November is just around the corner, and per the Oct. 4 OPM memo regarding the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results, that’s when you need to submit your overview approach. It’s requested that you also develop an action plan to improve the bottom 20 percent of the lowest scoring work units for a 20 percent positive impact over this year’s scores by the end of 2020.
As you approach this guidance, it’s worth considering both short- and long-term actions. OPM knows there is low-hanging fruit that can yield fast results, but they also know sustainable change takes time. Your immediate overview approach should be followed up quickly with the development of a full, comprehensive action plan to achieve sustainable changes for success.
In the accompanying guidance, if 35% or more of the employees answered unfavorably, OPM defines that as an area that needs improvement. However, if 65% or more answered favorably to an item, that indicates a strength.
Before you race forward, remember this famous quote: If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.
There are four key errors to avoid when using the results of the FEVS.
1) Being paralyzed by the scope of the task,
2) Jumping straight to conclusions and solutions without adequate analysis,
3) Focusing solely on individual scores without analysis of multiple related areas to uncover core issues, and
4) Being captive to one’s own perspective.
These errors can result in achieving no measurable improvement in the areas needed, or worse, negatively impacting your progress.
This is where bringing in an outside firm with expertise in change management, data analytics, and business process transformation can be of immense help in terms of labor, energy, and cost savings. Even more important, experienced professionals can guide you efficiently through the process of creating the FEVS action plan quickly to meet OPM guidance with a plan designed to increase employee engagement and performance. Plus, having a pro lead the effort provides staff with a level of confidence that managers and leadership are serious about taking action.
It’s critical to view FEVS scores from all angles—by year, group, topic, trends, weaknesses, and pockets of strength.
Analyzing your organization’s FEVS results is the first step. OPM does provide tools to help managers better understand the results. Trained human behavior and organizational development consultants can greatly enhance the value of the tools using proven methodology and years of experience, which can give them insight into the root causes of issues. With data analytics expertise and proprietary tools, they can also perform group-to-group and year-over-year comparisons and measure themes, trends, and topic areas such as engagement, leadership, and communication.
As the OPM guidance directs, managers need to dig deeper because scores don’t explain why employees respond to questions as they do. The reasons will not always be clear without more probing. Gaining an understanding of the root cause of workforce challenges and having targeted solutions for addressing issues is critical. You have to look at scores from multiple perspectives to not only uncover the challenges but also to see the pockets of strength that can be leveraged more broadly across your organization.
To gain a real view of the forest of issues, you have to get into the specifics, all the way down to the roots.
Focus groups and one-on-one interviews with staff allow you to have deep-dive discussions to get at the root causes of issues. Low morale, low engagement, and employee dissatisfaction may actually be driven by workload issues, management practices, lack of training or resources to effectively do a job, a skills or mission mismatch, ineffective hiring practices, or a lack of career paths and growth plans for employees.
Engaging neutral outside facilitators to conduct interviews and focus groups will allow participants to be more forthcoming with their input. Plus, facilitators are trained to know when and how to probe further or to redirect discussions in ways that can yield more fruitful insights. They can also provide an unbiased, comprehensive findings report, including potential improvement opportunities.
Focus on achievable actions and goals at all levels of your organization to ensure engagement and improvement.
To effectively engage with staff to make lasting improvements, it’s wise to take an agile approach—developing targeted action plans with specific goals and activities for your organization and offices or divisions. Working with employees at all levels, you should focus on challenging, yet achievable actions to ensure lasting change that results in:
- Improved morale and satisfaction with the work environment,
- Increased employee engagement and sense of commitment to the organization,
- Improved communications, collaboration, and working relationships between supervisors, leaders, and staff,
- Improved management and leadership practices promoting fairness, equity, and inclusion in the workforce, and
- Improved FEVS scores
If you are ready to engage an outside team, remember that Suntiva has done extensive analyses of FEVS results. We’ve helped government leaders and program staff understand how to analyze their results, do action planning and implementation, effectively communicate results, and develop and track performance metrics for improvement. We have a proven approach, proprietary toolset, and cadre of SMEs across the full spectrum, from analytics to employee communications to training and coaching.
In fact, Suntiva has helped government agencies make significant improvements in the FEVS scores, even double-digit increases. We have worked with many government agencies, including Best Places to Work HHS, NRC, and CFPB. Learn how we can apply best practices to your FEVS analysis and planning project.
Written by Wendy Myers