OpenGov National Archives

Open Government Plan 2016 - 2018

National Archives and Records Administration

2.5 Employee Engagement

Improving Employee Communication and Collaboration

NARA is working to increase transparency and strengthen employee engagement through quarterly All-Hands meetings. These regular meetings foster dialog between staff members and senior leadership on a wide variety of issues facing the agency. NARA’s Program Director for Employee Communication facilitates intra-agency conversation at all levels of seniority and all locations. We will continue to strengthen employee engagement by encouraging staff to share their expertise with colleagues and the public through a variety of opportunities such as lunchtime lectures, reference colloquia, blog postings, and other social media business tools. We will further improve the preparedness of our employees to perform their work and engage with coworkers and the public through an improved pipeline of information aimed directly at staff, particularly by improving the information resources of our managers and supervisors. NARA is committed to bringing essential information to staff wherever they work, which is why over the past year the agency has added digital monitors to public areas of many more locations, bringing this information network into 32 of our 43 facilities. By using digital monitors to remind staff of upcoming training and events, congratulate employees by name on their work anniversaries, and highlight important new policies, the digital monitors bring our message to employees without having to interrupt their work to sit down at a computer.

Recognizing that managers and supervisors play a critical role in sharing information with employees, NARA has created Managers and Supervisors’ Forums and the Managers and Supervisors’ Bulletin. New managers and supervisors also receive communications training as part of their orientation, and leadership prepare Leader Facts to share with manager and supervisors on timely and sensitive topics so that they can discuss those issues with their staff members.

We are communicating more and more across organizational lines and physical locations to find the information we need to achieve the mission of NARA. Social media business tools, like the agency’s Internal Collaboration Network (ICN), are now an important way for us to accomplish our jobs. It enables us to work together to solve problems, offer advice, and find information within the records of the National Archives. Use of tools like the ICN increases our capacity as federal employees and furthers the goal of digital government.

We are leveraging the ICN to solicit substantive feedback into the development of internal and external policy, including robust discussions around movements to align to external standards in authority records, and input on NARA’s fourth Open Government Plan. NARA staff members are also using the ICN to manage complex projects among team members and to provide increased transparency to internal meetings.

As mentioned in the previous plan, Business Support Services and Preservation Programs collaborated to launch the Picture This! challenge in 2013, which asked staff members to submit their personal best photographs.  The winning photographs were then framed, mounted, and displayed throughout the National Archives at College Park.  A new challenge, 2016 Picture This!, began in April and 147 NARA staff nationwide submitted a total of 589 images. This 2016 Picture This! ICN page received over 31,000 views and over 11,000 votes were cast.  A total of 124 images received 30 or more ‘likes’ which qualified them for printing and display.

The ICN is an essential tool for our open government efforts to increase internal transparency, participation, and collaboration. By the end of 2015, almost 3,000 staff members were registered users and about half of all users were “active” users, participating in the last 30 days. Additionally, 82,737 total content items have been created on the ICN, which includes 49,878 status updates, 15,703 documents, 10,155 discussions, 5,904 blog posts, 468 polls, and 629 ideas. As we see increase in use and collaboration on the ICN, we are also refining our best practices in employee engagement. Earlier this year we also migrated Declarations, our employee newsletter, onto the ICN, which consolidates information streams for staff and strengthens both the use of ICN as a tool and the agency’s commitment to information management in service to its staff.

By the end of Fiscal Year 2016 the staff who work full-time on employee communications will have grown from a team of two to a team of six. The agency’s work on behalf of employee communications builds organizational awareness, encourages a community of practice, and values the voice of every employee.

