Building an Action Plan From the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey: Steps to Success

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AchieveGlobal proposes a five-step process that every agency can take to make improvements in workplace environments and productivity, and, at the same time, launch solutions that support long-term …

AchieveGlobal proposes a five-step process that every agency can take to make improvements in workplace environments and productivity, and, at the same time, launch solutions that support long-term culture change initiatives.

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  • 1. Building an Action Plan From theFederal Employee Viewpoint Survey: Steps to Success Developing the 21st century workforce TM
  • 2. In times of national economic difficulty, and as tight budgets and pay freezes loom over the Federal government, a persisting concern among Federal agencies is how to attract, hire, and retain top talent that may be otherwise drawn to work in the private sector. Research shows that many factors not associated with compensation, including work-life balance, opportunities for development, job satisfaction, employee engagement, and organizational culture, have a direct impact on employee retention. What’s more, leadership is linked to employee turnover, because the quality and effectiveness of leaders strongly influences an organization’s culture and human capital framework. The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FedView Survey), a now annual event, is a useful tool to help Federal leaders improve their workplaces and increase efficiencies throughout the Federal government. The survey provides a remarkable opportunity for agencies and departments to benchmark themselves against both their prior year’s performance and other agencies’ performances on a range of meaningful human capital measures. With this data, agencies can identify ways to positively impact employee engagement and retention. The good news is that trends in the survey show that employees feel increased job satisfaction overall. As in previous years, Federal workers are seen as wholeheartedly committed to their missions. Added to this, favorability toward agency leadership increased, and Federal employees now see their work as important, providing them with a feeling of accomplishment. While there are always areas for improvement, the results confirm that Federal government employees continue to rise to the challenge of delivering results for taxpayers against the backdrop of shrinking budgets. How to Move From Survey to Success While the FedView Survey paints a detailed picture of current employee perceptions, its real value lies in what actions can be taken in response to the data. As the Office of Personnel Management notes, “Every agency has its own unique mission and workforce, and its own set of special human capital challenges, so every agency will look at its own data from the survey in a different way.” Given the wealth of data and frequency of publication, however, agencies may find themselves faced with a common set of challenges: Moving forward quickly and effectively with a response so that next year’s survey results reflect improvements in workplace environment and productivity, and, at the same time, launching solutions that support long-term culture change initiatives. With this in mind, AchieveGlobal proposes a five-step process that every agency can take to move from survey data to actionable agency-specific solutions.1
  • 3. Step 1: Clarify the vision for the future.A unique feature of the FedView Survey is that it can help an agency developa picture of the current state of the organization and identify specific goals toaspire to. The difference between current state and future vision represents theperformance gap to address.The agency or subcomponent can begin by asking a series of questions thataddress the vision for the future, including:•  hat is the specific problem/opportunity driving human capital plans for W our agency or department?For example, one agency may aim to rise two positions in the ranking of agenciesbased on the Leadership and Knowledge Management Index or the Results-Oriented Performance Culture Index. Another might seek to increase theretention rate among employees by a specific percentage or promote a certainnumber of people across departments. Agencies might also identify ways ofimproving their workplace, like striving to have more of their employees considertheir agency a great place to work. A longer-term goal might be to improveleaders’ awareness of the practices of successful leadership, as strong, effectiveleadership is widely acknowledged to have a significant impact on many of thefactors measured by the FedView Survey. Future Vision Work Problem/ Solution Opportunity Employee RESULTS Generation Definition Environment Current Assessment Figure 1: Framework for solving complex performance challengesFurther questions include:•  hat are the parameters to be applied to the scope of our human capital plans? W•  hat would success look like? Specifically, what will the resulting W performance look like and how will it be evaluated? 2
  • 4. •  hat would be the impact on those who are served by the agency or W department and other stakeholders? • How would the culture be different? • What competencies might be required to deliver this? • What do leaders need to do differently? This vision will provide a clear statement of goals, metrics, and parameters which describe and, at times, limit the scope of inquiry. Step 2: Explore the current state. The assessment of the current state should include a thorough examination of problem areas, clarifying them through the consideration of comprehensive data. This assessment will mean accurately answering the following questions: • Where are we today? • How do we know where we are? Agencies or subcomponents within an agency will need to analyze the relevance of the FedView Survey findings and assess whether the data provides sufficient information to clarify the performance gap. If not, the findings of the FedView Survey can be validated and expanded by considering other data. For example, survey findings may be weighed against broad existing “on-the- ground” perceptions, an agency’s own archive of research, or existing survey data. If further investigation is needed, focus groups can probe deeper into a specific area or finding of the FedView Survey. Step 3: Analyze the performance gap for root causes. The agency or subcomponent then needs to consider what factors may be contributing to the gap. We propose a framework to establish and clarify the root causes. For example, are performance gaps arising as a result of any of the following: • How the work is defined • The employee’s ability to undertake the work • The work environment in which they operate For instance, if employees are unclear of their responsibilities, the performance gap could be attributed to poor work definition. If people with the wrong skill sets have been hired for specific positions, or if training doesn’t match employee responsibilities, these would be attributed to “employee” issues. Similarly, if the culture and patterns of communication prevent employees from fulfilling their responsibilities, or if systems and processes do not support employees in their work, these performance gaps would be associated with the work environment.3
