The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® rankings offer the most comprehensive assessment of how federal employees view their jobs and workplaces. They provide insight into issues that range from leadership and pay to innovation and work–life balance. The rankings alert leaders to signs of trouble and provide a roadmap to help improve organizational performance and better manage our government’s most important asset—its employees.
The 2013 Best Places to Work data present a disturbing picture of federal employees throughout the government who are increasingly dissatisfied with their jobs and workplaces. Government-wide, the federal employee job satisfaction and commitment level dropped for the third year in a row, tumbling 3 points to a score of 57.8 on a scale of 100. This represents the lowest overall Best Places to Work score since the rankings were first launched in 2003, and follows a 3.2-point drop in 2012 and a 1-point decline in 2011. In contrast, private-sector employee satisfaction improved by 0.7 points in 2013 to a score of 70.7, according to Hay Group.
Government-wide, the 2013 Best Places to Work data show a decline in all of the 10 separate workplace categories that the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte examined. The biggest decrease involved the satisfaction of federal employees with their pay, which fell 4.7 points in 2013 and contributed to a decline of 12.7 points since 2010. The second-biggest change involved decreased satisfaction with training and development opportunities, which fell 3.2 points, followed by rewards and advancement, which dropped by 2.2 points.
The lower government-wide satisfaction score and the decreases in all 10 workplace issues came during a difficult time for federal employees, who have faced a three-year pay freeze, furloughs, hiring slowdowns and across-the-board budget reductions. The Office of Personnel Management survey that is the basis of the Best Places to Work analysis was taken months before the 16-day government shutdown in October 2013, and therefore does not reflect employee views of that event.
Among individual federal organizations, 75.4 percent saw their overall employee satisfaction and commitment ratings decrease in 2013, compared with 66 percent in 2012. More specifically, 89.5 percent of large agencies, 59.1 percent of mid-size agencies, 48.3 percent of small agencies and 78.7 percent of subcomponents experienced a decrease in employee satisfaction with their jobs and workplaces in 2013.
The number one large agency in 2013 is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which registered a job satisfaction and commitment score of 74 out of 100. The space agency was followed by the Department of Commerce, with a score of 67.6, and the Intelligence Community, which tallied a rating of 67.3. In the mid-size rankings, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation took top honors, with a score of 82.3, followed by the Smithsonian Institution, with a score of 77.2. The top-ranked small agency is the Surface Transportation Board at 84.7, followed closely by the National Endowment for the Humanities at 84.6.
Agencies with more than 15,000 employees are classified as large, those with 1,000 to 14,999 employees are classified as mid-size, and any agency of 100 to 999 employees is considered small.
A few agencies defied the government-wide downward trend. NASA, for example, raised its score by 1.2 points and is the most improved large agency. All of the other large agencies except the Department of Veterans Affairs (+0.6) experienced a decline in employee satisfaction and commitment. The Federal Communications Commission is the most improved mid-size agency, with a 4.6-point increase, while the U.S. International Trade Commission is the most improved small agency, with a 9.3-point increase, followed closely by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which registered a 9.2-point increase. These agencies prove it is possible to improve employee satisfaction in even the most challenging times.
While it was another challenging year for most federal agencies, some lost far more footing than others. Of the large agencies, employees at the Environmental Protection Agency experienced the biggest decrease in satisfaction, with a drop of 8.3 points to a score of 59.3. The biggest decline for a mid-size agency occurred at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where the score fell 10.8 points. In the small agency category, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board had the largest decline, dropping 33.4 points. Other small agencies registering large declines in employee satisfaction and commitment included the Office of Management and Budget, which fell 14 points, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which dropped 13 points.
Many issues influence how employees view their workplaces and rate their satisfaction and commitment, but the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte, with support from Hay Group, run an analysis to determine which factors are the most important. Effective leadership was the key driver, as it has been every year since the rankings launched in 2003. Leadership continues to be one of the lowest-rated workplace categories, with a score of 51.8. It is followed in importance by a match between agency mission and employee skills. The third-most important factor, satisfaction with pay, emerged for the first time in 2010, replacing work–life balance as a key element for overall satisfaction and commitment.