Communicating your employee engagement efforts: Lessons learned from HHS

By Cameron Kober | February 13, 2020

Right now across the federal government, agency leaders are identifying what employee engagement priorities they hope to focus on this year. Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results and the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® rankings are fresh on the mind and leaders are forming action items in response to the data.

Many staff don’t realize their agency is working to improve the employee experience

Unfortunately, even though agencies make significant efforts to improve the employee experience, many agency leaders don’t effectively communicate those efforts back to employees.

This is a significant issue across the federal government—only 37% of FEVS respondents reported they feel the results of the survey will be used to make their agency a better place to work.

Department of Health and Human Services has found solutions to this challenge

Over the last few years HHS has implemented a mantra of “you spoke, we listened, this happened,” which they highlight with employees throughout the year. James Egbert, branch chief for human capital strategy, explained their process.

“One of the first things we do is to outline a plan to send regular ‘pulse’ emails to all employees. Last year, in addition to communications at the division level, we sent 10 departmental messages before, during and after the FEVS survey was available.”

The department also established a FEVS/Engagement program team made up of individuals throughout HHS. Several internal communications experts support this team’s work in disseminating agency priorities, informing employees about activities and demonstrating the results of their efforts.

Before implementing efforts, leadership should consider a communication strategy. In it, they should identify which moments during the year they should highlight their efforts and how they will share that information. Care should be taken to appropriately remind employees about their efforts around the time they take the FEVS.

Egbert says HHS has identified creative ways to discuss the survey and the agency’s engagement priorities. In addition to emails, they post frequent reminders on their intranet and share videos from leadership that discuss engagement achievements.

He also stressed that divisions, organizations and offices have unique cultures and, as such, need to craft messages that work in that culture.

“In one organization with many employees geographically dispersed, a brief, yet fun, FEVS key term crossword puzzle might work well to get employees thinking about participating in the upcoming FEVS. In another organization, sharing an infographic about survey input confidentiality might be more appropriate in mustering higher levels of participation.”

The takeaway here is that communications efforts have both a high-level theme for the department or agency, such as the “you spoke, we listened, this happened” campaign, while also promoting creative lower-level campaigns that are well received in that sub-culture. Both work together to help increase FEVS participation.

Regardless of how the message is sent, employees need to know that their leaders care. Maintaining this as the driving message will be essential in agency efforts.

The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings are created in partnership with the Boston Consulting Group. For more information on how to use the rankings to improve the employee experience at your agency contact Cameron Kober at ckober@ourpublicservice.org.


Cameron Kober