Most federal employees believe that their work is making a difference in their agency’s overall mission and are willing to put in extra effort for that work, but they do not think agencies appropriately reward employees for good performance, according to the 2018 Federal Employee Viewpoint survey results released Oct. 25.

The survey, which received responses from 598,003 federal employees, found that nearly all respondents are willing to put in the extra effort to get a job done (96 percent) and nearly as many are looking for ways to do that job better (91 percent).

But only a quarter of respondents felt that pay raises fell in line with how employees performed and only slightly more (32 percent) felt that steps were taken to deal with a poor performer.

“The 2018 FEVS results are especially critical as we strive to make our government more effective, efficient and accountable to American taxpayers,” said acting Office of Personnel Management Director Margaret Weichert in a news release.

“We take seriously our responsibility to make data-driven decisions that result in long-term success. We will look at underlying causes behind employee perceptions in order to replicate those that lead to positive responses and reshape the issues behind the negative observations.”

In an OPM video about the results, Weichert encouraged agencies to look at trends in the results and particularly focus on the areas where they didn’t do well.

Changing the way that the federal government rewards high-performing employees and deals with poor-performing ones has been a core issue for the Trump administration, though some efforts have run aground with federal employee unions and legal statute.

Overall employee satisfaction remained unchanged at 64 percent, which in the 2017 survey marked a consistent rise in satisfaction since 2014.

Participation in the FEVS fell in 2018, as only 40.6 percent of federal employees responded to the survey, down from 45.5 percent in 2017.

Keeping with past trends, smaller agencies tended to have larger percentages of their employees participating in the survey while larger agencies, with more employees to encourage, had lower percentages.

The employee engagement index rose from 68 to 69 percent between the 2017 and 2018 surveys. The U.S. Office of Government Ethics topped the list of engaged agencies at 89 percent.

The low response rates may have been a result of employees not feeling that the survey would change matters for them, as only 41 percent of those that did respond believed that the results of the survey would be used to make the federal government a better place to work.

“That is something that we’ll be working on through focus groups, through using technology to create interactive vehicles for employees to not only see what we’re doing with the survey results but have them provide continuous feedback on ways that we might think about incorporating their input,” Weichert said in the video.

The 2018 survey also removed one question about whether agencies notified their employees of telework options and found that approximately 28 percent of employees telework once a month or more and 62 percent were satisfied or very satisfied with their agency’s telework programs.

In addition, the survey combined questions about work life programs, alternative work schedules, health and wellness programs, employee assistance programs, childcare programs and elder care programs. A new question on the 2018 survey asked employees whether they were transgender.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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