The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) published the 2016 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) that analyzed the Employee Engagement Index (EEI). The survey found that federal government employees have a strong sense of personal accomplishments and workplace engagement, highlighting eight key factors driving employees’ engagement and satisfaction:
- Training and development
- Merit system principles
- Performance feedback
- Performance rating
- Performance recognition and reward
- Supporter coworkers and
- Work/life balance
The OPM FEVS focused on areas including personal work experiences, work unit, agency, supervisor, leadership, satisfaction, work/life programs, and demographic. However, an analysis of the OPM-FEVS revealed multiple weaknesses: Despite the federal government’s efforts to increase diversity, statistics showed that only 36.9 percent of the federal workforce is from a diversified race and culture. It also showed that between 2013 and 2016, diversity grew at a disappointing 1.4 percent. Regarding employees’ engagement and satisfaction, between 2013 and 2016, federal employees’ engagement was an average of 64 percent, with an average Global Satisfaction Index (GSI) of 59.5 percent.
OPM also explained that employee engagement included a sense of purpose influenced by the employees’ dedication, persistence, commitment, values, and beliefs, suggesting that EEI is the collective result of leaders leading, supervisors’ reflecting on interpersonal relationships, and other factors, including respect, trust, support, and intrinsic work experience.
What drives employee engagement and satisfaction in the federal government?
Based on the OPM-FEVS report, I decided to ask multiple federal employees, located in different agencies, and below the GS-13 pay grade level, what drove their engagement and satisfaction. The results showed the below 15 key factors, which differ from those found by the FEVS:
- Professional equality
- Participation in decisions directly affecting their jobs
- Sense that work they do is important and highly respected
- Job security
- Sense of community and support
- Not taking employees for granted
- Feeling of appreciation
- Feeling that they are an important aspect of the agency
- A clearly defined, well-founded mission
- Personal visions tied to the agency’s mission
- Growth/earning opportunities
What can we do?
The understanding of employees’ motivations, engagement, and satisfaction seems to cognitively and coherently bind employees’ mindsets, behaviors, and organizational practices, emphasizing the need for stronger, emotionally intelligent public servants, and organizationally intelligent workplaces. Public servants’ representing the public interest, should be held to a higher cognitive and non-cognitive level of mental awareness, behavior, and standards. Organizationally intelligent workplaces make sense of policies and regulations, as well as process development, and the application of organizational knowledge (De Angelis, 2016).
Research studies showed that “modern practices of management, as knowledge management, and organizational intelligence” involve employees’ engagement and satisfaction. While those seem mainly influenced by organizational practices, they are cognitive and non-cognitive abilities also influenced by the individual’s perception, personality, and behavior, as well as by organizational policies, regulations, and practices.
The emergence of more emotionally intelligent individuals and organizational intelligence development models support the changes resulting from increasing workplace awareness. Changes on the perception and mindset of the employee, combined with changes on the workplace environmental conditions are important factors to motivate employees’ engagement and satisfaction, (Giorgi, 2012). Those changes include higher level of professional equality, integration, participation, and appreciation. Those are essential qualities needed to build a stronger workforce, which will also include the cooperation, collaboration, engagement, and commitment of street-level bureaucrats and everyone involved in process development.
Moreover, public administration could benefit greatly from the integration of psychological complements. While it seems a disjointed practice, research studies showed that psychology and public administration are intrinsically connected by organizational motivations, operational and objectivity (Grimmelikhuijsen, Jilke, Olsen, & Tummers, 2016).
After asking several federal employees what drives their engagement and satisfaction in the workplace, I found the following are key factors: The proficiency of organizational policies and methodological practices, and the integration and expertise of promoting emotional intelligence competencies and performance.
The FEVS findings were constructed on quantitative results, while the results of this research were founded on a qualitative phenomenological approach, focused on the perception of the individual, and based on their experience, working for the federal government.
Scholars should consider integrating the basics of psychological behavioral studies into public administration curriculums. It could enhance the understanding and motivations of managers and leaders, not only in the public sector, but in many professional fields. Organization needs policies and regulations, as well as management and leaders who understand people’s behavior. Performing as a manager is not the same as performing as a leader. However, both must understand that every action has a domino effect, impacting the employee and the organization equally.
Combining emotional intelligence and organizational intelligence seems essential. Merging insights of psychology into public administration practices also seems important. Managers and leaders must align the responsibilities and needs of the organization equally with the responsibility and needs of the employees. Managers and leaders must promote and support employees to develop stronger emotional intelligence skills that positively impact organizational performance. Research showed that such actions can have a greater impact on public administration practices, just as the integration of emotional and organizational intelligence., as suggested on the EOI Process Implementation Figure below: