Poor employee morale discussed at BBG meeting, OPM survey participation rate falls

2011 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey for BBG

Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) member Victor Ashe disclosed that agency workforce participation in the latest Office of Personnel Management (OPM) government-wide employee opinion survey was lower than in the previous year. These surveys are used to measure employee morale and the quality of management.

Ashe discovered by asking questions of International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) Director Richard Lobo during the board meeting in Prague last week that a higher participation rate for the previous survey was due to management sponsored pizza parties for survey participants. Down The Path Called Dysfunctional – Charges of BBG Federal Survey Fraud

The pizza parties were an attempt by the senior staff to encourage managers and employees participate in the survey and hopefully produce better results for the agency. Nevertheless, even though last year’s results were skewed by the management’s action, the BBG was still rated the lowest among all federal agencies in management knowledge and leadership. This year’s results are not expected to be better. The BBG has been consistently rated by its employees in recent years as one of the worst-managed federal workplace. Contract employees who represent a large portion of the workforce are not surveyed by OPM. The BBG, IBB and VOA management offers contract employees substandard pay. They are denied basic employment benefits, rights, and protections.

BBG GOVERNOR VICTOR ASHE: “We’ve learned earlier today from Mr. Lobo about the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) survey, which he may discuss in some detail when we get to his part of the meeting. The unfortunate news. And I say this, because most of these surveys cover VOA employees, perhaps some IBB. But that’s what it is predominantly, because the OPM doesn’t survey the Grantees, and they don’t survey contract employees either. But last year the participation was 67%, which was pretty good. This year it dropped almost a third, down to 48%, which is not good.

What in your view, if you’re aware of this, accounts in one year for such a drop off. Is it that everyone thinks that things are great, or they say what the heck it doesn’t matter if answer the survey because nothing is going to change, or somewhere in between?

And this just deals with the below 50% participation, and then you throw in the third of VOA who are contract employees, and they are not surveyed at all. So really, if you combine the contract employees and full time federal employees, it comes down to about 35% of the workforce because you’ve excluded the third right off to start and then are left with less than half answering of those who were surveyed. What you see is the reason for it is most unfortunate drop off that Governor Mulhaupt brought to our attention? The question he asked in a prior meeting.

VOA EXECUTIVE EDITOR STEVE REDISCH: “First of all, OPM makes the rules as to who gets surveyed, not Voice of America or IBB. So as far as why contractors are not surveyed, I really can’t answer that question. That’s an OPM question. As far as the participation and the response rate is concerned, I will say that last year there were incentives offered to divisions that had a certain percentage of response rate over certain percentage. There were incentives last year, there were no incentives this year. The 48% response rate this year represents an increase over the response rate two years ago.”

BBG GOVERNOR VICTOR ASHE: What do you mean there were incentives?

VOA EXECUTIVE EDITOR STEVE REDISCH: As well as the survey came at the time when the Fiscal Year 2013 budget was revealed. There were tremendous cuts to the Voice of America in the 2013 budget. And I will just leave it at that.

BBG GOVERNOR VICTOR ASHE: Mr. Redisch, you’ve said something that I do know about. What do you mean there were incentives last year? Were we paying people to respond?

VOA EXECUTIVE EDITOR STEVE REDISCH: No, we were offering pizza parties. The pizza parties were offered for high response rate to divisions and departments.

BBG GOVERNOR VICTOR ASHE: So the absence of a pizza party may have affected the participation?

VOA EXECUTIVE EDITOR STEVE REDISCH: There are various factors, and that was one of the factors that contributed to the high response rate last year.

ALTERNATIVE PRESIDING GOVERNOR DENNIS MULHAUPT: “I think this is going to be addressed in Director Lobo’s presentation.

BBG GOVERNOR VICTOR ASHE: He wouldn’t know about the pizza parties. I have another question, Mr. Redisch. One thing that I’ve been told by the AFGE employee union — you may very well disagree with this; I’m not saying I agree with this or don’t agree, but I think it’s relevant and I shared this with my colleagues on the board, Mr. Ensor and others. I’m not sure you were on the e-mail chain, but it was public.

The labor negotiations which started in March 2011 are still ongoing and according to …, are going to go until December 2012, if then, and beyond conceivably. This is the contract that goes back to 2005.

Is there not anything that can be done to speed up the resolution of this and sign the contract that is at least in broad terms agreeable to both labor and management?

VOA EXECUTIVE EDITOR STEVE REDISCH: Unfortunately, I’m not involved in those labor negotiations. The Voice of America is not specifically represented. It’s an IBB issue, and I cannot personally respond with any knowledge where negotiations stand or what is impeding negotiations.

ALTERNATIVE PRESIDING GOVERNOR DENNIS MULHAUPT: I suggest we deal with this in Director Lobo’s report.

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