Each year federal employees are requested to answer the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, a set of 94 questions giving a snapshot of federal satisfaction in the workplace. When the 2018 survey rolls out employees will have the added option to test potential add-ons and edits for measuring attitudes and issues in the federal workplace.

“New this year, when you respond to the FEVS, you also will have the opportunity to inspire the future by participating in a follow-on pilot survey,” OPM Director Jeff Pon wrote in a blog post on the survey.

“The pilot is intended to help us to modernize the FEVS by testing new topics and improvements to the FEVS. Our goal is to ensure delivery of the best, most responsive information possible to your leadership and federal decision-makers. You will receive a pilot survey shortly after you click submit on the FEVS. Please take time to respond to that survey too.”

An OPM spokesperson told Federal Times that the pilot survey will test improvements to current questions, as well as new topic areas such as performance confidence, customer responsiveness, innovation and workforce adaptability/resilience.

The FEVS has remained largely unchanged over the past few years. In 2012 three additional questions on employee demographics were added and the 2014 survey did include one new question, as well as edits to clarify certain questions and expand the response options for others, but included the same number of questions as previous surveys. All other years since 2012 have used an identical survey instrument to the year before.

“The pilot survey is intended to allow employees to have a voice in immediate workplace modernization efforts, as well as inspire the future FEVS. Through this effort, OPM is working toward providing data that is of the highest quality and covering topics relevant to challenges facing agencies in the 21st century,” the OPM spokesperson said.

Since 2011 the FEVS has also failed to break the 50 percent mark for response rates, with the 2017 survey marking a seven year low at 45.8 percent.

Despite the lower response rates, employee satisfaction in federal work has been consistently on the rise since 2014, and the 2017 survey marked a high point in satisfaction at 64 percent.

The 2018 survey results will likely provide insight into how agency leadership shakeups at the beginning of the year, such as the firing of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, impacted employee morale and engagement.

The VA has had largely low scores since 2012, while employees at the Department of State have already started to express a 2.8 point decrease in satisfaction from 2016 to 2017 scores.

Agencies are also not likely to respond any more positively to some of the least positive questions from 2017, which primarily had to do with pay and compensation. Recent Trump administration proposals to freeze or redistribute federal pay have largely been met with dissatisfaction by the employee community.

Surveys were emailed out to permanent, non-political federal employees on a rolling basis starting April 30, 2018. Employees will have six weeks to complete the survey with results scheduled to be published in August 2018.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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