Four tips to make employee engagement a year-round priority

By Cameron Kober | February 14, 2019

We know how it goes. Every year, you receive your Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results in the fall and your Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® rankings, produced by the Partnership for Public Service and Boston Consulting Group,  in the winter. So, you start the new year with renewed energy to improve engagement in your office by convening a committee to address those challenges. But then it takes all spring to identify priorities, and it will only be a few more months before your employees take the FEVS all over again. Before you know it, you are only a few weeks away from receiving a whole new data set that outlines new challenges, and you haven’t been able to implement any of your plans.

It’s a vicious cycle, a dissatisfaction “machine” if you will. 

So how do you find a way out of this never-ending loop?  

Our new “Engage Against the Machine” column will help. Every month, it will offer best practices for changing your organization’s culture and maintaining employee satisfaction, even during challenging times.  

To get your 2019 employee engagement plans off on the right foot, here are four suggestions for responding to last year’s Best Places to Work rankings.  

1. Use the data to set priorities: The Partnership divides the FEVS data into 10 category scores—but that’s not all you should focus on. Dive deep into the data, all the way to the individual responses, to understand the nuances of the employee experience. Hold focus groups, conduct interviews and send out pulse surveys to employees throughout the year to gain a more precise understanding of the challenges your workforce faces.

2. Identify what outcomes you want to achieve: Don’t jump right in to fix problems you find. First determine what success looks like. Set specific goals to strive for and determine how you will measure success. If you don’t, you won’t know if you achieve what you intended.

3. Involve employees in building out initiatives: You can’t successfully engage employees if you don’t gather their feedback on your ideas. Also, make sure your staff knows that your actions are a direct response to what the FEVS data revealed. It’s a surefire way to demonstrate to employees their opinions matter, and they are likely to factor that in the next time they take the annual survey.

4. Stick with it: Bill Gates once said, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years.” Changing the culture takes time. Depending on what’s in your FEVS data, it might be necessary to adjust your strategy every year. That being said, you should still pick certain areas you want to focus on for the next few years and stick with them. Monitor changes and adjust or set new goals along the way.

It can feel like an insurmountable task to fully engage your staff. But the American public needs a federal workforce that is enthusiastic about doing their work.  

You don’t have to go it alone. The Partnership for Public Service has years of experience helping agencies with each step of this process and is here to support you in your efforts. Our belief is that through a dedicated approach predicated on these four strategies you really will start to engage against the machine.  

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


Cameron Kober