OPM sharpens mandatory employee viewpoint survey questions

The Office of Personnel Management is refining the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey to ask stronger, more relevant and less ambiguous questions.

OPM issued a proposed rule on Feb. 8 detailing and seeking comments on the final list of 11 questions that are required by law to be answered in the survey.

These 11 questions were “selected based on adherence to and measurement of the areas in the statute,” the proposed rule stated. “The identified questions exhibit appropriate properties as metrics as reflected through psychometric analysis and are clear and unambiguous in nature.”

FEVS will not be reduced to just 11 questions, as agencies can ask their employees to address specific areas in the survey related to the department.

But under this proposed rule, OPM wants to get down to a better set of questions that address leadership, management and employee satisfaction.

Comments are due by April 8.

Among the new, more focused questions are ones like:

  • My work unit has the job-relevant skills necessary to accomplish organizational goals.
  • How satisfied are you with your involvement in decisions that affect your work?
  • The people I work with cooperate to get the job done.
  • In my work unit, differences in performance are recognized in a meaningful way.
  • I know how my work relates to the agency’s goals.

OPM has been conducting the FEVS since 2007 after Congress included a provision in the 2006 Defense authorization bill.

After several years of troubling results, federal employees in 2015 were more optimistic and overall satisfied with their jobs.

But through these new questions, OPM hopes to drill down deeper into the optimism and concerns employees have.

Over the last year, a cross-agency task force made up of survey experts from agencies such as the departments of Defense, Interior and Veterans Affairs, as well as the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, reviewed FEVS through a “stepwise process” of data analysis, stakeholder engagement and expert opinions to improve the mandatory questions.

A group of OPM psychologists proposed this final set of questions that are open for public comment.

This isn’t the first time OPM has sought to improve and evolve the employee survey.

Since 2010, the annual survey has gone from high-level data to more specific information that OPM hopes drives real change.

In 2013, for instance, OPM produced more than 12,000 component-level reports. By 2014, the number increased to 21,000. Last year, OPM provided even more data to agencies, including a New IQ score, which measures employees’ sense of inclusion in their workplaces — meaning how fair, open, cooperative, supportive and empowering they perceive their workplaces to be.

The changes to FEVS come as part of a broader effort by OPM to move agencies toward a human capital framework that is more agile and focuses on overarching concepts. The framework would replace the human capital assessment accountability framework, which OPM first proposed in 2011 and the initial draft came out in 2013.

“The Human Capital Framework (HCF) is a framework that integrates four human capital systems —Strategic Planning and Alignment, Talent Management, Performance Culture, and Evaluation,” OPM stated in the proposed rule. “These systems define good practices for effective and efficient human capital management and support the steps involved in the planning and goal setting, implementation, and evaluation of human capital initiatives in the federal government.”

OPM wants agencies to integrate human capital management plans into strategic plans, budget and acquisition planning, as well as have metrics and performance targets.

Additionally, the human capital management plans should help OPM and OMB decide on governmentwide priority goals.

“Finally, the proposed framework will include resources that can assist in the development, implementation and monitoring of sound strategic human capital practices,” the proposed rules stated. “The purpose of these proposed changes is to focus the regulations on the specific requirements that are the most significant for establishing and maintaining efficient and effective human capital management systems now and into the future, while providing agencies with flexibility in determining how they will accomplish their human capital activities.”

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