Federal Workers Less than Optimistic About Their Pay, Survey Says
Compensation has always been and will always be a crucial component of employee satisfaction. So, it follows that an employee’s satisfaction—or dissatisfaction—with their pay is a key indicator of whether that worker might be considered a flight risk.
Given this reality, findings from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) 2022 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) suggest there’s a significant number of federal workers who might be ready for takeoff to new career destinations.
This year’s results see federal employees generally feeling less optimistic about their pay, compared to previous years. As FedSmith’s Ian Smith recently reported, government-wide satisfaction with pay was five percentage points lower in 2022 than in the past five years. (Last year’s FEVS saw a six point drop from 2020.)
As Smith noted, pay satisfaction falls within the category known as the Global Satisfaction Index in the FEVS survey, which saw more than 557,000 federal employees respond this year. The variables that factor into federal employees’ overall satisfaction are job satisfaction, organization satisfaction and employees’ likelihood of recommending their organization to others, in addition to pay.
Overall, job satisfaction fell two points this year, from 64% to 62%, with employees reporting less satisfaction in each of the aforementioned categories. For example, 66% said they were satisfied in their current jobs, compared to 67% saying the same in 2021.
The percentage of federal employees who would recommend working for their organization declined two points, while organization satisfaction dipped one point from 2021. The number of workers who are satisfied with their pay, however, decreased from 61% to 56%, representing the biggest drop among the four job satisfaction categories included in the 2022 FEVS.
What’s Driving Discontent with Compensation
So, why are some federal workers not completely happy with their compensation?
The OPM cites a number of factors. The agency attributes this year’s decline in pay satisfaction “to rapidly rising inflation that federal employees (and Americans as a whole) have had to deal with over the last couple of years,” wrote Smith, noting that the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts inflation over the past 12 months at 7.7%, and “much higher in some areas, food being among those.”
And, as Smith points out, the OPM also recently announced that 2023 premiums under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program are slated to increase an average of more than 7% overall, with the employees’ share of premiums going up by an average of 8.7% in 2023.
While federal employees watch these prices go up, however, they’re not seeing a corresponding increase in their pay.
“On top of all these rapidly rising costs, federal employees got a 2.7% average pay raise in 2022, and are most likely going to get a 4.6% pay raise in 2023,” wrote Smith. “Although the federal pay raise is not technically based on inflation, it has left many federal employees … frustrated that they are not getting a higher pay raise next year.”
That frustration seems to be more pronounced among workers at larger federal agencies. Consider that workers were happiest with their compensation at smaller organizations, with an average pay satisfaction score of 64 at “very small” agencies, 62 at “small” agencies” and 63 at “medium” agencies. Meanwhile, those scores were 57 and 55 at “large” and “very large” federal employers, respectively.
More to the Picture than Just Pay
Looking more broadly at the survey findings, though, it appears that federal employees’ discontent with their pay isn’t affecting overall employee engagement in a meaningful way.
(Gerome Q. Banks, Ed.D, MBA, analyzed the impact of pay and other factors on federal employees’ job satisfaction in a two-part series of articles, appearing in the September and October 2022 issues of HR News.)
Overall, the 2022 average federal employee engagement score was 71, the same score seen in last year’s FEVS and just a one-point drop from 2020. (This year’s average employee engagement score actually represents a three-point increase from 2018.) And, again, these marks are higher among employees at smaller federal entities, where the average employee engagement score was 76 in 2022, compared to 72 and 70 at large and very large agencies.
Noting that federal employee engagement scores held steady while employee engagement is flagging in other sectors, OPM Director Kiran Ahuja points to this finding—along with the high scores that federal employees gave their supervisors and their agencies’ ability to meet customer needs, for instance—as signs that federal workers still maintain a positive view of their agencies’ overall performance over the past year.
“Amid unprecedented challenges, federal employees remain remarkably resilient, engaged and committed to public service,” said Ahuja said in a recent statement.
“Federal employees are finding creative solutions to stay connected to their teams, leverage workplace flexibilities and remain motivated to continue doing the critical work on behalf of the American people.”
13 December 2022
HR News Article