1999 DEPARTMENT OF STATE
EMPLOYEE SURVEY IMPROVEMENT STRATEGY
Key Survey Findings
Areas Where State is Doing Well
Department of State Civil Service and Foreign Service employees contributed 197 survey responses to this study (a 27% response rate). The total State Department employee population includes 6,600 Civil Service, 8,900 Foreign Service, 9,000 Foreign Service National and 16,300 overseas Personal Service Contract employees. Although this is a relatively small response, the results are a fairly accurate indication of general attitudes among Department employees. From this sample, overall job satisfaction received a 66% favorable rating, slightly up from last year and higher than both the government-wide and private industry ratings. 81% gave a favorable rating to the "overall quality of the work done" in their group, a rating very close to that given by employees in the largest corporations in the private sector (83%). Of those surveyed 67% felt that "their opinions seem to count" in the workplace. State rated higher (72%) than the government average (59%), when respondents were asked if "a spirit of cooperation and teamwork exists" in their immediate work unit.
Other areas in which State respondents gave their agency higher than the government wide rating were: use of teams; respect for individual differences; improved productivity in the past two years; greater flexibility in how work is accomplished; union-management cooperation; and satisfaction with involvement in decisions affecting employees work. Although there was still skepticism expressed about the concept of "reinvention," favorable employee comments included the following: "keep at it", "thanks for bringing such an idea into the workplace", "(it is) beneficial in motivating government employees to work harder to excel."
Areas of Greatest Concern
Employees want more training opportunities. Only 40% felt they were receiving enough training to provide high quality customer service. The State Department ranked slightly below the government-wide tally when respondents were asked if their supervisors were sufficiently understanding and supportive of their family and personal responsibilities. Employees felt that recognition and rewards were not always based on merit. They were also critical of what they perceived as lack of corrective action when employees fail to meet performance standards. Only 27% felt that "good performance" was clearly defined by the Department. More employees this year than last year noted that the Department had not simplified travel regulations. Ninety percent of those surveyed did not feel that the Department had streamlined the process of hiring employees. Employees ranked the Department below the Government-wide average on electronic access to information needed to do their jobs.
Written comments criticized Management for poor communication with employees. Overall, the views on reinvention at State were not positive, with a consistent theme being that reinvention has not penetrated the organization except to increase workloads and decrease staffing. Results appear to indicate a larger percentage of Foreign Service than Civil Service respondents to the survey.
Immediate Action Steps
As a result of recommendations contained in several management and infrastructure studies conducted recently at the Department of State (many of which mirror the findings of this survey)* State is taking significant steps to address the concerns of its employees, both in Washington and abroad.
Long Term Strategy
- The School of Leadership and Management at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center is working to provide a full range of training to both Foreign Service and Civil Service employees. The Office of Civil Service Personnel has developed the Department's career development leadership model for civil service employees.
- The Department will soon be providing the resumes of employees' spouses to posts when assignments are made to facilitate family member job placement within the Embassy.
- The Department is making Foreign Service assignments and promotions more competitive by instituting a pilot program for 360 evaluations tied to the assignment process.
- The Department has revised its foreign language competency regulations to recognize and financially reward the use of difficult languages such as Chinese, Arabic and Japanese.
- The Department has revised the evaluation form used for Foreign Service employees to better assess performance and to relate it to the national interests.
- The Office of Civil Service Personnel and the Career Development and Learning Center sponsor regular noon seminars on career and leadership issues.
- A program allowing Civil Service employees to bid on "hard-to-fill" Foreign Service positions overseas is underway.
- The Department has established more flexible reemployment rights for Civil Service employees who wish to take temporary Foreign Service assignments overseas.
- The Department is piloting an Alternate Exam Program designed to provide greater speed and flexibility in bringing employees into the Foreign Service
STATEMENT OF COMMITMENT
Secretary of State Albright clearly articulated the Department's commitment to its employees when she said in her March 2, 2000 testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, "Our Foreign Service, Civil Service, and Foreign Service National personnel contribute every day to America -- through the dangers they help contain; the crimes they help prevent; the deals they help close; the rights they help protect; and the travelers they just plain help. They have earned our praise. They deserve our support."
In 1998 the Under Secretary for Management commissioned a study by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. to pinpoint State's vulnerabilities in competing for and retaining the best and most talented individuals in an increasingly competitive job market. This study, "The War for Talent," assessed the results of 600 survey responses and focus group interviews with Foreign and Civil Service employees. The results of the study made it quite clear that in the coming decade and beyond, the Department of State will have to devise new ways to manage its talent--from recruitment through retirement--if it is to remain competitive with other government agencies and the private sector.
- Discussions are on-going between the Bureau of Personnel and the National Foreign Affairs Training Center about whether, and what, training should be mandatory for Foreign Service employees, and how it would be implemented.
- The Department plans to make available to all employees a resource referral service that would assist with resolving issues related to child care, elder care, college information, emergency care services, summer camps, pre-natal services, adoption etc.
- The Department continues to pursue bilateral work agreements, which allow spouses of embassy employees to work legally on the local economies in participating countries. Since last summer, 11 agreements have been negotiated or amended, for a total number of 136 in place. Another six should be negotiated this year.
- Over 900 Civil Service employees have signed up for the Leadership Competency Program to address the future needs of the Department when "baby boomers" retire.
- The Department will implement the Labor Management Partnership initiatives of E.O. 12871
The Report of the Overseas Presence Advisory Panel (OPAP) is based on interviews with several hundred Foreign Service, Civil Service and Foreign Service National employees in Washington and at 26 posts overseas. OPAP was formed in the aftermath of the 1998 bombings of the American Embassies in East Africa to consider the future of America's presence overseas. In their report to the President, the OPAP members stated, "What is most striking to any visitor to our posts overseas is the remarkable job being done by a cadre of dedicated, hard-working men and women--often in adverse and even dangerous circumstances. When we saw what these talented and resourceful people are accomplishing in representing America, we became all the more committed to giving them the support they need to get the job done."
CONTACT FOR MORE INFORMATION
Department of State, Bureau of Personnel