OPM Offers Guide to Interpreting Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey Results

The Office of Personnel Management has released guidelines for agencies to use for analyzing and acting on the results from the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

As of 2010, agencies are required to submit Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey action plans to OPM and OMB. The purpose of the plans is to keep OPM and OMB in the know about how each agency is working to act on its survey results.

The deadline for action plan submissions this year is January 15, 2013. However, agencies are encouraged to submit plans before then, especially if the plans contain items that are budget sensitive.

To facilitate the development of the action plans within agencies, OPM has put out the following guide to analyzing the survey results and developing the action plans.

Analyzing Your Results

  • Look for patterns in the survey data

o Identify survey questions (or sets of survey questions in a specific area) that notably differ from your agency or organization’s scores in past years.  Are these trends occurring in certain sub units (including those with similar functions like regional offices) but not others?  What practices have been adopted that might explain these improvements or declines?

o Identify areas or survey items that notably differ from  the government-wide comparison, especially for similar units or units with similar types of employees

  • In what areas do the agency or key sub-components do the worst compared to other similar agencies?  What other agencies are worth studying to try to find better practices to adopt?
  • In what areas do the agency or key sub-components do the best compared to other similar agencies?  Is this a strength worth celebrating?

o Identify areas or survey items that notably differ from relevant private sector comparison or benchmarking

  • Brainstorm about why these survey items or areas differ.
  • Determine whether the discrepancies indicate a problem, a job well done, or an issue that is inherent to the government and therefore may be impractical to change.
  • Look for those survey items with very high percentage favorable and unfavorable scores, and note the change from prior years

o These will reveal your agency’s strengths and areas for improvement

o It is important to identify areas for improvement, develop and then execute a plan for improvement.

o Look at areas of strength, especially among sub-components, and opportunities to try to replicate and spread the successful practices, leading to better scores.

  • Identify the causes behind the scores – numbers only tell you WHAT an employee feels not WHY he or she feels that way.  Hold focus groups or follow-up pulse surveys to better understand causal factors behind your survey results, and, once found, engage the employees and leadership in developing and implementing action plans to improve the results.

Creating the Action Plan

  • Based on the patterns identified in the FEVS data, you will need to narrow your focus for action planning.  Pick a few areas on which to focus in the coming year.

o Action steps should be realistic; it is important not to over-commit to organizational change as you are likely to under-deliver by doing so

o Action steps should be within a manageable scope and timeframe

o Action steps should include measures of success and a method for tracking progress.

  • Network and benchmark with other CHCO/Department Heads.  Consider looking to agencies that are:

o From similar fields/ industries

o Similar in size

o Like-minded in mission

o Similar in employee skills and demographics

o Faced with similar challenges

  • Engage with the leadership, managers, and supervisors
    • Strive to share the results with leadership in a thoughtful, yet timely manner so they can begin to engage in results and action planning discussions.
    • HR staff should facilitate the action planning process, but identify and empower managers and supervisors outside of human resources to lead this effort so it reflects the issues they face day to day
  • Ensure your FEVS Action Plan team/staff is effective and well-trained

o The team should be representative of the organization and familiar with the organizational impact of the issues identified in the Action Plan

o OPM offers an FEVS Action Planning 101 training

o OPM also offers phone, e-mail, and in-person action planning consultation

  • Encourage your FEVS Action Plan team to meet regularly and communicate year-round

o The team should treat the FEVS Action Plan as a living document

o The Action Plan should be updated on a regular basis and reviewed, potentially at your agency’s HR STAT reviews if appropriate

  • Encourage your FEVS Action Plan team to conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis around every issue/topic of focus

o Become familiar with the internal strengths and weaknesses associated with each topic area of interest

o Try to reflect these factors in your Action Plan by incorporating steps for enhancing strengths and opportunities while minimizing opportunities and threats.

  • When crafting the Action Plan itself, be sure that the template is completed with as much specificity and detail as possible

o The Action Plan should be a “road map,” so that anyone new to the Action Planning team could easily understand the issue being addressed and steps that need to be taken

  • The Action Plan is not the end of the process, but the beginning.  Implement and adjust as needed, along the way.  Get started and then get better.
  • Supplement the FEVS with other survey tools for faster feedback, as warranted. Make sure to check back on improvements (or lack thereof) in the focal areas.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.