Building a Cadre of Managers and Supervisors

NARA is building a strong cadre of skilled managers and supervisors with a common ethos that supports the mission of the agency. Our focus to date has been to strengthen communication and engagement across the cadre.  We have launched monthly forums, where managers and supervisors can discuss topics of importance, share information, provide input, and take part in short “nuts and bolts” trainings. All managers and supervisors receive a biweekly email bulletin from the Deputy Archivist of the United States highlighting important initiatives from across the agency. These bulletins help inform managers and supervisors so that they can effectively communicate with their staff members on issues that affect the entire agency.  We have established manager and supervisor critical elements for inclusion in performance appraisals, and we have rolled out a leadership development program. This program is not only for our current managers and supervisors but for staff at all levels to help build the competencies and skills necessary to reach our strategic vision.

Through an intensive examination this year of where we still have gaps in our efforts, we are turning our attention toward building a greater understanding and adoption of the leadership competencies, values, and traits that will contribute to superior performance. We are developing a clearly defined leadership model that identifies the leadership pipeline, the competencies necessary for success at each leadership level, and the expectations of performance at each level.  All manager and supervisor initiatives, including learning and development opportunities, will align with this model. Through individual competency gap analysis and targeted individual development plans for all managers and supervisors, each member of NARA's managers and supervisors cadre will have a clearer understanding of how and what they personally need to do to meet and exceed expectations in support of the agency's mission.

Addressing Employee Satisfaction

At the National Archives and Records Administration, we are committed to developing systems and structures that stimulate innovation and support employee engagement at all levels of the agency. Activities to improve Employee Viewpoint Survey (EVS) scores require NARA to focus on building skills and improving processes and policies to increase employee satisfaction and engagement. Multiple ongoing activities support collaboration and transparency in identifying obstacles to employee engagement and ways to resolve issues. Offices across the agency meet monthly, identifying ways to improve performance, share progress, accomplishments, best practices, and lessons learned. Managers/supervisors and staff partner to work on improvement plans designed to help staff feel empowered to make decisions that affect their workplace.

Project/action plans at the office levels are posted on the Annual Employee Survey page on the agency’s intranet, NARA@work, for transparency, enabling staff participation throughout the process. We also mandate monthly (at the least) communication on progress to all staff. Examples of some of the actions that NARA offices are taking to increase employee engagement and satisfaction include:

  • Developing employee rewards and recognition programs to create a positive work environment, improve employee morale, and motivate high performance
  • Implementing various avenues to improve communication between managers and staff (i.e. managing by walking around, open door policy, frequent meetings, Executive meetings, etc.)
  • Improving personal empowerment with respect to work processes through clearly defining roles and performance expectations, communicating responsibility and accountability, encouraging work team collaborations, fostering an atmosphere for creativity/innovation, and documenting standard operating procedures

We are conducting Learn, Engage and Act Decisively series, known as LEAD, to provide managers and supervisors opportunities to expand their skills through a combination of targeted training webinars and activities. These series focus on providing tools and opportunities for discussion and sharing of best practices that equip supervisors and managers with the necessary tools to improve organizational performance and improve workplace culture. Additionally, we updated the managers and supervisors performance plan to include a “Workplace Culture and Morale” critical element that will hold them accountable for creating and sustaining an engaged workforce.

NARA 311: Improving Employee Access to Internal Services

NARA is also working to improve communication so employees can easily access the internal services they need. The NARA 311 system is a creative initiative that offers a one-stop, non-emergency number to assist staff with requesting internal services. This cross-agency program was developed as a direct result from the Internal Services Satisfaction Survey (ISSS), Employee Viewpoint Survey (EVS), and multiple focus groups. It provides the ability for staff members nationwide to call 311, choose an option, talk to a representative, receive an open ticket number for tracking purposes, and find the answer they need. When dialing 311, NARA staff members can chose the IT Help Desk, the Human Capital Office, Facilities, and All Other Services.

Over 5,600 calls have been placed to 311 since its inception in June 2013. Calls to the 311 line have increased 20 percent every year. The 311 initiative has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from staff, and we are looking to expand the system to include even more services in the near future.

