB used regression analysis of the 2011 FedView Survey results to uncover which workplace attributes have the greatest impact on agency rankings. After assessing the impact of each workplace attribute on the index, a few imperatives stood out as having an outsized influence on index scores.
1. Recognize Work Unit and Agency Accomplishments
Perceptions of agency mission success and the quality of work completed by an individual’s work unit have the strongest impact on employee satisfaction. Low scores in these areas do not necessarily mean that agencies are missing their goals – but could be a result of limited visibility into work unit or agency successes. FedView results suggest that this lack of transparency may be widespread across the public sector. According to the survey, half of Federal employees are not satisfied with the information they receive from management on what’s going on in their organization, while a third do not agree that managers evaluate organizational progress toward meeting its goals.
To ensure that employees at all levels are aware of agency accomplishments – managers and leaders alike must recognize and share the successes of their own work unit, as well as those taking place across the organization. Everyone likes to feel like they’re part of the winning team – and highlighting these achievements can pay large dividends in employee morale.
2. Solicit Upward Feedback
Employee involvement in the decisions that affect their work is another top driver of agency rankings. Involving employees in decision-making does not mean catering to their every wish – but does entail proactively asking for employee opinions, and acknowledging and empathizing with their perspectives. Since some employees are more reluctant to share their opinions than others, tapping into direct report insights may require proactive effort. Equally important to asking for feedback is a manager’s receptivity to the feedback provided. FedView results suggest that there is room for improvement in many managers’ listening skills, as one in four employees do not agree that their manager listens to what they have to say.
As workloads increase and resource constraints intensify, managers will increasingly be tempted to make quick decisions and ask questions later. Though soliciting direct report feedback can lengthen the decision-making process – benefits such as surfacing risks, improving decision-making and increasing employee engagement can more than make up for the extra time spent.
3. Reinforce Workplace Inclusion
Manager/supervisor ability to work well with employees of different backgrounds also proved highly influential in agency scores. While agencies have traditionally focused diversity efforts on getting diverse talent in the door, CEB research shows that workplace inclusion actually has a greater impact on employee engagement and satisfaction than workforce diversity alone.
As organizations continue to refine diversity and inclusion strategic plans stemming from Executive Order 13583 – it is important not to discount the importance of workplace inclusion. CEB research demonstrates that investments in workplace inclusion need not be costly to be effective. Simple practices such as assessing job candidates on inclusion competencies or amplifying returns on diversity training by reinforcing these lessons across the employee lifecycle cost little, but can make big strides in building an inclusive culture.
The Best Places to Work Index is a useful tool that enables agencies to track improvement or erosion in employee morale. However, it is all too common to see agencies miss out on the value of these rankings – with perennial low scorers dismissing the validity of the index, or perennial high scorers using the scores for self-congratulation only. When agencies fail to reflect on why their scores go up or down, then the usefulness of this ranking system is lost. Like any metric found on a management dashboard, the Index should be used to monitor progress over time, and to help agencies evaluate where they have been, and what progress still needs to be made. Only then will agencies become and remain a Best Place to Work.