This year’s FEVS results promise to be interesting. After a two-year break from the traditional questions and distribution method, like many things, the FEVS has “returned to normal.”
Since the survey closed late summer, many have speculated on what we will learn. Will the upward trend on employee engagement seen in 2020 continue? Will there be a big drop in job satisfaction scores related to flexibility and hybrid work? With these questions in mind, we refreshed our FEVS 90-day plan for jumpstarting employee engagement based on your results.
The survey came out at the same time many return to office policies were being implemented. The timing created a prime opportunity for employees to share any frustration they felt with the change in work locations and their commutes. From my own experience supporting EPA, IRS, DOI and Ed, I know many employees feel shut out of decision making regarding when, where and why they should go back.
It’s been a challenging time for managers as well. Those in leadership responsible for setting, communicating and enforcing the policies feel they’re facing intense (sometimes even hostile) resistance. They know their hopes and reservations must be set aside in the name of consistency and accountability. With this more robust data set, managers will ideally have an opportunity to better understand what they’ve been observing throughout this year of return to work. This will help them make better decisions in the new fiscal year.
We’re in a unique moment where organization missions and visions have collided.
Fast and furious, organizations are driving towards on-time, on-budget delivery of mission priorities. Just as fast and coming head-on in the other direction is a fresh vision of the future of work. In the past, these pithy, polished statements were typically closely aligned. This is no longer the case.
Ideas and expectations about the future of work have changed dramatically. We’ve now seen what’s possible. We know better than ever what works and are eager to establish a new normal. But organization missions have not changed. In fact, most federal employees say they’re working harder than ever. The heat has been turned up on key Administration priorities and the expectations and pace of work have only increased.
Having mission and vision out of alignment creates friction—and questions that must be answered. “I know where we’re going but how best can we get there?” The FY22 FEVS data can help.
Going beyond employee engagement, leaders and employees are being called to collaborate at scale.
Leaders, managers, and employees together have an opportunity to support each other, reduce disruption and emerge stronger with an enhanced, more productive and sustainable way of working.
In addition to being a moment ripe for cocreation, returning to the office isn’t “once and done” as the name might suggest. We often miss the opportunity to acknowledge one important, obvious truth. Our organizations are living organisms made up of people. The pandemic, racial reckoning, onboarding of a new Administration, global instability and so much more has changed us all to varying degrees.
We’re all fundamentally different people than we were two and half years ago.
Embracing that now will help reduce disruption to mission delivery, turnover and employee disengagement. Specifically, agencies should acknowledge and embrace the long-term, dynamic nature of this transition and use their FY22 FEVS data to focus their next steps. They should unite three critical planning and team-building efforts: return to the office, strategic planning/prioritization and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) initiatives.
Tactics to consider integrating into your FEVS action plan may include:
- Refresh and integrate the strategic plan, DEIA initiatives and return to office plans and policies. Invite employees to contribute in meaningful, high-impact ways.
- Host a future-casting session. Gather diverse stakeholders including industry. Review technology and work culture trends. Ask participants to assemble scenarios for how those trends will impact the way they work and deliver on the mission.
- Double down on executing planned employee engagement activities. Anticipating an impact on the FY22 FEVS scores, agencies should ensure they’re conducting and expanding employee engagement activities to help people feel heard, connected and inspired throughout the transition.
The outcome will be:
- Greater alignment and engagement with employees. Managers can reduce stress, anxiety and conflict for themselves and their teams.
- Cocreate future of work within the parameters set by OPM and the agency. Specifically, take the opportunity to leverage flexibilities while ensuring accountability for results.
- Focus on increasing or sustaining productivity throughout the transition by relentlessly setting, adjusting and communicating priorities (getting clear on what employees can stop or pause), shifting deadlines when possible, and using in-person and remote gatherings for their best purpose.
In addition to these benefits, there is more to look forward to in the future FEVS. OPM plans to introduce new and enhance existing questions around DEIA. This information will be invaluable to planning and gauging impact on these critical efforts.
This transition back to the office is symbolic of so many “return to…” people are experiencing in their lives. We’re in yet another moment of change. Change brings mixed feelings of excitement, anxiety, frustration, anticipation and more. Organizations that honor how we’ve changed individually and recognize the longevity of this next phase will see less disruption, stress and turnover across the workforce. Our FEVS 90-day plan provides a jumpstart on FY23 employee engagement efforts to demonstrate your commitment to supporting employees through these changes.