Promoting Training Opportunities

NARA’s Learning and Development Division recognizes the importance of transparency to support good governance at all levels and in raising awareness about the agency’s career and professional development opportunities.  The Learning and Development Division regularly communicates training opportunities and guidance for internal customers through various means, including:

  • Existing policy on training requirements and standard operating procedures
  • Information briefs at all-hands and supervisor forums
  • Specific course or program advertisements, discussions, and blogs on NARA’s Internal Collaboration Network (ICN)
  • Email announcements to staff
  • NARA’s Learning Management System

 Additionally, NARA’s training programs support external open government initiatives by providing learning opportunities for NARA’s workforce consistent with NARA and OPM competencies.

Documenting NARA Career Paths

In support of NARA’s efforts to “Build our Future through our People” and accommodate employee feedback received through the Employee Viewpoint Survey, NARA is in the midst of evaluating and documenting NARA’s career paths to provide greater clarity regarding career mobility and development opportunities for all employees. Documented career paths will provide staff improved transparency regarding opportunities for advancement, the training/education requirements for those positions, and supporting resources to build the competencies consistent with the roles and responsibilities for the positions.

NARA began documenting career paths for its GS-1420 and GS-1421 career series, which includes Archivists, Archives Technicians, Archives Specialists, and Archives Aids.  This core group of occupations makes up 49 percent of NARA’s workforce. Career paths will continue to be developed for additional occupations across NARA once the 1420 and 1421 occupations are complete.

NARA is also in the process of creating Occupational Development Programs to support agency career paths to ensure staff members have the requisite competencies for their current roles while preparing them for future roles. 

Improving Equal Employment Opportunities Through the Special Emphasis Program

In November of 2013, NARA launched one of the new Affirmative Employment Programs, known as the “Special Emphasis Program” throughout the federal government. This program is managed by the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Programs at NARA. Through collaboration, the EEO Office helps to identify gaps and provides recommendations to management officials and employees on matters that affect equal employment opportunities in the workplace.

Who better to serve as change agents than employees themselves? The EEO Office called for volunteers, and over 80 NARA employees applied to work on a collateral duty assignment to serve as a Special Emphasis Program Manager (SEPM) for a two-year term. From among the applicants, 57 SEPMs were appointed throughout NARA facilities in 15 states ranging from grade level GS-3 to GS-14.

The SEPMs are working with the EEO Office on efforts that help eliminate disparate treatment or institutional barriers that may have the potential for denying employment opportunities for individuals or groups of individuals based on their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, sexual orientation, parental status, genetic information, disability or reprisal. Accordingly, the SEPMs will assist with initiatives and activities that help create a work environment that supports fair and open competition for all employees regardless of their differences.

SEPMs are a resource to managers and supervisors, employees, and prospective applicants throughout the employment cycle—Outreach, Recruitment, Hiring, Employee Development/Advancement, and Retention. SEPMs assist in the evaluation of policies, procedures, and practices as well as in the elimination of potential or existing barriers. They are not involved in any aspect of the EEO complaints process, and they do not represent individual employees.

During Fiscal Year 2016, the focus of the SEPMs has been on developing an action plan to support the needs of the organization in the areas of Outreach, Recruitment, Hiring, Employee Development and Advancement, and Retention. Targeted efforts will be addressed using seven EEO SEPM Workgroups established in collaboration with subject matter experts. The workgroups are designed to proactively impact the employment cycle based on barrier analysis, EEO numerical and anecdotal data, and historical precedence of EEO complaints. The workgroups will assist in identifying potential and existing barriers impacting the workforce and provide recommendations for consideration to the various program areas.

The SEPMs efforts align with the agency's strategic goal, “Build our Future through our People.” The SEPM program has the capacity to affect positive change in NARA in a large scale through the direct influence in workforce engagement. In addition, this collateral duty assignment helps employees expand their knowledge and learn new skills in the areas of EEO, Diversity, and Inclusion.

