By Ms. Kari Hawkins (AMC)January 10, 2020
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- As the Army's largest civilian organization, Army Materiel Command is leading the way in implementing initiatives to address the findings of the most recent Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.
With high numbers of employee participation in the survey, AMC has a significant amount of data to support initiatives that will have a positive impact on AMC and productivity levels, said Max Wyche, deputy chief of staff for Human Resources (G-1).
"We really appreciate employees taking the time to do the survey," Wyche said. "It's one of the tools we have as a leadership team to get direct feedback from the workforce and to drive plans toward improving the workplace."
For the Spring 2019 survey, 38% of AMC's employees responded, with 66% of 570 AMC Headquarters employees responding and 50% or more of employees responding through three AMC's major subordinate organizations.
"That's very valuable feedback," Wyche said. "The higher the response rate, the better understanding you have of the perceptions of employees. It allows you to see trends and the impact of the organization and its supervisors on employees and the workplace."
There are only about six months between surveys to implement initiatives, Wyche said, and it is difficult to measure the impact of those initiatives from one survey to another. As an annual survey, FEVS takes about two months to conduct and then another three months for results to be provided to command leadership. Yet, AMC G-1 and senior leadership are committed to using survey results to make a positive difference in the work environment at AMC.
"Our number one goal is to make sure our employees know we have heard their voice through the survey and we have acknowledged the feedback we've gotten," Wyche said. "We've analyzed the data, and now we are recognizing the positives from the survey and working to address the areas where we need to improve."
The 2019 FEVS results were shared with AMC in late summer 2019, presented to AMC HQ employees during a town hall in October and used to develop AMC's Human Capital Strategies. Results were presented based on Employee Engagement, which is defined as an employee's sense of purpose, manifest in the level of dedication, persistence and effort put into their work, and into their overall commitment to the agency and its mission.
"Engagement ties directly to an organization's ability to produce output," Wyche said. "It is also important from a recruitment and retention perspective, and, ultimately, is linked to the ability to retain the right talent for this organization to be productive.
"Engagement is not necessarily equated with how happy the workforce is, but it does equate with having a more satisfied workforce. Employees who are engaged and satisfied with the work they are doing are more prone to be a productive workforce, and to interact positively with supervisors, leaders and peers."
Since the town hall, Wyche and AMC's FEVS Program Manager Keith Cromartie have been working with senior leaders to determine and implement initiatives addressing the following statements that received an employee engagement rate lower that the President's Engagement Goal of 67%:
• Work Experience -- "I feel encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things" and "My talents are used well in the workplace;
• Leaders Lead -- "In my organization, senior leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment in the workforce," "My organization's senior leaders maintain high standards of honesty and integrity;" "Managers communicate the goals and priorities of the organization;" "Overall, how good a job do you feel is being done by the manager directly over your immediate supervisor/team leader?;" and "I have a high level of respect for my organization's senior leaders."
• Supervisors -- While the engagement numbers remained higher than the 67% President's Engagement Goal, there was decline in engagement for the following statements: "My supervisor/team leader listens to what I have to say?" and "My supervisor/team lead treats me with respect."
"In all three areas, employees would benefit from a better understanding of how we reward and recognize," Wyche said. "Leaders need to be aware of how they are using the recognition system to make meaningful distinctions in performance. Employees need to better understand how promotions are being done, how they can get additional opportunities within their organization and how they can get broadening opportunities to enhance their skill set. In addition, senior leaders can help generate higher levels of motivation by being visible, spending time with the workforce and being approachable."
From an AMC HQ perspective, Wyche said working groups led by senior leaders are looking closely at how AMC supervisors are administering rewards and recognitions, both the performance-based awards, and the special and out-of-cycle awards. The goal, he said, is to have a better and more efficient reward system, a workforce that understands the merit system and how to apply for opportunities, and a methodology to ascertain what the workforce values and what retains the workforce.
"We want leaders and the workforce to be part of developing solutions," Wyche said.
There has been substantial improvement in getting workforce participation in the survey, and that's the first step toward making positive changes, Cromartie said. AMC HQs had a 7% increase in the number of employees participating in FEVS from 2018 to 2019.
"Our leaders see human capital management of our civilian workforce as a key enabler of all seven focus areas for readiness," Cromartie said. "The readiness of civilians and the engagement of the workforce are the very foundation of building readiness in the Army. The survey pinpoints areas we can work on to achieve the readiness levels the Army is looking for."
Commanders and senior executive service employees are rated on actions taken to mitigate issues identified by FEVS.
"It's not only about shaking hands and saying, 'We hear you.' It's about taking action on the survey and that's a mandatory performance objective," Wyche said.
While AMC HQ workforce participation is considered healthy by survey standards, Cromartie said there is still substantial work to be done to increase participation at the major subordinate commands.
Soon, employees will be asked to participate in the 2020 FEVS, and leaders hope the number of participants will continue to increase and the positive responses to statements will continue to climb.
"Employees spend a significant amount of time at work. We want it to be a place they enjoy coming to and that they feel appreciated. We want them to feel they are treated fairly and with respect," Wyche said. "And, ultimately, we want each individual employee to know they have the opportunity, if so desired, to be developed and to succeed in their career."