The final results of the 2017 OPM Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) have just been released and guess what? For the Broadcasting Board of Governors, there is no significant difference between this year’s and last year’s results. In fact, for the BBG, there is no significant difference between this year’s results and the results for every one of the past surveys since the very first one in 2002. The federal employees at the BBG are caught in a full-blown crisis: a crisis of confidence, a crisis of poor leadership, a crisis of morale.
Once again, our Agency has the dubious honor of being the cellar-dweller in the Medium-Sized Federal Agency category. We’re the “bottom of the barrel” kids. We literally can go no lower!
A look back shows that, over many years, Agency management has preached “incremental improvements” or taking “baby steps” in order to turn things around. Well, those incremental baby-step improvements have failed to make any significant improvements in the morale crisis at this Agency – a morale crisis that has been in existence since at least 2002. We are told every year that we didn’t get to this point overnight and we won’t get out of the hole we are in overnight. Well at what point do we start digging out instead of digging deeper?
The latest FEVS shows that, throughout government overall, positive responses were up. Any increases in positive responses for the BBG are probably just statistical “noise” — insignificant. The real news in this year’s results is that the BBG remains dead last in every index in its category. In the Employee Engagement Index–dead last. In the New IQ Index – dead last. Global Satisfaction Index – dead last. Finally, in the Human Capital Assessment and Accountability Framework – same story – dead last. For those keeping count, that is four for four; a total and complete failure.
If the past few years of morale improvement efforts have shown anything, it is that this Agency does not know how to improve employee morale; in fact, morale has gotten worse. Obviously, whatever tiny steps the Agency has utilized to improve morale have not been enough to significantly and adequately address the causes of the morale problem. This year’s FEVS is proof that better communication and more ice cream socials and poetry contests aren’t what improves morale. In fact, the case can be made that these social events worsen morale because they give the impression that management is focused on these activities rather than on actions that would truly improve morale, such as removing inefficient, demeaning, incompetent and ineffective managers. (Unfortunately for the Agency and its employees, that describes many managers.)
What is needed is a strong, serious effort that either results in significant improvements in morale or has real consequences for those managers who, in essence, are the driving force in the abysmal morale situation in the areas they oversee.
The Agency already has the tools needed to identify, in some cases even down to the language service level, those managers who oversee units that have higher morale levels as well as those managers who need to be removed from their positions and transferred to other, non-managerial, duties.
Given the robust 75% response rate to the survey, we can rightly say that Agency employees are not interested in any more upper management plans for “incremental baby step changes.” No more sugarcoating. No more dancing around the problems. No more concocting unrealistic, peripheral solutions. The Agency needs to make a real commitment and institute a “roll up the sleeves” attitude to seriously tackle and reverse the crisis situation that we are in. Managers overseeing units with low morale need to feel the heat and either raise the morale or lose their positions.
Low morale is a threat to the mission of any organization; conversely, high morale is a force multiplier. The Agency needs to understand that improving morale is not something that it should only focus on after all other tasks are accomplished; improving morale should be on the top of every manager’s list. Make no mistake: low morale is an existential threat to this Agency and its about time leaders and managers acknowledge that and do something about it.