Is Government the Best Place to Work? – Maybe Not

All year we’ve been talking about how low employee morale is plaguing agencies. Pay freezes, budget cuts and the partisan debate over the value of feds’ work has led to a steady decline in employee morale and an ebbing commitment.

In fact, the Partnership for Public Service’s annual Best Places to Work survey saw employee satisfaction fall to the lowest numbers since 2003.

The annual rankings, which are based on a survey of nearly 700,000 civil servants at 362 agencies and their subcomponents. Governmentwide scores dropped by an average 3.2 point decline.

Tom Fox is the Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service.

Tom told me on the DorobekINSIDER program that the real key to agency success is simple: leadership.

“It’s disappointing but it’s not surprising that the scores took their biggest dip ever. Increased retirements, hiring freezes, budget constraints and pay freezes are all taking their toll,” said Fox.

Pay Emerges as Big Driver

“For federal employees pay is not historically that big of a driver. Consistently we find it is leadership and a skills-mission match that create the most engaged workforce. But because pay has been frozen for so long, it has emerged as a dis-satisfier. It makes feds deeply unhappy,” said Fox.

Silver Lining

“Even with all those headwinds that agencies face and they were substantial, we did see over 30% of agencies actually increase their scores. They did it by focusing on the fundamentals of program management and leadership,” said Fox.

Leadership Reigns Supreme

“Leadership is constantly been the number one driver of employee satisfaction. You have to have clear values, a clear mission, clear performance expectations and clear lines of communication so that you are keeping employees informed of what’s going on. You need to do small little things on a consistant basis,” said Fox. “You also need serious commitment from top leadership.”

DOT Example

The Department of Transportation was able to raise their score by 11% in the last 3 years. “At DOT they have mandatory training, they have Townhall meetings, they have an online innovation and idea submission program (IdeaHub). If agencies do nothing more than follow that they would see some uptick,” said Fox.

And if you are feeling inspired by one of your colleagues, nominate them for a Service to America Medal. The nominations close on January 4th.

Best Places to Work 2012 Breakfast Opening Remarks from Partnership for Public Service on Vimeo.

*All graphs and images are courtesy and property of the Partnership for Public Service.

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Eric Melton


But even with good leadership, and clear mission, if carrying out the mission is not funded, then that is also sabotaged by the same plaguing factors…