This is the accessible text file for GAO report number GAO-05-118R entitled 'Securities and Exchange Commission Human Capital Survey' which was released on November 10, 2004. This text file was formatted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to be accessible to users with visual impairments, as part of a longer term project to improve GAO products' accessibility. Every attempt has been made to maintain the structural and data integrity of the original printed product. Accessibility features, such as text descriptions of tables, consecutively numbered footnotes placed at the end of the file, and the text of agency comment letters, are provided but may not exactly duplicate the presentation or format of the printed version. The portable document format (PDF) file is an exact electronic replica of the printed version. We welcome your feedback. Please E-mail your comments regarding the contents or accessibility features of this document to Webmaster@gao.gov. This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States. It may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without further permission from GAO. Because this work may contain copyrighted images or other material, permission from the copyright holder may be necessary if you wish to reproduce this material separately. United States Government Accountability Office: Washington, DC 20548: November 10, 2004: The Honorable William H. Donaldson: Chairman: Securities and Exchange Commission: 450 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20549: Subject: Securities and Exchange Commission Human Capital Survey: Dear Chairman Donaldson: This document presents the results of a recent GAO survey of human capital issues at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In March and April 2004, we conducted a follow-up to our 2001 human capital survey of SEC attorneys, accountants, and examiners to benchmark their views after the agency had implemented pay parity and work-life programs.[Footnote 1] 2001 SEC survey respondents were overwhelmingly dissatisfied with pay and identified other nonpay issues as warranting SEC management's attention. The 2004 survey generally covered the same issue areas that we addressed in the 2001 survey, including (1) compensation, (2) overall job satisfaction, (3) work-life balance, (4) supervision and management, (5) performance appraisal and incentive system, (6) opportunities for advancement, (7) organizational structure and support, (8) communication within divisions and offices, and (9) training. As shown in enclosure I, compared to the 2001 SEC survey respondents, the 2004 respondents were significantly more satisfied with their pay and their ability to use flexitime and flexiplace.[Footnote 2] The improvement in employee satisfaction with compensation and worklife programs could be attributed to SEC's recent implementation of pay parity[Footnote 3] and increased focus on implementing work-life programs.[Footnote 4] In addition, overall the employees remained satisfied with their jobs and the meaningfulness of their work. While employee satisfaction has improved with respect to compensation and worklife programs, the levels of satisfaction have decreased in three nonpay categories. Specifically, employees were less satisfied with (1) the quality of supervision provided by their immediate supervisor and (2) the extent to which management communicates, in a timely manner, information that affects their work and the guidance they receive from management on their work priorities, and they were more dissatisfied with (3) the ability of SEC's performance appraisal system to motivate employees to perform well and the consistency with which the system is applied[Footnote 5]. These areas, which were previously mentioned in our 2001 report as warranting management attention, appear to be areas SEC should continue to address.[Footnote 6] To conduct the 2004 survey, we randomly selected a sample of 531 SEC attorneys, accountants, and examiners from the same target population positions, excluding staff hired in the last 3 years, in order to obtain more accurate comparisons between the 2001 and 2004 survey data. We implemented the survey using a self-administered electronic questionnaire that was posted on the World Wide Web. To ensure security and the integrity of our data, we provided each contact person with a password for accessing and completing the survey. From the sample of 531, we received 388 usable responses, for an overall response rate of 73 percent. Enclosure II provides a more detailed discussion of our methodology. We conducted our survey work in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. If you have any questions about the survey results or our methodology, please feel free to contact me at 202-512-8678 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Karen Tremba, Assistant Director, at 202-512-3113 or email@example.com. Other GAO staff that made key contributions to this report are Allison Abrams, Thomas Beall, William R. Chatlos, and Joe Hunter. Sincerely yours, Signed by: Richard J. Hillman: Director: Financial Markets and Community Investment: Enclosures - 2: Enclosure I: Survey of Securities and Exchange Commission Employees: [See PDF for images] [End of survey] [End of section] Enclosure II: Methodology for GAO's Survey of Securities and Exchange Commission Employees: The primary objective of this study was to assess the current views of employees at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on selected human capital issues related to employment at SEC and to compare these views with those of a similar cadre of employees that GAO surveyed in 2001.[Footnote 7] In the time between the two surveys, SEC had implemented pay parity and work-life programs. A follow-up survey to the 2001 survey presented a method for detecting if the perceptions of employees subsequent to these changes had also shifted. To meet this objective, we conducted a survey of a statistically representative sample of 531 SEC attorneys, accountants, and examiners employed as of September 30, 2003. The survey was conducted using a self-administered electronic questionnaire posted on the World Wide Web during March and April 2004. At the close of the survey, we had received 388 completed, usable surveys. Sample Design: In order to maintain comparability between the responses to the two surveys, the study population for the 2004 survey was the same as that used for the 2001 survey. As with the 2001 survey, we defined our population of interest to be employees in the attorney, accountant, and examiner positions (Series 0905, 0510, and 1831). We also followed survey procedures that were analogous to the prior survey. We asked SEC to provide a list of its attorneys, accountants, and examiners from its personnel data system as of September 30, 2003. However, to further ensure that we defined the population as one that was comparable to the one surveyed in 2001, we further adjusted the population by excluding 648 recent hires into these positions over the last 3 years, that is, the period subsequent to the prior survey. The final study population was 1,653 SEC employees. We used a stratified, systematic random sample of SEC employees from the study population. The population was divided into two strata. The first stratum was employees from any regional or district office, and the second stratum was employees from the Washington, D.C./Metro Office. Of the 1,653 employees in our study population, there were 810 in the first stratum and 843 in the second