OPM survey shows feds feeling a bit better

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The Office of Personnel Management Monday released headline data from the 2015 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, showing a very slight increase in two key indices — employee engagement and global satisfaction.

Both indices rose by a single percentage point governmentwide, to 64 percent and 60 percent respectively. Though these changes “may appear to be small,” OPM Director Beth Cobert wrote in a blog post, they’re “statistically significant, and many individual agencies experienced larger gains.” The Office of Management and Budget, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development saw 5 percent increases in employee engagement since last year, the data shows. OMB also saw a 9 percent increase in the global satisfaction index.

These upticks, the agency said in a release, signal that federal employees are more engaged this year in their work, and “more satisfied with their jobs, their pay, and their organizations and that they are more likely to recommend their agency to others.” Specifically, the engagement score shows a turnaround, at least temporarily, from what marked a five-year low in employee engagement in 2014, with many in D.C. pointing fingers at sequestration and the 2013 shutdown as morale killers.

Behind the two headline data points, OPM said, “75 percent of responses to the individual survey questions were more positive than they were a year ago.”

“While there is still plenty of room for improvement, there are signs that the Administration’s focus on employee engagement is beginning to pay dividends for the workforce, and ultimately for our customers, the American people,” Cobert wrote.

A higher percentage of feds surveyed responded this year as well — 421,748 responses from 82 agencies, which equated to a 50 percent overall response rate, up 3 points from last year.

The agency releases the results of the FEVS every fall to give agency leaders a better idea of how their employees perceive their work so they can respond accordingly.

OPM also opened UnlockTalent.gov, a data visualization dashboard tool the agency launched with last year’s FEVS results, to the public Monday for the first time. The dashboard uses data from the FEVS and the Enterprise Human Resources Integration database, which provides information on federal workforce demographics.

According to the UnlockTalent.gov website, the public will only have access to the employee engagement and global satisfaction indexes, while federal employees can sign up with their government emails for a deeper look at the data.

Mallory Bulman — research director of the Partnership for Public Service, the nonprofit that puts out the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government ranking each year based on OPM’s data — said that while the data released Monday shows an “exciting” positive trend, it remains to be seen if the same holds in other categories.

“I’m really encouraged, both by the data that OPM has here as well as just the steps that they’re taking,” Bulman told FedScoop. “I think this is really exciting and an important step in terms of furthering employment engagement and satisfaction — giving managers these data in an easily accessible way.”

It’s hard to say what could be driving the upward trend without seeing all the data, Bulman said. But she suggested leadership improvements in the past year could be playing a major role in the change.

“We know leadership matters, and the more emphasis that agencies put on their leaders and invest in their leadership, the more I think we’ll see improvement,” she said.

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