Your employees probably don’t realize what you have done to engage them
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Your employees probably don’t realize what you have done to engage them

April 8, 2019 | Updated on February 28, 2022

During a recent training I facilitated on employee engagement, I asked participants a simple question: How has your agency’s leadership responded to the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey?

Their answers were pessimistic. “In my opinion, leadership doesn’t care about us at all,” one participant said.

“We take the survey every year, but nothing ever changes,” said another. I didn’t want them to get too frustrated so early in the session, so I changed the subject.

Later, I asked them the same thing but rephrased the question a bit. “What activities are happening at your agency to improve employee engagement?”

Their responses changed dramatically. One participant mentioned a new mentoring program that helped him learn about available career opportunities. Another talked how top employees were being recognized for their hard work. With a slight reframing of the question, participants painted a completely different picture of what life at their agencies was like.

It was clear leaders in their agency were paying attention to the survey results and trying to respond—but because they did not explicitly connect new initiatives to the feedback in the survey, these employees were left feeling like responding to the annual survey had little effect.

This is happening across government. Last year, only 37 percent of government employees responded positively to question 41 on the FEVS, which asks, “Do you believe the results of this survey will be used to make your agency a better place to work?” It’s possible not all leaders are using FEVS data to improve their agencies, but I would be willing to bet that the number is higher than 37 percent.

The FEVS is going to be administered to employees soon. Now is the perfect time to start explaining to employees how you responded to last year’s survey results and the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® rankings, produced by the Partnership for Public Service and Boston Consulting Group.

When communicating your efforts to employees, highlight as much data as possible to emphasize that you have responded, and to show how those efforts have paid off to make the workplace better as a result.

Ideally, senior leadership should lead out on communicating these efforts, so employees can see that employee engagement is a priority and leaders want to be held accountable for the results.

Don’t be afraid to promote your efforts to respond to the FEVS and improve employee engagement. Failing to do this will only lead to further disengagement, fewer people responding to the annual survey and consequently less-valuable results overall because too few agency employees were represented.

If leaders have tried to improve engagement, it’s okay for them to toot their own horn. That said, they need to be humble enough to acknowledge there is still a long way to go—if that’s the case in their agencies. Only through this process of leaders responding to feedback, communicating what they’ve done and genuinely seeking more input from employees can you start to see a change in engagement.

Cameron Kober is a manager with the Partnership for Public Service, where he designs and delivers trainings that help agencies improve employee satisfaction.

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