Engagement up, happiness stagnates in 2018 survey of feds

employee data (kentoh/ 

Employee engagement saw a slight bump in 2018 over last year, but overall employee happiness stagnated, according to the newest Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results.

The data released by the Office of Personnel Management for 2018 shows a one-point increase in the employee engagement index over 2017, this year hitting 68 percent. The global satisfaction score, meanwhile, remained at 64 percent. The "New IQ" Index, a measure of employee inclusion, rose by one percentage point to 61 overall.

The agency-by-agency scores have not yet been released.

"Although the five-year trend for FEVS responses is moving in a positive direction, we cannot stop here and must continue to engage in dialogue with our workforce on how to enhance employee engagement," said acting OPM Director Margaret Weichert. "We have critical work to do in order to build a modern workforce designed to meet the needs of Americans in the 21st century."

Feds gave themselves very high marks for putting in extra effort, looking for ways to perform better and believing the work they do is important. All scored above 90 percent.

The lowest scoring questions tended to deal with perceptions on how raises, bonuses and promotions are awarded and how poor performers are handled. Fewer than half of feds, for example, believe that promotions in their offices are based on merit.

Satisfaction with leadership rose slightly, but continued to lag.

The highest global satisfaction scores generally came from agencies with at least 100 employees, but fewer than 75,000.

"While there has been progress in employee engagement during the past few years, the government still lags well behind the private sector," said Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service. "Agency leaders must take ownership of the health of their organizations, using the federal survey data to better understand and address the issues of greatest concern to their employees."

The response rates this year dropped considerably -- from 45.5 percent in 2017, at the time a five-year low, to 40.6 percent in 2018. According to OPM, 598,000 federal employees were surveyed -- and more were offered the chance to respond than previously. The highest response rates came from smaller agencies. The Departments of Defense and Justice had the lowest response rates in government -- just 30 percent of DOD employees responded and 28.1 percent of DOJ employees.

Some of the questions were altered this year. Changes involved wording or combining previously separate questions. A question asking employees whether they have been notified about eligibility for telework was removed, and a question about gender identity was modified to ask whether employees are transgender as its own question, separate from last year's list of gender identity options.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a former FCW staff writer.


  • FCW Perspectives
    remote workers (elenabsl/

    Post-pandemic IT leadership

    The rush to maximum telework did more than showcase the importance of IT -- it also forced them to rethink their own operations.

  • Management
    shutterstock image By enzozo; photo ID: 319763930

    Where does the TMF Board go from here?

    With a $1 billion cash infusion, relaxed repayment guidelines and a surge in proposals from federal agencies, questions have been raised about whether the board overseeing the Technology Modernization Fund has been scaled to cope with its newfound popularity.

Stay Connected