What Federal Employees Say: Results of the 2002 Federal Human Capital Survey

By Hyde, A. C. | The Public Manager, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

What Federal Employees Say: Results of the 2002 Federal Human Capital Survey


Hyde, A. C., The Public Manager


Surprise! Most federal employees like their jobs, believe they do important work, feel a sense of accomplishment, and think they are held accountable for results. In one of the most ambitious employee surveys undertaken to date, the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has released the results of the Federal Human Capital Survey--with a 51 percent response rate from a sample of over 200,000 federal employees.

Findings are available in a three-volume set including a 50-page executive summary and two 300-page data compendiums: one showing most of the 100 questions broken down by demographics, the other (and perhaps the more provocative breakdown) shows the 100 questions by largest agencies. The latter will provide an opportunity to rank order agencies in all sorts of ways--best (and worst) agencies to work in, 10 agencies personnel are most anxious to leave, 10 agencies with highest motivated employees, etc. (Everything is available online at www.fhcs.gov.)

This is an important survey and OPM has done a solid job not only providing the data in such detail, but also in linking the results clearly to the human capital dimensions it touts in its scorecard. One might not agree with the use to which the data is being put, but OPM is upfront on how it plans to use the results to help agencies "get it" on human capital. Of course, that doesn't mean that there won't a lot of debate about what it all means, but this will be an important data baseline that will be used by human resource types for years to come.

Who Wants to Leave?

The big red flag waived by OPM involves the looming human capital crisis. Here, OPM reports that 34.6 percent of federal employees indicate they are "considering" leaving their organization. A follow-on question on retirement shows 4 percent "planning" on retiring within one year, 12 percent between one and three years, and 13.8 percent between three to five years. If these numbers actually held up, that would hardly amount to a mass exodus, but it's also not trivial.

Even more intriguing, the survey analyzes job and organizational satisfaction questions as they relate to who wants to leave and who wants to stay. Not surprisingly, overall job satisfaction correlated very highly with considering leaving the organization. As OPM concluded: "Individual agency results indicate that the agencies with more negative responses overall tend to have the largest numbers of employees considering leaving. …

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