A Better Year for DHS

Employee Appreciation Day

From Federal News Radio:

The Homeland Security Department reversed a six-year trend in declining employee engagement this year.

Though the department is still ranked last in employee engagement among large agencies, its overall score rose from a six-year low of 53 percent in 2015 to 56 percent in 2016.

“Hopefully, this year’s improved results are the beginning of a new upward trend,” DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said. “I hope that the next secretary of Homeland Security continues to make employee satisfaction a top priority.”

That improvement means a lot to Johnson, who wasn’t shy in voicing his disappointment in last year’s results.

“Last year, we were disappointed with the FEVS results,” he said. “Our campaign had not yet produced results today. I looked back today at the statement I issued a year ago. I said then I’m disappointed, not discouraged. We will not give up. We know that improving employee satisfaction across our 22-component, 230,000-person department will take time.”

Many of DHS’ component agencies also made noticeable progress this year after they each developed their own customized plans, he said.

Engagement at Immigration and Customs Enforcement rose 7 percentage points this year, increasing from 48 percent in 2015 to 55 percent in 2016.

Johnson pointed to an improved pay scale and enforcement policies as the main reasons for a 7-point increase at Immigration and Customs Enforcement this year, where employee engagement rose from 48 percent score in 2015 to 55 percent in 2016.

Engagement also increased for Customs and Border Protection, which saw its scores rise from 49 percent to 53 percent within the past year.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services boosted engagement from 68 percent to 71 percent this year.

And though the Secret Service only saw a 1 percent increase — from 49 percent to 50 percent — in engagement this year, the agency saw huge boost in its participation. About 59 percent of Secret Service employees took the survey this year, compared with 41 percent of employees the previous year.

Johnson attributed his department’s success to the concerted effort it put into its employee engagement steering committee, which DHS Undersecretary for Management Russell Deyo chaired, as well as the efforts he and other leaders made on strengthening employee morale and engagement.

“This year alone, the deputy secretary and I personally participated in 45 employee engagement sessions in 22 cities across this country to discuss our priorities and hear employees’ concerns. As some of you may know, I even put on a TSA uniform in March and went to BWI Airport to work alongside our TSA officers.”

Johnson also asked for employee feedback on a DHS-wide mission statement, where 3,000 employees responded. The department also created a new DHS orientation for employees to new people about its mission as a whole.

And DHS also brought back the Secretary’s Valor Awards, which honor employees for acts of bravery on and off duty.

In addition, the department put a new emphasis on telling its employees about new job and promotion opportunities, Johnson said.

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