PSA is One of the Best Places to Work – It’s Official

Rebecca Childress, Senior Management and Program Analyst, Office of Human Capital Management

Aren’t you ready to finally read something about Federal Government employment, specifically here at PSA, that’s positive? Here it is: the results of the Federal

Best Places to Work

Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) published in November 2012 by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The 2012 Best Places to Work Rankings, which are based on the FEVS data, were published in December by the Partnership for Public Service, “a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to revitalize our Federal Government by inspiring a new generation to serve and by transforming the way government works”.

For the first time ever, OPM also released sub-agency data to the Partnership for Public Service, allowing them to rank sub-agencies or components within larger agencies and compare them to each other. For years, PSA has awaited these comparisons to see how we compare to other, similarly situated agencies. So I’ll bet that you’re thinking the same thing I was thinking: how’d we do? The quick answer is that PSA ranked overall #10 out of 292 agency subcomponents. But don’t stop there. It’s important to know all of what goes into that ranking.

The FEVS is not new. In Fiscal Year 2004, the National Defense Authorization Act established a requirement that each executive agency within the Federal Government participate in an annual employee survey to assess:

  1. Leadership and management practices that contribute to agency performance; and
  2. Employee satisfaction with
  • Leadership policies and practices;
  • Work environment;
  • Rewards and recognition for professional accomplishment and personal contributions to achieving the organizational mission;
  • Opportunity for professional development and growth; and
  • Opportunity to contribute to achieving the organizational mission.

This law established regulations that became effective on January 1, 2007, and specified questions that must be included in the survey. Initially, OPM conducted this survey for the entire workforce only in even years; but, realizing the value of the data, began conducting the survey every year beginning in 2010.

You may recall that the FEVS for FY 2012 was launched for all PSA employees on April 30, 2012, and closed on June 11, 2012. The survey was administered across the Federal Government, to include all full-time permanent CSOSA and PSA employees. Over half of PSA’s employees (55.7%) responded. These respondents provided important feedback that were used to create and revise strategies, policies and services to ensure the organization has the human capital environment needed to help employees accomplish their jobs and achieve the Agency’s mission.

While the FEVS includes questions across a broad range of topics (e.g., personal work experiences and satisfaction with benefits) the most significant questions focus on leadership, performance, talent and job satisfaction. OPM organizes the responses to these questions into index scores, which provide a general idea of how an agency performs in these areas. Joe Davidson, a Washington Post columnist, described these elements most simply in his article published in 2009:

“-- The leadership index indicates how highly, or not, employees of an agency regard their leaders.
-- The performance index indicates how much workers in an agency believe it promotes improvements in processes, products and services.
-- The talent index indicates the degree to which staffers think an agency has the talent needed to achieve its goals.
-- The job satisfaction index…indicates how satisfied employees are with their jobs.”

Table —2012 OPM Indices and Scores
2012 OPM Indices
Index PSA Score Government-Wide Score
Leadership 72 60
Performance 62 53
Talent 72 59
Satisfaction 72 66

Responses are aggregated to achieve an overall score in each area and are used to evaluate an agency’s human capital strategies. PSA’s scores and government-wide scores for the four indices are indicated in the table.

It’s clear, based on OPM’s indicators, that PSA’s employees respond more positively to the questions included in the index scores than do the employees of other agencies. In addition, almost across the board (about 94% of the questions), PSA’s positive response rates to individual questions were higher than those of the federal workforce in general. A copy of PSA’s responses to each question along with the 2012 government-wide responses and PSA’s responses from previous years is available in our online Reading Room.

The Partnership for Public Service took the data analysis a bit farther, scoring agencies and subcomponent agencies across a wider range of dimensions to include strategic management, training and development, work/life balance and support for diversity among others. PSA’s scores across the Partnership for Public Service dimensions and how PSA ranked in comparison to other subcomponent agencies are available in our online Reading Room.

In case you haven’t heard, PSA ranked overall #10 out of 292 agency subcomponents. What the attached data show is that PSA was #1 on work/life balance, in the top 5% in training and development and support for diversity, and in the top 10% on effective leadership (in general and specifically by senior leaders and supervisors) and strategic management. Frankly, that’s an amazing showing.

The Partnership for Public Service’s analysis indicates that leadership is the most important factor when it comes to driving employee satisfaction and commitment in the Federal Government. Clearly, the responses provided by PSA employees illustrate that the Agency has some clear strengths, among these leadership and talent management. These factors have contributed to PSA’s ranking on the Partnership’s dimensions.

To really make good use of these results, let’s also look at where we could improve. OPM also published a Summary Feedback Report for PSA that highlights our strengths and weaknesses based on comparisons with the overall Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) scores and lists the survey items on which PSA had the greatest changes (both increases and decreases) in percent of positive ratings. That Summary Feedback Report is available in our online Reading Room. What you’ll notice is that we have more decreases in satisfaction than increases—much like the rest of the Federal Government and that we have a number of challenges. On the five questions listed under challenges, the percent of positive responses by PSA employees actually exceeded the percent of positive responses by the government-wide sample. However, the percent of PSA employees who provided negative responses to these questions indicates that we must pay attention to these issues.

Over the next year or so, we must focus on improving the things that we absolutely can change: our response to poor performance, recognizing differences in performance in a meaningful way, and closely tying awards to performance. You are encouraged to take a look at the Feedback Report and give it some thought. If you have ideas or insight into why PSA’s negative responses are so high in these areas or suggestions into how we might improve, please consider sharing that with your Director’s Communication Advisory Council member so that it can be raised in those meetings. Another option is to schedule a meeting with the Agency Director during one of his “Idea Sessions” on Tuesday mornings from 8:30 to 10:30 AM. Ron Brown, Ian Pannell and I are also always eager to hear your suggestions about how we can improve.

While the OPM survey results are interesting, they’d be worthless if they weren’t used. These results provide us with “a mechanism to hold agency leaders accountable for the health of their organizations; serve as an early warning sign for agencies in trouble; offer a roadmap for improvement; and give job seekers insights into how federal employees view their agencies.” I can assure you that PSA uses these results. PSA reports the results in Senior Executive Service evaluations (yes, Cliff’s and Leslie’s) and uses them to assess executive level performance. Traditionally, executive management has reviewed these results to get an idea of how well we’re managing our staff and to determine what steps should be taken to improve satisfaction and performance. That’s what they’re in the process of doing right now. So when you’re asked to participate in this survey (and we’ll be asking you to participate again this year according to OPM’s requirements), remember that this is one way you can make your voice heard.