ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – With three weeks left, the push is on for federal civilians to take an online survey to gauge the workforce’s views on various topics to help leadership develop better policy changes.
It’s called the Office of Personnel Management Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.
As of Sept. 25, two weeks into the open window to take the survey, the U.S. Army Sustainment Command had 7% of its employees participate. The minimum Army goal is 50%. For 2019, ASC had a participation rate of 48.8%.
The 38-question survey, which is offered through Oct. 27 and takes about 20 – 30 minutes to complete, gives employees a high-visibility venue to voice their opinions about their workplace environment.
“I genuinely ask for your participation so we gain a complete representation of how you feel ASC is doing,” stated Matt Sannito, deputy to the commanding general, ASC, in a recent organization-wide email.
Although the annual survey is voluntary, employees may use official time to complete it. After completing, responses are combined to create reports that indicate what employees’ thoughts are on topics such as transparency, wages, and quality of leadership.
Additionally, it measures employees’ perceptions of senior leadership, immediate supervisors, and intrinsic work experience, an Army PowerPoint slide presentation stated.
All responses are kept confidential.
The results provide valuable insight for ASC leaders into the strengths and challenges within the workplace to ensure their organization has an effective civilian workforce. The annual FEVS results are a major contributing factor used for the identification, development, and implementation of new command initiatives.
One proof-positive example of surveys like this manifesting into results is the Strategic Human Capital Plan, pointed out ASC’s Melissa Peterson, Civilian Personnel, G-1 (Human Resources).
In a letter to support the SHCP 2020 – 2025 program, Maj. Gen. Daniel Mitchell, ASC commanding general, wrote: “We will achieve performance expectations and ensure ASC continues as a high-performing organization by making a solid investment in how ASC manages our diverse workforce. Simply stated, strategic human capital management is the integration of human resources into the business process of the command to meet strategic goals and objectives to man, develop, manage, and sustain ASC’s military and civilian workforce.
“This plan will have a profound impact on ASC as a whole, requiring a commitment from our military and civilian senior leaders, managers, and workforce throughout the organizational footprint,” Mitchell wrote. “By defining how ASC leads human capital, we will foster a workforce built upon dignity and respect further maximizing their capabilities to sustain and enhance Army Readiness.”
SHCP was developed based upon five years of quantative/qualative data taken from various surveys – FEVS, ASC Command Climate, and ASC’s Entrance and Exit interviews.
Another example is improving professional development opportunities, Peterson said, adding that a “huge precedence” was set by offering the Civilian Education System classes locally versus having to send an employee on temporary duty to another installation.
“Professional improvement is a huge initiative – the feedback from FEVS/Exit interviews showed employee dissatisfaction in the lack of professional development opportunities,” Peterson said.
Still another change is improving the hiring process.
Peterson said that ASC has updated and streamlined its selection criteria requirements, continuously being refined to meet the overall intent and ensure ASC is the best candidate pool for each vacancy, along with filling positions - based upon mission needs.
“The workforce told us what they wanted, and LOE 4 (Line of Effort) is the implementation platform to track and show the evolution to leadership/workforce. These survey's drive the LOE4/SHCP initiatives to improve our overall work environment,” Peterson said.
Likewise, Gen. James McConville, U.S. Army chief of staff, has talked about his emphasis on taking care of the workforce as a resource:
“Winning matters, and people are my number one priority. People are our Soldiers – Regular Army, National Guard and Reserves – their Families, civilians, and Soldier for Life – retirees and veterans,” McConville said.
“We win through our people, and people will drive success in our Readiness, Modernization and Reform priorities. We must take care of our people…”
Despite these and other implementations within ASC, the general workforce is not yet convinced surveys like this make a difference, Peterson said.
When asked to respond to “I believe the results of this survey will be used to make my agency a better place to work,” the five-year average shows only 33.7% of employees responding favorably.
“That question falls under the category of ‘My Work Unit’ which is a SHCP focus area this year. It measures the overall impression that the command has on our workforce,” Peterson said. “Transparency is key, and opening the lines of communication is needed in order to show the workforce that we are listening. In order to build a rewarding work experience, we need to understand what matters most to our workforce.”
Through FEVS, the ASC Entrance Survey, Stay Survey (Retention) and Exit Survey for military and civilians, and the ASC Command Climate Survey for military and civilians, ASC is able to get a snapshot of what its personnel think.
“Each of these surveys are key factors in identifying the ASC workforce trends and challenges providing a holistic picture of our command’s culture. It's crucial in the development of new/innovative programs,” she explained.
“These are all opportunities for you to share with leaders, at all levels, what is going right and what isn't going well within ASC. They all ask for your feedback on leadership, pay, innovation, work-life balance, and other issues. Let your voice be heard.”
Those eligible to participate in FEVS include all Army Civilians who are full-time or part-time, permanent, non-seasonal, non-political, appropriated funds employees, who came onboard with the Army as of October 2019.
Since many in the workforce are teleworking, employees can also forward the survey invitation to their personal email addresses and take the survey on a personal computer or smart phone. The survey is user-friendly and allows participants to stop, save, and resume if and when needed.
According to OPM, items related to the COVID-19 pandemic have been added, giving employees the opportunity to share their unique experiences with leadership. The feedback will help agency leadership understand how they can help employees and highlight any best practices for future planning.
Questions on the FEVS may be sent to Melissa Peterson and Shelonda Broyles. Their contact information can be found in the Rock Island Arsenal email directory.