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Survey shows OPM workers dissatisfied with opportunities for career advancement

By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 12, 2010

Workers at the federal government's personnel agency think their jobs are important, say they're held accountable for results and are willing to put in extra effort to get things done.

But they think their bosses do little to deal with poor performers or recognize employees who are doing a good job -- and they find limited opportunities for promotion.

These are the views of workers at the Office of Personnel Management in the Obama administration's first survey of the federal workforce.

The findings, posted on the agency's Web site this week, mirror trends across the federal government, according to overall results of the Employee Viewpoint Survey released last month. Of the personnel agency's 4,187 permanent, full-time employees, 63 percent responded to the survey, conducted online for a month starting in late February.

Just over three-quarters of personnel workers who responded said the department successfully carries out its mission as the government's human resource agency. Four-fifths said their supervisors support a balance between work and family life. More than three-quarters, 78 percent, said the boss listens to what they have to say. Almost 90 percent gave high marks to the job done by their team or department. And 85 percent said they like their work, up three percentage points from 2008.

But on the question of career advancement based on merit and rewards for creativity and innovation, personnel workers were generally dissatisfied, with less than 40 percent giving positive responses. The survey said the agency also lost ground from a similar survey in 2008 that asked whether managers take steps to deal with poor performers -- just 38 percent of employees were satisfied in this area, down almost six percentage points two years ago.

Agency leaders, describing the survey, said they plan to respond with a "corporate action plan" to address employees' biggest concerns and will continue to focus on professional development for managers and supervisors.

The survey also revealed demographic data about personnel workers who responded. The biggest group, 44 percent, have worked in federal government more than 20 years. Almost 63 percent are ages 40 to 59. One-fifth said they intend to leave the personnel agency within the next year, for another federal job. The majority of those answering the survey, 61 percent, are between GS-7 and GS-12 on the federal pay scale.

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