Employee Viewpoint Survey reveals warts and all to federal managers

(This story was updated on Sept. 5, 2014 at 6:40 a.m. to include comments from Jonathan Foley, OPM Director for Planning and Policy Analysis.)

The Office of Personnel Management has picked apart the results of the annual Employee Viewpoint Survey to such a fine level that it promises to make the problems in federal offices painfully clear. In the past week, the personnel agency has distributed individual reports to 20,000 managers governmentwide, offering an unprecedented level of specificity on employees’ satisfaction.

While OPM has not made the survey data public, it has posted the data to a new Web-based dashboard to make it easier for managers to analyze the results. The dashboard is available only to agency leaders and managers, according to OPM.

“With a click of the wrist, thousands of pieces of data are available to managers,” said OPM Director Katherine Archuleta in a speech at a conference of federal human resources professionals earlier this week.

She has used the tool to compare divisions within agencies, according to her staff, with an eye towards employee engagement and retention.

The dashboard, Archuleta predicted, “is going to help managers create and maintain a culture of employee engagement and inclusion.”

Past results were too general to offer much guidance to individual managers, offering “just a little bit of information” and “opinions,” she said.

The new dashboard, UnlockTalent.gov, as seen in an OPM promotional video.

Click to view larger image.

The dashboard is one of several new tools that federal managers can use to make sense of their results, according to Jonathan Foley, OPM Director for Planning and Policy Analysis.

It includes interactive graphics, data on workforce location and occupation. Foley says future versions will be even more granular.

In most cases, managers with poor showings should take them as “red flags,” but not jump to conclusions, said OPM’s Justin Johnson, who is executive director of the Chief Human Capital Officers Council.

But he offered one example in which it was glaringly clear that a manager had problems in his office.

“This is an office with 50 people in it. Two supervisors are split about evenly. They do the exact same work,” he said, without mentioning the exact office.

“For the first time, they were able to see the results for each supervisor, rather than the whole office. It’s just striking,” he said. “They’ve got one team that is positive in every dimension. The manager listens, treats employees with respect. The other is the opposite.”

The Employee Viewpoint Survey gauges federal employees’ satisfaction with their work lives, with topics ranging from work-life balance to pay and office conditions. Many questions delve into employees’ opinions of their supervisors, asking whether managers treat employees fairly, recognize good work and appropriately handle poor performers.

Last year, the survey revealed growing dissatisfaction among federal employees, particularly with their pay and resources. Notably, OPM had administered the survey before the October 2013 government shutdown. The agency distributed the 2014 survey to employees in late April.

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