Employee Affinity Groups

Employee Affinity Groups (EAGs) are voluntary, employee-driven groups that are organized around a particular shared interest, identity, or life experience. The EAG program, established in 2013, was designed to create a medium for employees to connect to NARA and each other through shared experiences, interests, and identities, either in person or via the agency’s Internal Collaboration Network (ICN); increase opportunities for employees to get involved in agency-wide initiatives, projects or activities; promote professional development; and to foster a sense of community within the agency.

Since the advent of EAGs at NARA, we have experienced an increase in collaboration happening across the country that is helping to drive the agency’s mission and diversity and inclusion and employee engagement initiatives. The six existing groups and their respective missions are:

  • Stonewall (LGBT) - create an inclusive workplace where Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning employees, and allies, assist NARA in fostering an environment that is accepting and supportive.
  • IKE (Veterans) - assist in the promotion of a work culture that recognizes, supports, and develops the unique characteristics of NARA’s military personnel.
  • HALO (Hispanic-Latino) - enhance the quality of life at NARA for Hispanic and Latino employees, and promote external awareness of NARA in Hispanic/Latino communities.
  • disABILITY (Individuals with Disabilities) - focus on the awareness and resolution of the challenges facing individuals with disabilities in the workplace and seek to assist them in career advancement.
  • Say it Loud! (African American) - create and sustain an inclusive work environment that supports the recruitment, development, retention and engagement of African American employees.
  • WAG (Women) - provide information, resources, networking opportunities, promote career growth, and facilitate mentorships for women at NARA.

Providing Increased Transparency to NARA’s Budget

NARA has worked to strengthen employee engagement and communication around the agency’s budget. In order to provide transparency to this process, we make sure our internal and external stakeholders are aware of budget decisions. Budget transparency allows everyone to have an understanding and work together as a team. It also allows employees and managers to ask specific questions about their program needs. We keep our internal customers informed via several channels:

  • NARA All Hands and Managers and Supervisors meetings
  • NARA’s Internal Collaboration Network (ICN) and Declarations, an internal staff blog
  • NARA Notices on budget updates
  • Posting NARA’s Congressional Justification at

We strive to foster a collaborative relationship with our external customers and seek to increase transparency in our budget through:

  • Regular meetings with the appropriators on Capitol Hill
  • Regular meetings with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
  • Congressional budget hearings
  • NARA’s Congressional Justification and Performance Budget books

To see more information about NARA’s budget, please visit

Increasing Staff Engagement with Reporting and Performance Measurements

Throughout the year, NARA’s Strategy and Performance Division hosts 90-minute hands-on classes for NARA staff on how to use NARA's Performance Measurement and Reporting System (PMRS). Available to all NARA staff through NARA's internal website, PMRS is a data warehouse of performance data that staff can use to answer statistical questions about NARA. The classes encourage staff engagement with the information and staff members learn how to drill into the data and manipulate the display to meet their needs.

NARA promotes staff awareness of their role in advancing the goals in our strategic plan. NARA encourages staff discussion of the Strategic Plan through posts in our Internal Collaboration Network (ICN).  The discussions create opportunities for staff to share how their work contributes to NARA’s strategic goals and opens communication channels for increased collaboration. Workshops are also held periodically throughout the year to provide staff with opportunities to engage with each other and learn about PMRS and the performance measures tracked within the agency. Employee highlights and success stories are shared through NARA’s virtual monitors stationed throughout the agency.

NARA will continue to further enhance to our Strategic Reporting Dashboard, which serves as a one-stop shop for progress on strategic goals and objectives identified in NARA's Strategic Plan. The dashboard will provide links to quarterly assessments of progress against NARA's strategic goals, links to performance measures from NARA's Performance Measurement and Reporting System, and access to other performance planning and reporting related information. NARA staff will be able to use this dashboard to gain an overall understanding of how well we are performing against NARA’s strategic goals and objectives.