Private Sector Comparison

For our government to be effective and serve the needs of the American people, federal agencies must be able to attract, retain and develop the best employees. And to do this, the government must compete with leading private-sector companies for top talent.

From the employee perspective, the federal government continues to lag behind the private sector in terms of job and workplace satisfaction, and the gap is growing.

Our analysis of the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® data show that the government-wide job and workplace satisfaction score fell 3 points, from 60.8 out of 100 in 2012 to 57.8 in 2013. Meanwhile, employee satisfaction in the private sector improved slightly, with a score of 70.7 compared to 70 in 2012, according to analysis by Hay Group.

As the chart below shows, when it comes to worker satisfaction with their jobs and organizations, federal agencies have lagged behind the private sector for the five years we have studied the issue.

Index Score 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
Federal Government 57.8 60.8 64.0 65.0 63.3
Private Sector 70.7 70.0 70.0 70.6 71.2

Index Scores

Hay Group’s private-sector benchmarks are based on data collected from more than 6.7 million employees at 400 companies around the world in a variety of industries.

In addition to the government-wide score, comparative data for the private sector is available from Hay Group for 10 questions in the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, on which the Best Places to Work rankings are based.

The table below compares positive responses from federal government employees against a group of private-sector workers at large companies involved in a range of jobs. The federal government holds a slight edge over the private sector when employees are asked if they like the kind of work they do. However, the private sector outperforms the government in each of the other nine questions, seven of them by more than five points.

As the data show, the government trails the private sector by 21.4 points in how satisfied its employees are with the recognition they receive for doing a good job. There is a 15.2-point difference between the government and the private sector on the question “How satisfied are you with the information you receive from management on what’s going on in your organization?” Federal workers are less satisfied regarding the training they receive for their present jobs, trailing private-sector workers by 14.4 points on that question. When asked whether they are satisfied with opportunities to move forward in their organizations, federal employees trail their counterparts in the private sector by 12.5 points.

Clearly, more has to be done to close these gaps if government is to attract and retain the highly skilled workforce it needs to meet the critical challenges facing the country.

Question Best Places to Work Category Government-wide Private Sector Gap
I like the kind of work I do. Employee Skills–Mission Match 81.2 75.0 6.2
My work gives me a feeling of personal accomplishment. Employee Skills–Mission Match 69.7 70.0 -0.3
I have enough information to do my job well. Training and Development 69.3 71.0 -1.7
The people I work with cooperate to get the job done. Teamwork 72.3 78.0 -5.7
I am given a real opportunity to improve my skills in my organization. Training and Development 59.6 66.0 -6.4
Overall, how good a job do you feel is being done by your immediate supervisor/team leader? Effective Leadership: Supervisor 65.8 73.0 -7.2
How satisfied are you with your opportunity to get a better job in your organization? Performance-Based Rewards and Advancement 31.5 44.0 -12.5
How satisfied are you with the training you receive for your present job? Training and Development 46.6 61.0 -14.4
How satisfied are you with the information you receive from management on what's going on in your organization? Effective Leadership: Senior Leader 44.8 60.0 -15.2
How satisfied are you with the recognition you receive for doing a good job? Performance-Based Rewards and Advancement 42.6 64.0 -21.4

Data source: Hay Group and OPM, 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey