FEVS Results Show Declining Trends in Employee Satisfaction

OPM has released the results of the 2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, and they suggest declining trends are present among overall job satisfaction in the federal workforce.

The Office of Personnel Management has released the results from the 2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and a birds eye view of the results suggests that overall employee satisfaction has declined over previous years.

392,752 federal employees responded to this year’s survey. The survey examined a myriad of topics such as satisfaction with leadership, feeling like the work employees do is important, how well the government handles workplace diversity, and how all of these results break out across different agencies.

Some of the things one will immediately notice about the survey results are the overall trends highlighted in the results:

  • 96% of respondents said that when needed they are willing to put in extra effort to get the job done. This is the biggest positive response noted in the survey results.
  • On the negative side, over half of respondents said that pay raises depend on how well employees perform their jobs.
  • Looking at past survey results, 35 items were rated lower than in 2013, and going back to 2011, 64 items were rated lower. This shows declining trends exist in many areas.

What OPM calls the Global Satisfaction Index showed declines in three out of four of the areas it measures over the previous year. The Global Satisfaction Index captures four aspects of employee contentment: their job, their pay, their organization, and if they would recommend their organization as a good place to work.

The three areas that declined over 2013 were job satisfaction, organization satisfaction, and whether or not employees would recommend their organizations as good places to work. The one area that improved two percentage points over 2013 was pay satisfaction. One possibility for the improvement could be that 2014 was the first year federal employees saw a pay increase after three years of no raises.

Which agencies received the highest satisfaction ratings overall?

NASA was the leader in more than one category – it was rated most positively in the employee engagement section, the Global Satisfaction Index, and the New IQ (the concept that individual behaviors, repeated over time, form the habits that create the essential building blocks of an inclusive environment). Other agencies that ranked highly in these areas are the Federal Trade Commission, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Office of Management and Budget.

Which employees are most satisfied?

As we reported previously, millennials came in at the top of the list among age generations of most satisfied federal workers. Here are other groups that scored highest in overall job satisfaction:

  • Work location: Headquarters
  • Agency tenure: Less than 4 years
  • Job category: Economist, HR specialist, auditor

It’s also interesting to note that the results suggest that employees with a post-bachelor’s degree showed some of the highest overall satisfaction scores.

Others have picked up on the declining trend with federal employees’ satisfaction with their jobs. Jeff Neal, a retired HR officer with 33 years of experience with the government, wrote an interesting post on his blog analyzing the results as they relate to employees’ satisfaction with agency leadership.

Neal wrote:

“These numbers might lead someone to conclude that employees simply have poor opinions of their bosses, but the FEVS also includes questions regarding how employees view their supervisors and those numbers are significantly better. Some of the difference can be attributed to familiarity. Employees see and talk with their supervisors every day, but may rarely (or never) have a conversation with higher ranking leaders. Regardless of the reason, the fact is that employees are reporting they do not have great trust and confidence in their leaders and the numbers are heading in the wrong direction.”

Neal went on to say:

“A workforce that does not think much of its leaders can be pushed only so far. It will eventually have problems with productivity, recruiting high quality talent, customer service and other factors that are driven by employee engagement. Trust and confidence in leadership can also be a leading indicator that presages drops in other FEVS questions. If this trend continues, it is likely to drag all of the results even farther down. At some point, maintaining morale and productivity will become increasingly difficult. The downward spiral has to be stopped soon.”

Neal also included a number of detailed suggestions that he thinks agencies must begin using to start moving morale in the right direction which you can read in his post.

In doing our own informal surveys, FedSmith.com has found results that coincide with the declining satisfaction trends in the 2014 FEVS results. Take for instance a survey we ran earlier this year in which the overwhelming majority of respondents said that working for the government isn’t “cool” and that government work isn’t the best way to make a difference in the world: FedSmith.com Users Say Working for Government Isn’t ‘Cool’

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.