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Measuring Workplace Satisfaction of Federal Law Enforcement

Are you satisfied with your workplace? According to a recent review, federal law enforcement employees are. Each year, the Partnership for Public Service analyzes the data from the Office of Personnel Management’s  Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and then conducts a review of the best places to work in the federal government. The rankings include the views of over 400,000 civil servants from nearly 400 federal organizations. The annual report aims to hold agency leaders accountable for their organizations and provide a guide for improvement. In addition to the government-wide analysis, this year the rankings are broken down into six mission areas that cover the wide range of topics worked on in the federal government.

Most recently, the Partnership for Public Service released their analysis of satisfaction in the law enforcement community. In order to better understand the evaluation of this mission area, Tom Fox, Vice President of Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service, sat down with Christopher Dorobek on this week’s DorobekINSIDER.

According to the review, government wide workplace satisfaction was at 58 in 2015, up 1.2 from the 2014 review. In the law enforcement mission area, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) scored highest with a satisfaction score of 70 while the Secret Service scored lowest with only 33.

Fox noted the law enforcement agencies with higher ratings were so successful because they have a clear mission and leaders who are aware of the importance of employee engagement. “The best leaders understand that employee happiness and employee engagement are inextricably interrelated and in order to perform a mission more effectively, you need employees who are satisfied and committed,” Fox posited. This is a big responsibility for leaders but is necessary to develop focused employees.

FBI Director James Comey is a perfect example of an involved leader. Fox explained that the FBI scored highly based on the data analytics the Partnership for Public Service ran but also in the follow up interviews and focus groups they conducted. From this he surmised, “employee engagement is a full time responsibility for the director and other senior agency leaders.” Rather than having employee engagement initiatives just once or twice a year, Comey and the FBI leadership make a point to meet regularly with employees in headquarters and in the offices across the country.

Strong leadership in the federal law enforcement agencies allows the organizations to overcome some of the challenges federal law enforcement face. One of these challenges is developing wellness in a demanding environment. Fox explained, “the reality of law enforcement jobs is that employees oftentimes see the very worst of humanity so it is natural to assume that folks in these positions will need some sort of outlet.” The most successful agencies are able to make certain that they have resources like therapy or counseling available to employees and leadership that encourages employees to use these resources.

Fox identified communication in a need to know environment as one of the other challenges federal law enforcement agencies face. Open communication is difficult to foster within an agency, let alone across the federal agencies. However, “the FBI is another example where they are making great pains to make sure that they are being more open with one another and not erring on the side of keeping things to themselves,” he explained. Keeping communication channels open, even in the face of a need to know culture, is crucial to ensuring employee engagement and satisfaction.

Overall, Fox put forth two key lessons to derive from the best of the federal law enforcement community. First, the leadership has to be focused on employee engagement as part of the job. Second, organization leaders have to understand and recognize that employee engagement has a direct impact on the ability of employees to do their job well with a sense of commitment, satisfaction and engagement. This means agencies must constantly employ initiatives focused on employee engagement. Fox explained, “the best leaders really treat employee engagement as a year round responsibility and get out there and talk to employees at headquarters, on their team and in the field.”

Looking forward, some federal law enforcement organizations have more improvement to do than others. However, Fox concluded, “it’s less about short term productivity and more about sustainable performance as an agency and as an organization.”

Not a member of the federal law enforcement community? Check out your organization’s score and see how the other five mission areas stack up here.

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