How to Keep Federal Employees Engaged During Periods of Uncertainty?

Since President Trump took hold of the oval office, federal employees have been facing a lot of uncertainty because they don’t know what will happen to their job security, federal employee benefits, retirement benefits, social security, etc. In such a situation, the agencies must ensure that the employees are kept engaged.

federal employees

 What Engaging Federal Employees’ Means?

Employee engagement in today’s world is not just about keeping the federal employees’ happy or providing benefits. It also means mapping the psychological needs that drive people to motivate them. It also means harnessing that motivation to direct it towards organizational goals.

Core Needs:

The core needs of each employee, whether it’s federal employees or not includes the following:

Uncertainty Management:

When people know what’s in store for the future, they feel reassured. People can easily cope with and adapt to stressful or negative circumstances if they have a clear idea of what to expect.

Providing a Purpose:

People always strive to make sense of the world and they like to feel that the actions they are taking are worthwhile. Some of the ways that help people meet the need for a purpose are enhancing the wellbeing of others, contributing to a greater shared purpose and the opportunities to express one’s values.


People also need and expect to be given a choice. Self-directed behavior offers the sense that the individuals are the casual agents in the actions they take and they are not dependent exclusively on external constraints.


People also need to connect with others and this need is usually fulfilled by sustained relationships that offer a sense of acceptance, warmth, and consideration. It is not filled by superficial contact only.


People also have an inherent need to feel capable and competent. In order to meet this need, they pursue activities that offer opportunities for growth and are challenging.

How to Ensure Employee Engagement in Federal Employees?

On the basis of the results shared by Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, the Government Accountability Office has recognized a few drivers of employee engagement in federal employees. They are centered on three core needs of the employees. Autonomy is measured as satisfaction and the involvement in decisions. The relationship is measured at satisfaction with support for employees of different background and work-life balance. Mastery is measured as opportunities for development and satisfaction with feedback.

A few examples of practices that meet the core needs of federal employees are:


GAO analysis says that a key driver of engagement of feds is the communication from the management. If there is effective communication from the management in times of change, it can safeguard employee engagement while reducing uncertainty and providing a sense of shared purpose. In order to enhance the sense of shared purpose, leaders in the agencies must communicate about how the role of employees fit into the organizational vision and how employees’ contributions are making progress to achieve the vision.


Employees get a sense of purpose when they are given nonmonetary recognition as forms of recognition that have extrinsic value like an additional status associated with the promotion or as a bonus can undermine the intrinsic motivation for the work of an employee. When you do it right, recognition shows that the work was impactful and appreciated. To do it right, one should recognize direct contributions that were made to organization’s overall mission, along with smaller contributions that make day-to-day operations to go very smoothly.

Employee Voice:

When an organization is undergoing a change, the employees often feel that they are losing autonomy. In such situations, it becomes vital to give employees a voice in decision making. Ideally, employees will need to input to substantive decisions regarding the work itself, such as how they complete their tasks or whom they work with. But there are many other channels for employee voice and autonomy and they are also very helpful like employee-led committees on social activities.

Fairness and Accountability: When there is fairness in personnel practices, it helps employees to manage uncertainty, especially under the circumstances which are beyond the control of the agency leader. Implementing constant standards for promotion and holding employees as well as the managers accountable for the performance can create predictability. It also allows employees to direct their energies towards their work that might otherwise be spent in trying to find out the hidden rules for getting ahead.


On the whole, it can be said that though uncertainties and changes regarding job security, federal employee benefits, retirement benefits, social security, etc. can be unsettling for federal employees but the leaders have the power to mitigate the negative impact by actively addressing the core needs of the employees. If agencies provide employees with opportunities to meet the core needs at work it will boost employee engagement even in the ever-changing situations.

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