Throughout my career in public service, I have seen how deeply people from all walks of life, in communities large and small, value and respect the Forest Service for all we do in their service.
So did the first Chief, Gifford Pinchot. He dedicated his signature work, “Breaking New Ground,” to the men and women of the Forest Service for their tireless public service. As Pinchot put it, conservation is about service to the American people—about “the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest time.”
And the American people truly do value your service. When I travel around the country, I hear stories about all the great things you are doing. Often, the only complaint I hear is that we are not telling our own story well enough!
So it is only fitting that you should take a bow during Public Service Recognition Week, which begins May 6. Since 1985, the nation has celebrated the first full week in May as an opportunity for all Americans to show their appreciation for their federal, state, county and local employees.
Many localities will hold events to pay tribute to their scientists and teachers, their first responders, their forestry professionals and public land managers. It is an opportunity for citizens to reconnect with their government by expressing their thanks for all we do—for protecting communities from the ravages of wildfire, for managing public lands for the use and enjoyment of our citizens and for helping to sustain forests and grasslands across the nation for all the benefits people get from them.
For us, it’s an opportunity to reflect on our work environment and how we can help improve it. Respect and gratitude for public service extend to our own workplace interactions with each other. Every one of us deserves to work in an environment where we are recognized and valued for our contributions. How can we ensure that our work environment is safe, rewarding, respectful, resilient and free from harassment of any kind?
One way is by participating in listening sessions on work environment issues. Another way is to participate in the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, which has just kicked off this week. Completing the survey is a great way for you to help us gauge our progress in improving our work environment and find areas for further improvement. The survey is sent by email to a sample of all employees, so please be on the lookout.
The survey is a way of measuring the extent of our success as an organization. It asks about your work experiences and how you feel about the agency, our mission and our leadership. The results are mapped to lower organizational levels so managers can see where improvements are needed. They also give agency leaders insight into areas of improvement as well as areas where improvements are still needed.
In Business Operations we have used FEVS input to:
- Begin sharing the Quarterly Disciplinary Report for increased transparency
- Start “Change Matters”
- Have more frequent listening sessions with our employees (i.e., in past years, leaders were encouraged to have sessions with their employees to discuss FEVS results)
- Launch your “Open Forums”
- Start the Directors Retreat for Bus Ops Directors (this summer will be our third and we are expanding to two days)
- Host more “All Employee” Sessions to address pertinent issues (e.g., Masthead Migration)
In addition, I know that some Regional Leadership Teams began holding regular “Family Meetings” and “Open Door” sessions for folks to raise any issues or concerns.
Your responses are confidential. You will complete the survey online in as little as 30 minutes, but this is an important part of your regular duties, so please take the time to answer thoughtfully during your regular work hours.
You might receive a pilot survey with new questions for improving the survey, so you might have a chance of affecting change not only in the Forest Service but also in the survey itself.
Please take the time to complete the survey. The insights you share will help us create a safe, respectful workplace. Now more than ever, we need to hear your concerns.
And thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do! You deserve recognition from a grateful nation, and trust me—the people we serve appreciate and support all your hard work.