Survey: Feds satisfied, but looking to leave

There's good news and bad news on the federal workforce front. In general, federal employees believe they do important work, but a substantial number of employees are considering leaving their jobs, according to an Office of Personnel Management survey released last week.

OPM conducted the 2002 Federal Human Capital Survey to gauge how federal employees feel about their jobs. It is the largest survey ever undertaken in the federal government, OPM Director Kay Coles James said.

More than 100,000 feds responded to the survey, which for the first time was conducted via the Internet "in another example of OPM supporting the president's e-government initiative," said Doris Hausser, senior policy adviser to the OPM director.

Agencies can use the results to help them improve their workforce management, Hausser said in a briefing with reporters. It's part of the president's "overall effort to promote strategic management of human capital," she said. "We certainly think it is what ought to be No. 1 on everybody's agenda."

Also, the survey results will provide OPM with fodder for future policies that target areas needing attention.

The good news, Hausser said, is that "we've got a workforce focused on a mission; they're not adrift, not lost." For instance, 91 percent believe they do important work and 68 percent say they are satisfied with their jobs.

However, some results raised a red flag. Thirty-five percent of employees said they are considering leaving their agencies, with 16 percent planning to retire in the next three years. Also, only 39 percent believe their agencies are able to recruit people with the right skills.

Performance management and leadership are other areas that need attention, Hausser said. Less than half believe awards are given out based on how well employees do their jobs. "We need to pay attention to how we reward performance," she said.

Only 36 percent say their leaders generate "high levels of motivation and commitment," and 43 percent hold their leaders in high regard. "That gives you pause," she said.

"This survey should be a wake-up call for those who recognize that having a high-quality government matters," Max Stier, president and chief executive officer of the Partnership for Public Service, said in a statement. The survey "also shows that many federal employees leave government not because they will be retiring, but because their workplaces aren't well managed."

To attract the best, Stier said, good work must be encouraged and rewarded, poor performers weeded out, employees' concerns heard, and leaders cultivated and developed.

The full survey results are available at www.fhcs.opm.gov.

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FED feedback

Highlights of the 2002 Federal Human Capital Survey:

* 64 percent of employees say they are satisfied with their basic pay.

* 49 percent believe their supervisors are receptive to change.

* 47 percent say that awards depend on how well employees do their jobs.

* 66 percent say they have electronic access to training materials at their desks.

* 34 percent say teleworking is important to them.

* 70 percent plan to retire in five or more years.

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