How Does Your Agency Stack Up?

Every year, the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte release the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings. Based on the data culled from the Office of Public Management’s annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, the report offers the most comprehensive assessment of how federal employees view their jobs and work environments from most satisfied and engaged to least satisfied and engaged.

In order to learn where agencies fell and a little more about what the rankings mean for government employees, Christopher Dorobek sat down with Tom Fox, Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service on this week’s DorobekINSIDER.

The Partnership for Public Service has developed the rankings annually for over a decade in order to help federal leaders understand what drives employee engagement and ultimately agency performance. “In looking at the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey data, we are able to dive pretty deeply into an understanding where agencies are having challenges and how they can take action to improve,” Fox explained.

It also offers an opportunity to identify agencies that are excelling and share their best practices with other organizations. “It is important for senior leaders across our government to take a look at what is working and what is not and to identify what they can do differently to make sure employees are satisfied, committed and capable of doing their work effectively and efficiently,” Fox said. This approach ensures that citizens are getting the services they deserve.

This year’s rankings saw NASA at the top, followed by the Department of Commerce, the Intelligence Community, Department of State, and the Department of Health and Human Services to round out the top five large agencies. In addition to large agencies, the rankings also have categories for midsized agencies, small agencies, and agency subcomponents.

The agencies that make the top five in each category tend to be doing a lot of the same things right. “When we look government wide, and even when we look into individual agencies, there are consistently three drivers that have more impact than any other factors when it comes to the ratings,” Fox said. These drivers are good leadership, skills matching the mission, and pay. Fox explained that when employees feel that these three needs are being met, they are significantly more engaged and satisfied with their work environment.

While finding the perfect combination of those three variables can be difficult, it’s relatively easy for agencies to drop in the rankings – thought it’s difficult to define what leads to changes that result in agencies dropping in the rankings without doing a deep dive into each agency. This is because variables that have a negative impact on employee engagement can include anything from an office moving to an open office environment to an agency coming under fire on the Hill.

However, if an agency finds their engagement in decline, they can and should delve into the data and identify what variables are affecting employee satisfaction and why. Fox also recommended going beyond the data by using employee focus groups to better understand what issues are affecting employees and how they can be fixed. Based on employee feedback, agency leaders can put together action plans and try to make a positive difference in employee engagement.

At the end of the day, actions speak louder than words. “You have to spend some time on employee satisfaction, whether it is a supervisor regularly checking in with employees or a senior leader who has regularly scheduled town halls, agency leaders have to find a way to demonstrate their commitment to their employees,” Fox concluded.

To see where your agency ranks, check out the full list here.

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