How the Federal Government surveys one million employees

How the Federal Government surveys one million employees
Each year, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) measures employee attitudes across all Executive Branch agencies and makes each agency’s results public.

Surveys are a great way to gauge employee sentiment in your organization. The OPM regularly surveys its employees and releases data about its workplaces to the public through the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS). The FEVS measures employees' perceptions of whether, and to what extent, conditions characterizing successful organizations are present in their agencies. The survey gives senior managers critical information to help answer the question: What can I do to make my agency work better?

Over 485,000 federal employees (representing a 45.5% response rate) from more than 80 agencies and sub agencies responded to the 2017 survey. Employees responded to the following topics: personal work experiences, work unit, agency, supervisor, leadership, satisfaction, and work/life programs. The survey content, along with its methodology and analysis, is described in more detail in the FEVS Technical Report.

Here are a few good practices to keep in mind when designing an employee survey:

  1. Decide how you will use the results first. Determining which actions will come out of the survey can influence how you frame your questions and design your response options.
  2. Be specific. Don’t ask about several topics (for example, training, performance feedback, and information sharing) all in the same question. Stick to one concept per statement, and make sure the response options relate directly to that item.
  3. Be brief. Use as few words as possible to get your point across. Limit the number of response options so people don’t skip the item; a good maximum is five possible responses.
  4. Be understandable. Employees should be able to answer the question without having to look up acronyms or terms. Test your items with people uninvolved with the survey to make sure your language is clear.

The most important step after collecting responses is to share the results. In the case of the FEVS, reports are prepared for all participating federal agencies with at least ten responses (to protect the privacy of all respondents). These governmentwide reports are shared with individual agencies as well as the public on the FEVS website — you’ll find the latest survey with all survey items here.

The website is another resource available to both the general public and agencies. By providing comprehensive data visualizations with broad displays of FEVS data, the site allows agencies to make data-driven decisions to improve employee engagement and overall satisfaction. The dashboard provides agency employees with insight into their employee engagement and satisfaction.

To learn more about running an employee survey, check out this re:Work guide: Run an employee survey.