The Federal Human Capital Survey (FHCS) Web site contains a tremendous amount of data, which can be a rich source of information for each agency as it seeks to improve its human capital management. Every agency has its own unique mission and workforce, and its own set of special human capital challenges. So every agency will look at its own data from the survey in a different way. Nevertheless, here are some general guidelines for how to make the best use of this vast resource.
Focus on the results you believe are of particular importance to your agency. There is no formula or statistical model for determining which survey results are most important. Your data will show whether a response to a particular question is statistically different from the Governmentwide survey average. However, because most results in the FHCS are statistically significant because of the large sample size, this is not always helpful. In addition, you should rely on your knowledge of your agency's strategic human capital plan and the assistance of your OPM Human Capital Officer to identify the really important results.
Compare your agency results to Governmentwide survey results. Identify whether your agency exceeded or fell below the Governmentwide average for each question. Look for items that are either notably below or above the average of other agencies.
If results are available for subcomponents within your agency, compare them to each other and to the overall agency average. Again, look for relatively high and low items for each subcomponent compared to the others and for patterns that may indicate broader strengths or weaknesses in the various dimensions of human capital.
Compare your agency to other agencies with similar missions and workforces. No two agencies are alike, and differences in workforce and mission have an important impact on survey responses to many types of questions. Comparing your results to similar agencies will neutralize some of these differences and better enable you to understand your results and how to use them to improve human capital management. In other words, you can learn more about your relative strengths and weaknesses by comparing yourself to true peers.
Track your agency’s results over time to determine whether progress is being made overall and on specific survey items. Especially for large agencies, results are not likely to change very much over a year or two, but will change as conditions change over the longer term. Having established the 2002 FHCS as the baseline and readministering the survey in 2004, OPM plans to continue to administer the survey on a regular basis in the future.
Use the survey results as one source of information for tracking your agency’s progress under the Human Capital Standards for Success. The survey provides one source of information for evaluating success in three systems that are incorporated into the Human Capital Assessment and Accountability Framework (HCAAF): Talent, Performance Culture, and Leadership. The 2002 results serve as a baseline assessment of the quality of agency human capital management. The 2004 Governmentwide survey results should reflect the effects of improved management of the Talent, Performance Culture, and Leadership systems. The results may also suggest program or policy changes needed to strengthen agencies’ ability to compete for talent, motivate employees, and provide world-class leadership. OPM will continue to use survey results as a tool to assess agencies and their progress toward “green” status on Strategic Management of Human Capital under the President’s Management Agenda.
Be sure to probe for what lies behind the survey results. Survey results are vital because they provide statistically valid information about what employees think. But they don't explain why employees respond to questions as they do, and the reasons will not always be clear to you as you analyze the results. That is why survey data should be used with other information when assessing the state of human capital management in your agency. For example, personnel data such as turnover rates or performance rating distributions may shed light on employee perceptions. Or, you may need to use other tools such as focus groups to fully understand what is going on.
For further assistance in analyzing your survey results, contact OPM's Human Capital Officer for your agency. Your OPM Human Capital Officer is very familiar with the survey and your agency's results. He or she can be helpful in interpreting what the data on employee perceptions mean and how your results can be translated into action to improve human capital management in your agency. He or she also has access to experts at OPM who can help you address difficult questions of statistical interpretation or methodology.