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FEVS: A Primer for Federal Managers


Sharon Benjamin PhD

Date Published

Apr 20, 2022
6 minute read
FEVS Scores

FEVS. A four-letter for some, depending on the results. But what are they? Where did they come from? How should federal leaders prepare for their release? And what bigger picture issues may be in play?

What are FEVS?

FEVS stands for Federal Employment Viewpoint Survey. For many decades, the Gallup Company conducted polling to federal government employees. However, seven years ago the government brought polling in house in the form of FEVS scores. In 2020, more than 44% of permanent federal employees completed the survey – that’s almost 625,000 people.*

What Should I Know About Them?

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) provides FEVS scores to federal leaders each year. However, there are a few key points to know when looking at the program from the 10,000-foot view.

  • Results offer multiple views. Specifically, results provide both point-in-time snapshots and a longitudinal look at employee satisfaction (i.e., the questions remain largely consistent over time so you can see the trend lines around federal worker attitudes and experiences). Most helpfully, FEVS shows the highs and lows of being a federal employee. For example, in 2020 87% of respondents believe their work corresponds to their agency’s goals; however, only 42% believe poor performers are effectively dealt with.* Those two stats alone would give a federal manager plenty to dig in on.
  • It is often difficult to get participation. Federal managers work really hard to entice people to complete the survey, meaning there’s likely some correlation between units with higher participation and higher overall positive scores.
  • The FEVS scores are a valuable tool for managers. Speaking from experience, in my work as an advisor at the Government Services Agency (GSA), we took our FEVS scores very seriously. There were long discussions about its implications and how we set our subsequent employee engagement satisfaction strategy.
  • FEVS offer insight into employee job satisfaction. Finally, for the American public, FEVS are an important periscope into how federal employees who work for all of us taxpayers are feeling about their work lives and their government experience. It helps put a face onto what often seems like a faceless entity.

How Should I Prepare for Them?

The yearly release of FEVS scores can cause a case of the jitters for federal managers. With that in mind, we’ve put together three elements you can focus on NOW – before you review your results.

  1. First, take a deep breath and quiet your mind. Reviewing results from a place of anxiety won’t do you any favors.
  2. Second, take a high-level look at the scores and simply absorb them before you start trying to make sense of what you’re seeing. Try to see the pattern at the overall level and don’t dive too deep into the details. For example, it’s tempting to go in really deep, really fast as a way of buffering against negative emotions, simply because you are trying to find the reason or excuse for why employees may be unhappy. Stay higher in altitude and take a look across larger swaths of your agency for context.
  3. Finally, make a plan to partner with your people – no matter how the scores shake out. Don’t attempt to solve issues for them; have them help you understand how to make their workplace better.

Are There Additional Resources to Help Me Interpret Them?

Yes, there is plenty of available guidance about how to read your scores and interpret what they mean.

First stop: the organizational change and development department in most federal agencies, who are usually quite skilled at FEVS scores. These folks are often brought in when a unit has scores that are difficult or challenging or to help with culture change and employee engagement. For organizations that may get unwanted news around DEIA, a great resource are the training departments of the Offices for Civil Rights

In addition to resources that federal managers may have at their disposal, they may find that their consulting partners (such as The Clearing) also have tools to help. And seeking an external perspective is often helpful in reframing your thinking. Our tendency as leaders is to get really worked up about negative feedback and to want to fix it right away while glossing over the good news. Of course, it’s important to fix tough issues. However, it’s also incredibly important to amplify the good news. What I think The Clearing does so well is help leaders solve problems while looking for opportunities to amplify the existing good energy.

How Should I Look at FEVS Given the Government’s CX Focus?

FEVS scores and customer experience go hand in hand. As agencies increase their focus on CX in light of the recent executive order, my hypothesis is that offices with higher FEVS scores will also be offices that experience higher CX. Good energy creates good energy in the same way negative energy is contagious. My hope is that the increased focus on government CX is the tide that raises the ships of both customer and employee experience.

If you’ve questions about your team’s FEVS scores or are thinking ahead about organizational performance, contact us. 

*2020 Governmentwide Management Report