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Posted by on Nov 10, 2015

FEVS: Finding Your “One Thing”

If you are like me and were a teenager in the early 1990’s there’s a good chance that you are also a fan of the movie City Slickers with Billy Crystal and the late Jack Palance. For those of you who may not recall the film, the story revolves around three middle-aged men from New York who head out on two-week cattle drive as part of a ranch vacation. Over the course of the cattle drive the characters deal with a series of mishaps and adventures that challenge the men to connect with themselves and make key decisions about where they are in life and where they want to be. The classic scene from the film unfolds as the weatherworn old cowhand, Curley (played by Palance) and Mitch (Billy Crystal) set out to find a lost cow that is due to give birth at any moment. As the two ride through the barren desert, Curley encourages Mitch, who is in the midst of a mid-life crisis to, “Find his one thing.”

When the 2015 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results were released in September I was reminded of this scene from with Curley and Mitch in the desert. In 2014 when President Obama added the goal of strengthening employee engagement to the President’s Management Agenda, leaders across the Federal government began to make plans for improving organization level engagement scores as measured by FEVS. Bloggers, consultants, and even Federal Human Capital professionals churned out numerous prescriptions for what organizations could do to move the agency toward the desired levels of employee engagement. The 2015 survey results indicate that some agencies have made strong progress towards their goals, and agencies including HUD, NASA, and OMB (among others) are to be commended for creating environments where employees can be engaged in their work.

Ultimately, though, it will take more than organizational level interventions to make sustained improvements to engagement in large Federal agencies – individual employees chose, each day, how they show up for and contribute to the work environment. Employee engagement is a 50/50 proposition. Organizations must create the framework for employees to be engaged in their work – this includes having strong leadership, effective systems and processes, and a culture that encourages and supports individuals as they strive to be their best. But, individuals also must contribute to their own engagement – choosing to bring their best self to work each day.

While bringing your best self to work each day may not always be an easy proposition, it can be a lot easier when you follow Curley’s advice and find your one thing.


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