  • 5. It is important to consider all three areas, as multiple factors may be contributingto the problem. Taking time to pinpoint all causes will leave the agency bestprepared to identify and select the most effective solutions.Step 4: Identify appropriate solutions.Once the factors creating performance gaps have been identified, the agencycan move to identifying how to address them. Consideration of solutions willbe much easier given that specific goals, metrics, and milestones have alreadybeen identified.Solutions to consider might include:– Work•  efining and/or clarifying employee and leadership competency models and D job descriptions• Clarifying and broadly communicating expectations and mission objectives• Aligning expectations with reward and accountability frameworks• Creating or re-working processes to support mission goals and objectives– Employee• Hiring the right people• Identifying potential future leaders• Developing leadership skills over time• Supporting and reinforcing the performance management process– Environment• Building a culture of learning and development• Becoming a change-capable organization• Instituting mechanisms for two-way communication•  roviding leaders and frontline employees with the tools they P need to succeed• Providing coaching and feedbackStep 5: Maximize the response by prioritizing actions.At this stage, some agencies may experience a sense of paralysis, recognizing thatthere are many issues to address and many potential solutions, but limited time orresources to apply against them.To move out of inaction, develop a list of the top three issues on which to focus.Developing this list can encourage the agency to answer challenging questions 4
  • 6. about priorities, budgets, and goals against the context of the overall mission of the agency. Creation of this top-three list is often a critical approach to moving the agency into an action-ready stance, with a sense of purpose and focus. With this in mind, the next set of questions asks: • Which causes are the most impactful? • How might we solve them most effectively? The top three issues can be identified by considering changes that are most feasible to accomplish within a specific period of time or given a specific budget. On the other hand, it may make sense to focus on changes that are important in terms of their overall impact on the organization or those that will lead to larger-scale changes. As each potential solution is weighed against the others, the following questions may be helpful: •  s the solution feasible? Can it be put in place given the amount of time, I budget, and employees available? •  s the solution impactful? Will it benefit the overall change plan that has I been developed, effectively closing the performance gaps? •  s the solution focused? Does it link directly to the broader mission of I the agency and foster continuous improvement? The five steps above outline a course of action that any agency or subcomponent can implement to move it toward solutions that effect positive change, building short- and long-term responses. There are also two important strategies that can help an agency take these steps toward success: assembling a team that will focus on the FedView Survey and considering how time should be factored in. Build a FedView Survey Response Team In responding to the results of the FedView Survey, it will serve the organization well to bring together a team of people charged with focusing on their survey results and response. This steering committee, with representatives from different departments within the agency, will ideally have the power and influence to assess the overall applicability of the FedView Survey findings, provide preliminary recommendations for response, and drive the implementation of any actions identified. In the early stages, it will be important for the committee to recognize the value of the agency-specific findings, but also to be mindful that this specificity can raise often-painful concerns for the organization. As the committee addresses the survey results, they can together identify what changes need to be made, set timed goals for each tactical response, identify benefits of making each change, and rationalize the investment of resources.5
  • 7. Recognize the Reality of TimeSince the FedView Survey is now an annual event, the reality may be that thereare only a few months to address the findings and put solutions into place beforethe next survey rolls around.The steering committee can address this challenge by meeting with senior leadersacross the organization to discuss and set realistic expectations for the time framefor change. Specifically, the steering committee can identify which solutions maybegin to take effect in time for the next survey and which may require one ormore survey cycles to reap rewards.It’s important to have this broader strategy so that the agency understands thedifference between the “low-hanging fruit” solutions that are easy to reach andsolutions that require longer-term commitment to change. Federal Leadership Success The success of any change Business Reflection initiative developed in response to the FedView Survey will rest heavily on the success of leadership in the agency. In a People Society recent study, AchieveGlobal identified six zones of 21st Century Leadership that can Ingenuity Diversity help Federal leaders develop the practices necessary to navigate survey-inspired change. An AchieveGlobal study conducted in 2010: “Developing Federal Leaders for the 21st Century: A Multi-Level Study of Federal Leadership Challenges and Practices”ConclusionWithout question, the FedView Survey represents a significant wealth ofimportant information, and presents tremendous opportunities for the growthand improvement of Federal agencies. Deciding on the relevant strategiesand tactics for responding to the survey findings can seem overwhelming, 6
  • 8. particularly considering time and budget constraints. The way forward, however, is to ensure intent at every step along the way, appoint a team that has the power and influence to assess realistic expectations, ensure that performance gaps are accurately identified and examined, and then design and drive solutions strategically so that the agency can accomplish its broader mission. About AchieveGlobal In the 21st century, the level of human skills will determine organization success. AchieveGlobal provides exceptional development in interpersonal business skills, giving companies the workforce they need for business results. Located in over 40 countries, we offer multi- language, learning-based solutions—globally, regionally, and locally. We understand the competition you face. Your success depends on people who have the skills to handle the challenges beyond the reach of technology. We’re experts in developing these skills, and it’s these skills that turn your strategies into business success in the 21st century. These are things technology can’t do. Think. Learn. Solve problems. Listen. Motivate. Explain. People with these skills have a bright future in the 21st century. AchieveGlobal prepares you for that world. World Headquarters 8875 Hidden River Parkway, Suite 400 Tampa, Florida 33637 USA Toll Free: 800.456.9390© 2011 AchieveGlobal, Inc. No. M01369 v1 (02/2011)