The latest version of the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey will feature some noticeable differences when feds begin to receive it in July, as the agency announced June 25 that it had reworked the survey to cut some of its core standards and add questions about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FEVS survey often varies slightly from year to year to improve question clarity or address the needs of that specific year, but the core standard questions reflect those employee viewpoints that federal agencies are required to survey by statute.

“Agency participation in the OPM FEVS will continue to satisfy statutory requirements as well through inclusion of the Annual Employee Survey Items in regulation. Maintaining half of the core items from prior OPM FEVS administrations addresses the needs of stakeholders by facilitating transparency through a comparison of survey results across agencies and across time,” acting OPM Director Michael Rigas wrote in a memo to heads of agencies.

FEVS survey instruments have remained largely unchanged since 2013, according to the annual reports.

The streamlining of core questions for 2020 is designed to make the survey easier to manage, and therefore increase the number of employees that choose to respond.

FEVS response rates have hovered in the low- to mid-40 percent range since 2016.

The 2020 version will also include a new section about the COVID-19 pandemic, “with questions that allow identification of ways in which employees continued to achieve missions in the face of an unprecedented pandemic.”

Watchdogs and workforce experts have emphasized the criticality of soliciting employee feedback in agency pandemic response and reopening plans.

“With the addition of the COVID-19 pandemic section, the survey also provides employees an opportunity to participate in data collection with the potential to shape future policies and interagency learning regarding human capital management in the face of an emergency,” Rigas wrote.

Beyond the context of the survey, the COVID-19 pandemic also changed the timeline for administering the FEVS survey, which normally goes out to employees in May of each year.

The 2020 survey will go out in two waves in July 2020, with the rollout of results slated for October this year.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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