The State Worker

California launches first-ever survey of state workers

So, what do you really think about your job, state workers?

California’s state government is issuing a first-of-its-kind anonymous “engagement survey” to measure how much employees care about their work and how connected they feel to what they do.

Responses to the questionnaire going out to 5,000 randomly-selected state workers Tuesday “will establish a baseline on how our employees think about the work that they do,” said Government Operations Secretary Marybel Batjer in a prepared statement. “We want to build on these results as we look toward improving the state’s civil service system.”

Gov. Jerry Brown has made civil service reform a centerpiece of his agenda, but leadership turmoil and bureaucratic hiccups have slowed change so far. Still, the administration has made some headway, such as paring down the number of job classifications in state government.

To assure that employees’ survey responses would be anonymous, Government Operations signed a $49,000 contract with JD Franz Research Inc., which helped design the 11-question survey. The vendor is independently issuing the survey and will process the results. All the responses, whether online or via mail, will go to the company for analysis with no means to track the respondents.

The survey questions ask employees to rate things like the importance of their work and level of communication with management. The 11th question asks respondents to describe a particular aspect of their work using three words.

The survey is designed to take no more than five minutes to complete. If an employee doesn’t want to use their work computer to respond, they may forward it to another computer.

The questions don’t deal with issues beyond the scope of departments to do something about them. Working conditions and salaries, for example, are collectively bargained. The survey doesn’t address them.

The results won’t be broken down by department. However, employees will be asked to submit their length of state service, job classification, age and gender.

The results will be made public in an report that Government Operations expects to release at the end of July. Officials promise it will be unvarnished.

“It is always better to know about the negatives ...,” the agency said in a memo to department heads. “The survey can identify problem areas, which can be brought to the attention of work groups that are developing recommendations for the Civil Service Improvement project. Some problems have been years in the making and may not be able to be turned around quickly.”

Between now and then, JD Franz will send out three mid-week reminders to survey recipients, aiming for a 60 percent response rate. CalHR and Government Operations officials are discussing a larger survey sampling in the future.