stratum. We selected a total sample of 531 employees--264 from the first stratum and 267 from the second stratum. Survey Development: Almost all of the survey questions asked in the 2004 survey were the same as the questions asked in the 2001 survey. The 2004 questionnaire consisted of approximately 55 items, almost all of which were closed- ended--that is respondents were to choose a specific response category that reflected their level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with various aspects of work. We used a 5-point scale with the following response categories: very satisfied, generally satisfied, neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, generally dissatisfied, very dissatisfied. There were also items that obtained demographic information about the respondents. A representation of the Survey of Securities and Exchange Commission Employees can be seen in enclosure I. Not all of the questions asked on the 2001 survey were asked on the 2004 survey. Because the objective of the 2004 survey was to assess perceived changes in the work environment, we retained most of the items from the 2001 survey asking about various aspects of work. We excluded sections from the 2001 survey that asked why employees initially decided to work at SEC and that asked about the perceived impact of factors on morale, future plans and reasons for leaving SEC. Because almost all items of the 2004 survey were pretested when used in the 2001 survey, no additional pretesting was conducted. As with the 2001 survey, we presented the draft questionnaire to SEC officials for comments and received only minor changes. We also asked union officials representing SEC employees to review a draft version of the survey. Survey Administration: Beginning March 4, 2004, the sampled SEC staff were sent e-mail notifications requesting their participation in the survey. We contacted SEC to correct the e-mail addresses when they were not deliverable. We conducted an electronic survey between March 10, 2004, and April 4, 2004, and sent each employee a unique password by e-mail to ensure that only these sampled employees could participate in the survey.[Footnote 8] Individuals who did not respond to the initial questionnaire were sent up to two follow-up reminders. At the close of the survey period, we had a total of 388 usable responses, for an overall response rate of 73 percent. We took steps during the design, data collection, and analysis phases of our survey to minimize sampling, population coverage, measurement, and data-processing errors.[Footnote 9] In addition to some of the steps described above, such as working with SEC in developing the population list, using pre-tested items, resolving undeliverable e- mails, and identifying ineligible sample participants, we also conducted checks for inconsistencies in response to selected items and had a second independent analyst review all computer programs used in our analysis. Survey Analysis: The 2004 survey results are generalizable to the SEC study population defined as attorneys, accountants, and examiners employed at SEC at the time of the 2001 administration of a similar survey. These estimates do not reflect the views of all currently employed SEC attorneys, accountants, and examiners because the population from which we drew our sample does not include persons hired in the last three years. Estimates were formed by weighting the survey responses to account for effective sampling rates in each of the two strata for the 2004 survey, and we applied appropriate weights to the 2001 sample to address those employees who did not respond to that survey. As with most surveys, our estimation method assumes that nonrespondents would have answered like the survey respondents. Because we surveyed a sample of SEC employees in our 2004 survey, our results are estimates of employee perceptions and characteristics; thus, they are subject to sampling errors that are associated with samples of this size and type. Our confidence in the precision of the results from this sample is expressed in 95 percent confidence intervals. We calculated confidence intervals for our study results using methods that are appropriate for a stratified probability sample. For the presentation of response percentages in the 2004 survey, we are 95 percent confident that the results we would have obtained had we studied the entire study population are within +/-5 or fewer percentage points of our results, unless otherwise noted. For example, our survey estimates that 49 percent of the SEC target population was "generally dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied" with "administrative resources (e.g., support staff) you need to do your job well." The 95 percent confidence interval for this estimate would be no wider than +/-5 percent, or between 44 and 54 percent. For the 2001 survey results, we also used the 95 percent confidence level, which would provide for a confidence interval of +/-2 percentage points. Before testing for differences between the 2004 and the 2001 survey results, we collapsed the two levels of both the satisfied and dissatisfied categories into single satisfied or dissatisfied categories; thus, reducing the number of categories for comparison from five to three. When making comparisons of percentages between the 2004 and 2001 survey results for these collapsed categories, we used a pooled variance estimate. In general, if the difference between a survey percentage from the 2001 survey and the 2004 survey is more than +/-5 percentage points; the difference is considered to be statistically significant. Independence: We conducted our work in Washington, D.C., between October 2003 and November 2004 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. [End of section] (250138): FOOTNOTES  GAO, Securities and Exchange Commission: Human Capital Challenges Require Management Attention, GAO-01-947 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 17, 2001).  A flexitime work schedule allows employees to start work earlier or work later or work a compressed schedule of fewer than 10 workdays per pay period. A flexiplace arrangement allows employees to work a portion of the time at home or at another location.  In 2002, the Investor and Capital Markets Fee Relief Act exempted SEC from general federal pay restrictions and provided the agency with pay parity--the authority necessary to bring salaries in line with those of other federal financial regulators.  Work-life programs help employees balance their work and family lives and include compressed work schedules, alternate work schedules, telecommuting, and part-time work arrangements.  The 2004 survey reflects reactions based on the new performance appraisal system that was implemented by SEC in 2003.  GAO-01-947.  GAO, Securities and Exchange Commission: Human Capital Challenges Require Management Attention, GAO-01-947 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 17, 2001).  During our field work, we determined that eight of the individuals in our original sample were ineligible for our survey because they were no longer in the population of interest; they had either left the agency or they were on extended leave and not currently at work. We adjusted our sample size accordingly in calculating our response rate.  Population coverage errors can occur if some members of the population are excluded from the survey. Measurement errors can also arise if respondents interpret questions differently or make mistakes. Data processing errors can arise during data entry or analysis.