OMES employee engagement above statewide average for fourth consecutive year
By Christa Helfrey
State government is one of the largest employers in Oklahoma with over 33,000 employees. These public servants play a vital role in ensuring citizens can access state services anytime. Whether it’s educating students, providing physical or mental health services, aiding local businesses, or simply preserving one of our 35 state parks, you can bet there is a state employee working behind the scenes to serve Oklahomans.
For state government to fulfill its important work and motivate employees to do their best, it’s crucial to maintain a work culture that keeps employees engaged and satisfied with their jobs.
Seeking to support that effort, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) established the annual Oklahoma State Employee Engagement Survey (OKSEES) in 2019. The OKSEES is a comprehensive assessment that records employee perceptions about their work and identifies trends in statewide engagement, satisfaction and turnover.
In its fourth year, the OKSEES collected feedback from about 100 Oklahoma state agencies between Oct. 3-21, 2022. The latest results indicate OMES remains a top workplace in Oklahoma, with scores above statewide averages and a top three rank among participating large agencies with over 800 employees.
KEY FINDINGS AT OMES:
About 670 OMES employees participated in the 2022 OKSEES, representing approximately 66% of the agency’s workforce.
Since the initial OKSEES in 2019, OMES scores have increased every year, peaking in 2021 with 84% engagement and satisfaction and 85% intent to stay. This year’s dip came as no surprise, according to People Analytics Lead Kevin Copeland, who says the 2022 numbers are a natural leveling out following the previous spike.
“The slight decline in these categories from 2021 levels is not unexpected,” he said, “as it is unlikely to see perpetual year-over-year increases from OMES’ historically high scores.”
In 2022, OMES scored 82% in employee engagement, which measures the level of employee commitment, motivation and absorption in their work experience.
Despite the 2.2% decrease from the previous year, the score is about 5% higher than in 2019, and OMES remains No. 1 in engagement among participating large agencies.
OMES engagement also averaged 82% in each category of telework status, indicating employees are taking advantage of post-pandemic flexible schedules to work where they want, whether that’s at home, in the office or hybrid.
Mirroring the engagement decline, employee satisfaction – or how workers feel about their experience at OMES – scored 82%, dropping 1.6% from 2021. However, satisfaction has increased about 9% since 2019, experiencing the largest growth across primary OKSEES categories and ranking OMES No. 2 among responding large agencies.
“The general upward trend from 2019 to 2022 indicates our agency leaders have done well to improve the workplace experiences of OMES employees,” Copeland said. “Given that achieving perfect scores across the board is unrealistic due to the size of OMES, levels of favorability at or above 80% indicate the agency is positively impacting workplace culture."
Intent to stay, or whether employees saw themselves working at their agency a year from now, was added to the second-annual OKSEES to indicate potential turnover.
At OMES, intent to stay scored 80% in 2022, decreasing 5.4% from 2021 and 4.8% from 2020. Despite the downtrend, OMES ranks No. 3 in intent to stay among participating large agencies.
OKSEES data also shows that new employees with less than one year at OMES and those with over 20 years tenure were the most engaged and had the highest intent to stay. Conversely, employees with three- to five- years tenure were the least engaged and those with five- to 10-year tenure had the lowest intent to stay.
Employee burnout was an additional focus of the 2022 OKSEES, which measured low, moderate and high burnout levels. Across tenure categories at OMES, employees with less than a year experienced the least amount of high burnout while employees with three to five years experienced the most.
HOW OMES COMPARES TO STATEWIDE AND FEDERAL RESULTS
The State of Oklahoma’s overall response rate dropped slightly from 51% of the total workforce in 2021 to 50% in 2022. Approximately 14,500 employees participated, representing about 100 state agencies across all 15 cabinet areas.
The state’s comprehensive averages for engagement, satisfaction and intent to stay all improved from their decline in 2021, but OMES scores remained higher across the board. In 2022, overall state employee engagement increased 1.7% to 76%, satisfaction increased 1.9% to 75% and intent to stay increased 1% to 79%. While all three categories experienced growth, however, only intent to stay rose to its pre-pandemic level.
A recent Gallup poll shows that only 32% of full- and part-time U.S. workers are actively engaged, indicating the State of Oklahoma is beating the national average. However, OMES Workforce Planning Manager Derek Neidig says it is difficult to accurately know how Oklahoma government stacks up to other states due to different approaches.
“It can be challenging to find other state governments with similar employee engagement data for comparison due to varying methodologies, survey timing and data availability,” he said.
This year, Neidig’s team examined comparable metrics from the 2022 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, which indicated 71% engagement and 62% satisfaction among federal government employees.
“While the survey methodologies are different, we find it useful to compare scoring trends against other public-sector entities to identify if Oklahoma state government is experiencing similar trends related to employee engagement and satisfaction,” Neidig said. “We see similar results and trends in terms of overall engagement and satisfaction between Oklahoma and federal government, with the State of Oklahoma scoring slightly higher in those categories in 2022.”
KEY DRIVERS OF ENGAGEMENT AT OMES
The OKSEES defines key drivers as items with the greatest impact on engagement. Focused effort on these items is most likely to improve engagement and show employees OMES values and uses their feedback to make the agency a better place to work.
In 2022, OMES’ key drivers concerned a work culture that supports autonomy, the ability to meet career goals, an overall spirit of cooperation and teamwork, how executive leaders align with agency core values, and whether the survey results will lead to tangible improvements.
OMES’ top rated survey items in 2022 primarily related to supervisor leadership – their willingness to listen, value employee contributions and communicate reliable information – in addition to safety conditions and understanding the agency’s mission and goals. The lowest scoring survey items included leadership diversity, how much executive leaders care about employees as people, advancement opportunities and pay rates.
Following the close of the OKSEES, OMES Workforce Planning organizes the collected data into personalized dashboards for executive state leaders and agencies. Once they review the results, it’s up to agencies to strategize and carry out associated actions.
OMES also publishes the annual OKSEES Statewide Summary Report, available on the Workforce Planning webpage, to provide a high-level view of the State of Oklahoma’s current workplace climate and benchmark trends over time.
In 2023, Neidig says his team plans to adopt a quarterly communication cadence to all OMES employees about OKSEES results instead of the previous once-a-year push. This change would keep employee engagement topics fresh on the workforce’s mind and encourage accountability for continued efforts to make OMES a top-tier employer.