Survey says...

Federal information technology personnel: The CIO Council wants to hear from you.

The council set up an electronic survey probing IT workers' skills, activities and certifications. The survey satisfies the Clinger-Cohen Act requirements for annual surveys across each department.

The voluntary, anonymous survey is intended to give the government a clear picture of the workforce's abilities and gaps in competencies. The survey questions IT specialists, computer specialists, computer scientists and computer engineers in five areas.

Ira Hobbs, the council's co-chairman of the Workforce and Human Capital for IT Committee, said the survey's success will depend on the number of people who fill it out. "Certainly, you will be able to see the end process at the end of the day," he said.

The council's survey allows agencies to assess their workforce skills without having to create their own survey. Agencies will use the survey information for developing their workforce plans, according to council officials.

Hobbs said the survey takes five to 20 minutes to fill out. It is broken down into five areas: demographics, competencies, certifications, IT skills and activities. Employees are asked to rate their proficiency on a five-point scale from none to expert in cost benefit analysis, information assurance and problem solving, for example. They are also asked about their specific levels of training and certification.

Although it is not 100 percent effective, the survey will provide a comprehensive view of workforce issues and signals a commitment from management, said Al Ressler, director of the National Academy of Public Administration's Center for Human Resources Management.

"It's statistically reliable because you get a response from the workforce that management is looking out for the interest of the agency and [the workers'] interests," Ressler said.

Annual surveys are necessary to keep data current despite employee turnover and attrition, he said. "You want to keep a constant database of information associated with how you want to allocate your resources," he said. "It keeps the database refreshed with the current organization."

Max Stier, president and chief executive officer of the Partnership for Public Service, said the survey can be effective for gathering broad data for funding and personnel plans. Managers may need to be involved in surveying to gauge employee attitude in greater depth. "They might want to do more than have a questionnaire that's up to the IT workers to fill out, as opposed to having the managers conduct the survey," he said.

Stier said he welcomes the governmentwide activity. "It's an important development to see the CIO Council engaging in a cross-government review of the skills in place," he said.

The value, however, will depend on how many people fill it out, he said.

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