OPM survey raises management questions

Friday - 7/23/2010, 4:27pm EDT

Tim McManus, vice president for education outreach, Partnership for Public Service

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We've been telling you about the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey recently released by OPM.

A variety of groups and organizations are now using the data to put together their own reports and analysis, and the Partnership for Public Service is no exception.

Tim McManus, vice president for education outreach at the Partnership, explains they use this as a basis for their ratings and rankings while creating their Best Places to Work report.

He says the survey contained both good and bad news about how feds feel when it comes to, well, being feds.

"90 percent of the 250,000 federal employees that completed the [survey] said that they think their work is important. That, to me, really satisfying and gratifying. [We] talk a lot about the mission and that, in order to get people in the government, they have to feel like they're making a difference and we have to create that line of site to the mission. . . . 90 percent said they believe their work is important. That, to me, was a good thing."

In addition, 56 percent said they had a high level of respect for agency leadership. McManus said, while this indicates that only a little over half who took the survey feel this way, the overall number has gone up, which is a good thing.

"Agency leadership has been the key driver to employee satisfaction. So, again, if they feel like their agency has a vision, if they respect their agency leadership, they're more apt to be satisfied with their job, their work, their pay and everything else. I would hope that we might see some overall improvement across the board in Best Places to Work scores because of that."

He didn't find all of the information in the survey to be positive, however. When it came to the numbers regarding pay and performance and merit pay, just over 26 percent saw a link between pay and performance.

"The fact that, governmentwide, basically one quarter of federal employees saw the link between pay for performance and that their raises were dependent on performance -- that's a little bit troubling."

McManus says he also was a bit worried about the numbers involving telework and telework initiatives within the federal government.

"35 percent of those under 25 were satisfied with telework. If you look at that, that's only one in three, so it's still pretty low. Across all government, it was 38. So, a little bit higher, but still not substantially higher. More importantly, one of the data points that caught my eye was that a quarter of the 250,000 {surveyed} said that they didn't telework because it wasn't allowed."

Besides that, though, almost 60 percent said that they were able to take advantage of some sort of alternative work schedule, and McManus thinks this is a good thing.

He says looking at both telework and alternative work schedules together paints a more accurate picture of what's going on in federal offices. Knowing this, he adds, could foster positive changes where needed.

"Alternative work schedules are more available to people, more people are using them, because it's something managers are more comfortable with. They know that on that Friday, every other week, you're simply not going to be in the office, but you're not expected to work."

Many managers, he adds, are more comfortable with this than telework because they can't physically see -- and check up on -- employees when they telecommute.

McManus says the survey is a good indicator of many human resources factors that federal employees and managers have to deal with every day. He also says that the Best Places to Work rankings will be released in late August or early September.

Email the author of this post at dramienski@federalnewsradio.com