Feds Speak Out: Work Is Good, Management Of Reward System And Poor Performers Not

OPM just released the results from the 2004 Federal Human Capital Survey, which reveals that feds think the work they do is important, but that excellent performance is not recognized and poor performers aren’t dealt with.

The results of the 2004 Federal Human Capital Survey could be construed as a call for the implementation of a pay-for-performance system that rewards excellent performance and effectively deals with poor performers. Of course, one question that federal employees and unions have regarding the new pay for performance reforms proposed for the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security is can the right system be put in without sacrificing long-held employee protections in the process. In fact, some union leaders maintain that there is nothing wrong with the current system, only the implementation of that system by poor managers.

While that debate won’t likely be answered for several years, the survey results may illustrate that federal employees are ready for at least some changes that will lead to excellent performers being rewarded and poor performers being penalized more often.

The survey results, released Thursday by OPM Acting Director Dan Blair, illustrated that federal employees believe the work they perform is important, but indicated that the system lacks an adequate link between performance and pay.

“There is a strong perception that excellent performance is not properly recognized and that action is not taken against poor performers. And employees answering the survey said federal agencies have more work to do to increase employees’ confidence in the leadership they receive,” Blair said.

Among the results:

• 91% of federal employees believe they do important work.
• 71% get a sense of personal accomplishment from their work.
• 71% of employees said they are not considering leaving their organization within the next year.
• 64% of workers would recommend their organization as a good place to work, an increase of four percentage points from 2002.

Federal employees do not believe high performance is properly recognized nor are steps taken to deal with poor performers.

• Only about one-fourth of employees say steps are taken to deal with poor performers.
• 43% believe high performing employees are recognized or rewarded on a timely basis.
• Although nearly 80% of employees say they are held accountable for results, less than a third of federal workers see differences in performance being recognized in a meaningful way.
• Only 42% say awards depend on how well employees perform their jobs.

Tracking consistently with the results of the 2002 Federal Human Capital Survey and other survey data, federal employees believe that the federal government offers a good benefits package.
• Almost 90% of employees are satisfied with paid vacation time and sick leave.
• A clear majority of employees are satisfied with health benefits and life insurance programs; satisfaction with both increased 6 percentage points since 2002.
• About half of employees are satisfied with their alternative work schedules.
• About one-third of employees are satisfied with long term care insurance, which is a relatively new benefits program and showed the largest improvement (12 percentage points) of any survey question since 2002.

“We are proud to report that our employees’ commitment to the mission of working for America is as strong as ever. Ninety one percent of federal employees believe the work they do is important. This proves our employees are dedicated to providing the services this nation wants and deserves.”

Nearly 150,000 employees responded to the 88-question survey that asked for employees’ views on leadership quality, performance culture, and talent capacity within the federal workforce. There was a 54-percent response rate to the survey.

This is the second Federal Human Capital Survey OPM has conducted on the workforce. Along with the data from the 2002 survey, this is a tool OPM can use to monitor human capital management results, focus on key human capital management systems, and develop common metrics. The information will be provided to individual agencies and support agency-specific analysis and application of results.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47