Workforce

OPM readies exit survey for departing SES members

satisfaction survey

Departing Senior Executive Service members will soon have a chance to share their final words anonymously on why they are leaving before they actually head out the agency door.

On March 22, Angela Bailey, associate director of employee services at the Office of Personnel Management, sent a memorandum to HR directors announcing a governmentwide exit survey that will be administered to all outgoing SES members.

"The exit survey will capture valuable information regarding the circumstances under which executives leave the federal government and offer an opportunity for executives to provide candid feedback about their work experience," Bailey wrote.

The online survey has been developed by OPM, the Senior Executives Association, the Partnership for Public Service, agency representatives, and current SES members. Its main purpose is to give agencies an opportunity to explore issues affecting retention and succession planning efforts. Agencies will also get help from OPM with guidance on how to adopt the survey and an in-person exit interview protocol.

"It would be really handy to gather from SES members as they go out the door any advice or suggestions they may have for their replacements or attracting new folks for keeping good people," said John Palguta, vice president of policy at the Partnership for Public Service. "Until now, we haven't had a unified way of doing that."

The exit survey will serves as a systematic way to gather data across agencies, with open-ended questions, he said. It will be available "very soon if not today," Palguta said, and departing SES members should get a link to it as they are being processed off or on their last week or day.

The advantages to exit surveys rather than exit interviews are multifold. Exit interviews often focus on general causes of leaving and overlook job-specific questions that help the organization retain knowledge – for example, departing employees could be asked what knowledge resources they found most important, said Adam Cole, senior director at CEB.

"Interviewers may also have a tendency to ask questions in a leading way, thereby reinforcing bias regarding the causes of leaving," he said. "One example is assuming the employee was dissatisfied with his or her job and asking questions on that topic, when that person may not have been dissatisfied."

Those departing may also not be comfortable divulging face-to-face the real reasons why they are resigning, Palguta said. "If someone is asking you, 'so why are you leaving?' and the reason you're leaving is because you can't stand the people you work with, you're probably not going to tell them that," he said.

Interviews oftentimes also are "too open-ended and the feedback is not collected in a consistent manner," Cole said, which makes analysis and action planning based on the results more difficult.

Many organizations also lack proper baselines or benchmarks when analyzing the results of exit surveys, which often result in the wrong conclusion, he said.

"For instance, CEB research shows that, on average, employees receive a 16 percent increase in compensation when they switch to a new employer," Cole said. "So, if an employer assumes that compensation levels aren't sufficient at the organization simply because it was one of the primary reasons stated for departure, they may be wrong because the same would be true for nearly every organization."

OPM will collect data from the exit surveys at least annually to get a better view of the health of the SES. After that, it is up to decision makers to take corrective measures. "It's a very common-sense, useful approach," Palguta concluded.

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group