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Making VA a "Great Place to Work"

In testimony before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Secretary Shinseki said that one of VA's strategic goals is to "improve workforce satisfaction and make VA an employer of choice." I'd like to suggest using the model developed by the Great Place to Work Institute, which is used in Fortune Magazine's annual list of "The 100 Best Companies to Work For." That model has five dimensions:

Measures of CREDIBILITY include open and accessible communications, the competent coordination of human and material resources, and consistency and integrity of corporate vision.

Measures of RESPECT include supporting professional development, demonstrating appreciation, collaborating with employees on relevant decisions, and caring for employees as individuals with personal lives and outside interests.

Measures of FAIRNESS include balanced treatment for all, the absence of favoritism in hiring and promotions, and the lack of discrimination and a process for appeals.

Measures of PRIDE address attitudes toward employees’ jobs, their individual contributions, the work produced by teams or work groups, and their organization’s products and standing in the community.

And measures of CAMARADERIE look for a socially friendly and welcoming atmosphere, a sense of “family” or “team,” and the ability to be oneself.

Many of these measures are reflected in items included in the Federal Human Capital Survey (now called the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey). Last June, the director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management asked Federal agencies to look at their results from the 2008 administration of that survey, identify the ten items on which they scored lowest (compared to overall government results), conduct follow-up activities to understand the reasons for employee dissatisfaction, and create an action plan to increase employee satisfaction. (VA skipped the follow-up activities and went straight to creating the plan. Please don't do that any more.)

I think that a more appropriate gap analysis would involve comparing CURRENT levels with DESIRED levels. And instead of leaving this task to the Office of Human Resources and Administration, create a "Great Place to Work" Council, with members from every VA office or organization involved in improving the workplace environment. (For example, the National Center for Organization Development, the Labor-Management Partnership Council, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Office of Resolution Management, the Office of Policy and Planning, and all others who I hope will forgive me for failing to mention them.)

Also, I'd suggest expanding the use of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey in order to be able to evaluate results at the level of individual facilities instead of just overall VA and by Administration. That would make it easier to target those areas most in need of attention. Expanding the use of the VHA All Employee Survey would not be as valuable for two reasons: first, it doesn't contain the items or response categories required by Federal regulations; second, it doesn't allow comparisons to results outside VA.


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9 votes
Idea No. 201