Looking for a new job? Experienced professionals know: it is about more than the money. Certainly, you should expect (demand?) that you be properly compensated for the experience you bring, for the work you will do, and for the time you spend helping make the organization more productive. However, all things being fairly equal, there’s nothing more important than job satisfaction. I’m fortunate. I look forward to heading to work every morning. I enjoy getting my coffee, the elevator ride up, seeing colleagues, settling down, cranking up the computer, and getting to it.

Looking for a new job in a Federal agency? Experienced professionals know: there’s a relevant resource for your job search called the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, or FEVS. Published annually, FEVS “measures employees’ perceptions of whether, and to what extent, conditions characterizing successful organizations are present in their agencies.” Before you leap to a new job, you should dive deep into FEVS and figure what you find into your decision matrix.


The fundamental idea behind FEVS is the previously largely private-sector principle that interprets organizational success by way of customer satisfaction, and then recognizes that customer satisfaction is tied directly to employee satisfaction. No matter who your customers are—taxpayers, American workers, intelligence agencies, foreign countries—if your employees are unhappy, unfulfilled, demoralized, you’re never going to achieve excellent customer service.

Organizations shaped by antiquated business models measure success by input and activity, dollars spent and products produced, employees (and customers) be damned. Successful organizations have more forward-thinking, customer-focused business models that measure success by way of customer satisfaction—outcomes and impact, excellent customer experiences.

Sound too touchy feely? Fulfilling customer experience is central to top tier private companies likes Starbucks, Walgreens, Disney, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Wegmans . . . . And you can’t provide excellent customer service unless you have employees working in an engaging workplace.


Employee engagement is about employees who genuinely find themselves a productive, contributing part of organizational success, growth, and direction. They know what their organization’s vision is, and they know how they contribute to it individually and collectively. In the ideal situation, you ask an engineer at NASA what her job is, and she’ll tell you, “Putting a colony on Mars.” If you ask the custodian polishing the floors what his job is, and he’ll tell you, “Putting a colony on Mars.” And they both believe it with the same sense of intensity and personal worth.

FEVS’ infographic—what we used to call a slide—depicts what FEVS has concluded are the “specific factors support conditions for achieving an engaged workforce.” These factors are called drivers. For FEVS, drivers in employee engagement are Performance Feedback, Collaborative Management, Merit System Principles, Training & Development, and Work-Life Balance. Nice titles, but they have to mean something, first, and then, of course, managers and leaders have to bring these drivers to life.

That means, for instance, when we’re talking about performance feedback, we’re not talking about the old exercise of writing your own performance evaluation on behalf of your boss to save him time. In successful organizations, performance feedback is a discussion. It means managers actually taking a genuine interest in how employees are performing against expectations, encouraging success with specific guidance and understanding challenges by hearing employees, and then helping employees succeed. As the infographic puts it, performance evaluations “provide meaningful, worthwhile, and constructive performance conversations.”

One great Army leader I was privileged to learn from put it simply like this: “Leadership is about helping people succeed.” That’s what engaging workplaces do. They help their people succeed so their customers will be well-served.


Good places to work are those places characterized by engaged employees who are “more innovative, more productive, more committed, more satisfied, and less likely to leave.” That’s where you want to work. And FEVS draws its conclusions based on employee responses to nearly 100 questions—over 80 of which measure employee perceptions of how they, the employees, are managed by their leaders. The balance of the questions have to do with demographics so results can be put in a relevant context, for instance, from organizations with fewer than 100 employees to the very large organizations with more than 75,000 employees.

Where are the best places to work?  We’ll start to break that down tomorrow. Right now, get out and vote!

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Ed Ledford enjoys the most challenging, complex, and high stakes communications requirements. His portfolio includes everything from policy and strategy to poetry. A native of Asheville, N.C., and retired Army Aviator, Ed’s currently writing speeches in D.C. and working other writing projects from his office in Rockville, MD. He loves baseball and enjoys hiking, camping, and exploring anything. Follow Ed on Twitter @ECLedford.