Over two-thirds of federal employees are satisfied with their overall experience in government work, but issues like performance recognition, telework policies and the impacts of the most recent partial government shutdown are still having a negative effect of the workforce, according to the results of the 2019 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.
The survey, released Nov. 7, found that employees are equally engaged in their work as they were the year before, at 68 percent, and overall job satisfaction is at 69 percent. Response rates for the survey also went up, with 42.6 percent of eligible employees submitting responses.
“It’s encouraging to see more and more employees take the time to voice how they feel about the current status of their workplace,” said OPM Director Dale Cabaniss in a news release. “I firmly believe that the more responses we see, the more likely we are to pinpoint what our real strengths and weaknesses are as a workforce and see how we can improve on them.”
According to the survey, 63 percent of employees are satisfied with their pay, but far fewer believe that their agencies distribute pay according to employee work. Only 28 percent of respondents believed that pay raises at their agency were based on performance and only 39 percent believed that promotions were based on merit.
In addition, respondents said that most of the time poor performers were kept at agencies and continue to deliver substandard work.
The Trump administration has pointed to these numbers as evidence for why the federal pay system should be reformed, but the proposals to freeze pay without offering concrete policy on how performance-based recognition will be administered have faced strong opposition from employee groups.
The survey also found that while 43 percent of employees use telework options to some degree, with 29 percent using them regularly, only 60 percent of participants are satisfied with those programs.
Telework has been a sensitive topic at some federal agencies, for while OPM has encouraged agencies to consider telework as part of a work-life balance program, individual agencies have moved to curtail telework programs and renegotiate contracts to give leadership full authority over telework offerings.
Feds are also still concerned about the long-term effects of the partial government shutdown that spanned late December 2018 and early 2019, setting records for the longest shutdown in U.S. history.
Unlike previous years, OPM opted to include questions in the 2019 FEVS about how employees were impacted by the shutdown and whether that altered their job outlooks.
Because some agencies were still funded at the time of the shutdown, approximately 46 percent of employees were negatively impacted in pay and work during that time, with 22 percent saying they were very or extremely negatively impacted.
After returning to work, employees most often found that the shutdown caused them to delay work, miss deadlines and provide reduced customer experience while the agency was working to get back to normal operations.
These challenges meant that 10 percent of survey respondents said they were looking for other work either fully or in part because of the recent government shutdown.
Looking just at the 615,395 employees that responded to the survey, if every employee that was looking for other work due to the shutdown found a new job, the federal workforce as a whole would lose approximately three percent of its workforce at a time when finding employees to fill currently vacant positions is a challenge.
Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.