How to make your workplace one of the best

If your agency doesn't rank high on the forthcoming list of the best places to work in government, CEB's Sampriti Ganguli has some tips for you.

Sampriti Ganguli of CEB

In a few weeks, government executives will be receiving their agencies’ results from the latest Federal Employee Viewpoint (FedView) Survey. Those results will not only inform agencies’ 2013 priorities, but will also serve as the basis for the much-anticipated 2012 index of the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government.

An agency’s placement on this ranking can have a big impact on employee engagement and candidate attraction. Strong or improving scores can bolster an agency’s brand and reputation and serve as a badge of honor for all employees. Declining scores can confirm employee suspicions of worsening conditions and encourage top talent to explore job opportunities elsewhere.

The Partnership for Public Service derives the index from the answers to three FedView Survey questions that indicate employees’ satisfaction with their jobs, their organizations and their agencies’ advocacy. Although those questions are informative indicators, they are not very suggestive of what agencies can do to improve in those areas.

To better understand the top drivers of the index, CEB used regression analysis of the 2011 FedView Survey results to uncover which workplace attributes have the greatest impact on agency rankings. We found that three characteristics had a disproportionate effect.

1. Recognizing work unit and agency successes. Perceptions of agency mission success and the quality of work completed by an individual’s work unit had the strongest impact on employee satisfaction. Low scores on those questions do not necessarily mean that agencies are not meeting their goals, as there is a wide communication gap across government that can limit employee awareness of local or enterprise success. FedView results indicate that half of employees are not satisfied with the information they receive from management about activity within their organizations, while a third do not agree that managers evaluate the organization’s progress toward meeting its goals.

To ensure that employees at all levels are aware of agency accomplishments, managers and leaders must recognize and share the successes of their teams and those taking place across the agency. Highlighting achievements can pay big dividends in employee morale.

2. Soliciting upward feedback. Employee involvement in the decisions that affect their work represents another top driver of agency rankings. Involving employees in decision-making does not mean catering to their every wish, but it does entail proactively asking for employees’ opinions and valuing their perspectives. Given that some staff are reluctant to share their thoughts, tapping into a direct report’s insights might require proactive probing. Equally important is a manager’s receptivity to employee feedback.

FedView results suggest there is room for improvement in many managers’ listening skills; one in four employees do not agree that their managers listen to what they have to say.

Although soliciting employee feedback can lengthen the decision-making process, the benefits -- becoming aware of potential risks, improving decision-making and increasing employee engagement -- can more than make up for the extra time spent.

3. Reinforcing workplace inclusion. A manager’s ability to work well with employees of different backgrounds represents another top driver of employee satisfaction. Although agencies have traditionally focused diversity efforts on getting diverse talent through the door, CEB research shows that workplace inclusion actually has a greater impact on employee engagement and satisfaction than workforce diversity alone.

Progressive organizations use several practices to promote inclusion in the workplace, including assessing job candidates on their inclusive values and behaviors during the interview process and reinforcing those lessons at key moments in the employee life cycle. By providing supervisors and hiring managers with simple workflow tools, agencies can improve workplace inclusion without incurring heavy costs.

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