The Foreign Service Journal - June 2014 - page 50

JUNE 2014
AFSA USAID Survey: Taking the Pulse of USAID FSOs
Thanks to all of you who
completed the recent USAID
AFSA survey. This 23-ques-
tion, electronic survey
focused on concerns, com-
mendations and assess-
ments related to the USAID
FSO experience in calendar
year 2013.
Its purpose is to assemble
a picture of the impact of
recent changes in the agency,
take the pulse of FSOs striv-
ing to carry out the agency’s
initiatives, and obtain rel-
evant data validating current
working conditions.
In editing the survey ques-
tions, I wanted to encourage
as many comments and sug-
gestions as possible. Those
who provided comments
added valuable depth to the
raw data, helping facilitate
more meaningful discussions
with agency management.
We intend to present
the results of the survey
and collaborate on action
plans for improvement with
the Employee Labor Rela-
tions Office and the Human
Resources and Management
Bureaus. The survey results
will also be discussed with
USAID Administrator Rajiv
Shah and Special Represen-
tative for the Quadrennial
Diplomacy and Development
Review Tom Perriello to help
in the formulation of USAID
Profile of Respondents
The profile of the survey
respondents closely coin-
cides with the profile data for
the agency overall. A majority
of respondents (77 percent)
are assigned overseas.
Fifty-one percent are male,
and 49 percent are female.
Approximately 50 percent of
respondents have been with
the agency for less than five
years and are at the FS-4 and
FS-3 pay levels. Almost 50
percent of respondents have
minor children residing with
them, and another 3 percent
report that they are expect-
ing a child.
Overall, USAID FSOs
are currently trending to a
younger cohort, with 56 per-
cent of respondents 45 years
old or younger. In regard to
diversity, 80 percent classify
themselves as Caucasian.
When compared to
national civilian labor force
levels, the most under-
represented ethnic groups
in the USAID Foreign Service
are still Hispanic Americans
at 6 percent (14 percent in
the national labor force)
and African-Americans at 8
percent (12 percent in the
national labor force).
Labor Management
Respondents consider
three labor management
issues to be high priorities
for USAID FSOs. They are:
“assure equal benefits with
State” (63 percent); “improve
supervisory skills of FS
supervisors” (61 percent);
and “increase transparency
in the assignments process”
(60 percent).
These issues combine to
produce a negative effect
on morale and overall job
satisfaction. The trend of the
results suggests that these
concerns will only intensify.
For example, in the responses
regarding the inequalities
in benefits between agen-
cies, 77 percent of those in
the 18-31 age group rated
the “equalizing of benefits”
a high priority, compared to
just 54 percent of respon-
dents 45 and older.
Agencies and the private
sector alike appear to be
at or near a juncture where
they need to re-evaluate
past employment practices.
Our survey confirms outside
research suggesting that the
millennial generation’s “soft”
needs of flexibility, transpar-
ency, collaboration, supervi-
sor appreciation and support
are now becoming top priori-
ties for most members.
Issue at Post
The only issue at posts
that received a high “not sat-
isfied” rating (55 percent) is
“Consolidation of Administra-
tive Services” under ICASS
(International Cooperative
Administration Support Ser-
vices). The ICASS consolida-
tion has had enough time to
correct previously identified
problems; however, USAID
FSOs have yet to recognize
significant benefits.
Major complaints remain
regarding its high cost to
USAID and the continued
poor and unequal customer
service in comparison to the
services that were previously
provided by USAID itself.
Support Offices
Three offices—Human
Resources, Financial Man-
agement and Travel and
Transportation—have now
been tracked over several
Human Resources.
overall score for the Human
Resources Office dropped in
this survey. Its “poor” rating
increased from 49 percent
(2012) to 55 percent (2013).
Its “good” rating dropped
from 49 percent (2012) to 43
percent (2013).
Although the 2012 AFSA
survey showed that hopes
were rising among some that
the change in the HR leader-
ship structure in early 2013
would facilitate improve-
ments, this survey indicates
that such hopes have been
Most respondents
reported that, to date, there
was no improvement in
responsiveness and very
limited communication.
Financial Management.
The Office of the Chief
Financial Officer improved its
rating from last year. Respon-
dents who consider its per-
formace “good” rose from 48
percent (2012) to 56 percent
(2013). They praised the
smoothness of payments to
those on ordered departure.
Frustrations were expressed,
however, on state tax with-
holding and new time-and-
attendance software.
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