OPM survey: Federal IT employees pessimistic

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In the shadow of highly touted improvements on governmentwide employee engagement and satisfaction, the Office of Personnel Management’s 2015 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey report reveals a grim portrait of IT and technology occupations in the federal government.

While their engagement score increased by a percentile in this year’s survey, the scores for IT specialists in areas like recruitment, retention, development and knowledge management were mostly lower than those of other occupations with similar staffing gaps. The FEVS report, released Tuesday, explains that because of this, IT specialists “may require additional attention” from management.

Likewise, while federal personnel in STEM occupations — that is, jobs related to science, technology, engineering and math — generally had better outlooks on their employment than their non-STEM counterparts, the report found that “employees in technology occupations tend to provide fewer positive ratings” than those in science, engineering and math.

Speaking with the press about the FEVS results, acting OPM Director Beth Cobert told reporters despite the negative trend, this finding gives agencies an opportunity to correct the problem.

“I think one of the values of a survey like this is it allows us to look not just at agencies but to look at occupations across agencies,” Cobert said. “The challenges around recruiting and bringing in the right IT talent — IT overall and within the cyber world — is certainly something this survey highlights and is something we’re working on.”

This is something challenging agencies governmentwide, the acting director said, through things like the president’s Smart IT Delivery initiative, the emphasis on the United States Digital Service and the support of U.S. CIO Tony Scott , who is “leading the cybersecurity sprint and making sure that we have the critical talent we need.”

“This helps us understand the problem; it doesn’t give us the answers to the problem,” Cobert said. “That’s the work for all of us to do.”

Elsewhere, the survey depicted fairly positive results, with the employee engagement and global satisfaction indices both growing by a single percentage point governmentwide, to 64 percent and 60 percent respectively, since last year — a “statistically significant” increase, Cobert said.

But even in areas like the leadership component score of the engagement index, the acting director said there’s room for improvement.

“We have more work to do,” she said. “The leadership component of the employee engagement index has historically been low and generally trending downward over the years.”

While that overall category did see a 1 percent bump since last year, Cobert said agency scores vary widely from 75 percent to the low of 38 percent within the Department of Homeland Security, which OPM staff said is large enough to bring the overall score down significantly.

“It highlights the need for tailored solutions to respond to each agency’s unique challenges,” she said, something the FEVS is meant to help agency leaders do.

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Beth Cobert, cybersecurity workforce, Government IT News, Office of Personnel Management (OPM), STEM, workforce
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