2017 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government Rankings

Dec 12, 2017

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The Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte produced the results for this year’s Best Places to Work survey, with federal employee engagement being a top focus.

A few familiar stories showed up in the 2017 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government Rankings: NASA is once again number 1 and the Homeland Security Department is once again at the bottom. A few unfamiliar stories showed up this year as well.

DHS showed momentum in their favor in the federal employee engagement area. They overcame 6 consecutive years of declining engagement scores and improved by 6.2 points this year; their largest increase since 2009. This earned them the title of “most improved large agency” in 2017.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) became the most improved agency subcomponent. Their engagement score increased by 11.5 points this year—up from a score of 45.2 in 2016 to 56.7 this year. ICE was among 7 DHS subcomponents that had improved scores. Customs and Border Protection saw its score improve by 6.2 points. Federal Emergency Management Agency saw their employee engagement score increase by 6.3 points. The Secret Service, notoriously on the bottom, even got in on this seeing a 0.2 bump in its score.

Sean Morris, the federal human capital leader at Deloitte said, “I’ve seen those leaders actually really concrete their efforts around engagement, and I believe we’re starting to see that pay off. Are they still on the lower end? Absolutely. But their momentum is very encouraging.”

Other smaller, low-ranked agencies saw major improvements over the year. The Small Business Administration boosted its score by 7.3 points, although it still ranked 24th out of 25 mid-sized agencies. Many more mid-sized agencies posted scores that improved from the previous year by 3 or more points. For example, the National Labor Relations Board improved by 7.4 points, the most of any mid-sized agency. General Services Administration raised its score by 5.3 points and National Archives and Records Administration improved by 4.5 points.

Employee confidence leadership is the belief that their leaders and managers generate high levels of commitment in the workforce. Morris said this is often the biggest driver of improvement and momentum. “The biggest thing that can move the needle for all organizations but those, in particular, is concentrating on how their leadership is perceived and is connecting with the rank-and-file in those organization,” Morris said. “We consistently see lower numbers in that leadership category.”

Leadership numbers improved this year, but remain low. Around 43% of employees said their leaders generate high levels of commitment in their agencies, according to the 2017 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. About 74% of agencies improved their employee engagement scores this year.

Along with remaining the number 1 large agency in the government, NASA also improved its employee engagement score for the 6th consecutive year.

“Driving down into the specifics, into specific offices, [and get a] better understanding of what is on the lower end, what is the area on the higher end and really rolling their sleeves up and getting into the blocking and tackling, that’s what iconic government organizations like NASA continually do,” he said. “The fact that NASA was able to raise their number by a further 2.5 points is phenomenal.”

Health and Human Services Department and the Transportation Department both improved by at least 4 points. HHS ranks 2nd among large agencies and DOT ranks 4th.

There were a few surprises trending in the other direction

The State Department saw a 2.8-point drop in employee engagement from last year—the largest single-year decline since the Partnership started rankings in 2003. They are 8th among large agencies and its 1st year not in the top 5 since 2011. Their biggest decline came in employees’ perceptions of agency leadership, which dropped 9.2 points.

Employee engagement at the Intelligence Community fell by 0.8 points and the Justice Department’s score dropped by 2 points. Environmental Protection Agency saw employee engagement fall by less than 1 point. The biggest drop in employee engagement came from the Office of Management and Budget, decreasing 7.3 points, compared to other agencies its size. They do, however, still rank 2nd of 7 small agencies.

Regardless, employee engagement rose across the government in 2017, reaching a 6-year high, topping out at 67% this year—a 2% bump over last year’s score of 65.

So far, these Best Places to Work rankings are significantly less detailed than last year. OPMP didn’t provide data this year for 21 small agencies and 165 subcomponents, citing privacy reasons. However, OPM reversed its decision and will provide the Partnership with the missing data. They will update the 2017 rankings in January 2018.

“OPM’s decision to now provide complete government-wide data will make it easier for agencies to compare themselves to their federal counterparts, and help Congress and the Trump administration engage in comprehensive oversight of federal workforce management,” Partnership for Public Service President and CEO Max Stier said.

Whether you work in one of these “Best Places to Work” or in any other federal agency, if you are struggling with a disability you may qualify for Federal Disability Retirement. Contact our firm today to learn more.

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