What Can Agency Leaders Do to Improve Your Work Experience?

Federal employees consistently give low scores on feedback surveys in areas such as recruitment, training and recognition. What can agencies and managers do to improve federal employees’ overall work experience? A new report has some suggestions.

Federal employees consistently give agency leaders and managers low marks on feedback surveys in areas such as recruitment, training, and recognition. In 2014, for example, 60.2% of federal employees said they would be willing to recommend their agency is a good place to work. While this is arguably not a terrible score, it can obviously be much higher.

The Partnership for Public Service has released a new report which analyzes the data from the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® with respect to what the biggest problem areas are (as reported by federal employees) and what agency leaders can do to address them.

The report focuses on what it calls the “talent lifecycle,” which is the complete process of engaging with employees. This lifecycle has several stages, such as recruitment, awards and recognition, and promotions. The report provides suggestions at each stage of the process for both agencies and managers to use to improve the overall work experience from the employees’ perspective.

The table below offers a summary of the suggestions for each phase of the talent lifecycle from the report.

Suggestions for Agencies Suggestions for Managers

Use internships and other strategies to assess potential employees.

One of the best means of assessing and identifying top talent is through internships, where potential applicants can demonstrate their skills for a job and learn if the agency is a good fit. The agency, in turn, can have a chance to fully evaluate the strengths of the individuals. Likewise, other strategies, such as realistic job previews, can help to determine if there is a good match between the person and position.

Communicate a compelling vision.

Offer a strategic direction for the agency or team. Share stories about why the work matters and inspire the best to join. Connect personally with the new or potential employees and express to them why their role is meaningful to the mission.


Promote a culture where each person’s unique talents are understood and valued.

Have a clear understanding of the organization’s needs, employees’ skill, and the support systems to allow for agile matching and job movement, such as rotational opportunities.

Pay attention to your employees’ strengths and interests.

Ask employees how they feel about their work and how their skills are being used. If the response is negative, try to understand the problem and what you might be able to do about it. Consider making changes or offering a new assignment or responsibility.


Be a learning organization.

Provide the workforce with the knowledge and skills they need to do their jobs well through a variety of training options— virtual, on-demand, classroom instructor- led training, or communities of practice.

Be a teacher and a mentor.

Maximize the potential of employees by giving your time and advice, whether it is speaking at a training session, or identifying a unique training opportunity for an individual.


Make development a priority.

Equip leaders at all levels with the skills and time to coach employees.

Be a coach. Provide feedback through regular check-ins.

Advise employees on challenges and help them navigate the organization.


Recognize accomplishments frequently and formally through various channels.

Find ways to surface and honor achievements affecting the mission, strategic goals, or operations. Use non-monetary rewards, such as nominating employees for awards, to recognize good work. Consider creating awards for exemplifying the agency’s culture and values.

Say thank you and express appreciation in ways that are authentic.

Share a personal story about the employee’s accomplishments, or send a handwritten note with a simple and sincere thank you. This can go a long way. Acknowledge the work of employees when they put in extra effort and time to get the job done.


Define career paths clearly and fairly.

Give employees a sense of what unique opportunities might be available to them if they stay with the agency. If promotion is not feasible, provide coaching or career counseling.

Be tough yet tender.

Provide realistic feedback to employees. demand high performance and advance those who excel. Be understanding and helpful to those who need to transition to a new job or organization.

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.