Archivist David Ferriero works to improve employee morale after bad poll results

Archivist David Ferriero has set up a task force to improve the agency's work environment.
Archivist David Ferriero has set up a task force to improve the agency's work environment. (Jonathan Newton/the Washington Post)
Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It can't be easy to acknowledge to the public and your employees that morale at your agency has hit the skids. But David S. Ferriero, the U.S. Archivist, did just that after the National Archives tied with the Department of Housing and Urban Development last week as the lowest-ranked large federal agencies in a survey of federal employees' views about their jobs.

Ferriero released a lengthy press release -- something more commonly used for self-congratulation -- on the heels of the closely watched "Best Places to Work" rankings by the Partnership for Public Service.

He said that he encouraged the Archives' 3,200 employees across the country to respond to the survey, and 82 percent did -- the highest participation rate in the government.

Ferriero, who arrived nine months ago, said in an interview that one of the biggest problems with morale is a sense that employees do not have a clearly defined career path, and many feel stuck.

"I want all of our employees, regardless of where in the agency they work, to feel valued and have pride in this agency," Ferriero wrote in his release. "We are on the path to change."

He said that he has been on a listening tour of 21 Archives offices across the country. Last week, he sent all employees a follow-up survey that solicited suggestions on how to improve the agency's work environment. "Within the first day, we had received 342 responses," he wrote. And he said that he has set up a task force in the agency to sort through the ideas and implement them.

Below are a couple of the follow-up survey questions and responses:

What could the agency do to improve on communicating its priorities more effectively to you?

-- Include interested individuals/departments in planning meetings.

-- Restructure our program elements with sound judgment and implement a clear vision and strategy.

What can be done to make changes?

-- Develop a program where people can be trained to fill positions that provide greater opportunity to advance.

-- Pay attention to the little people who are doing all the hard work with little or no recognition

-- Involve more employees, specifically ground level employees.

-- Better train supervisors and recognize that just because someone is good at their job doesn't mean they will be a good supervisor.

-- Lisa Rein

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