Best and Worst Federal Agencies to Work For

Image Credit: Colleen Casey

Image Credit: Colleen Casey

Want to work in Federal Government? Probably not. For the third straight year, federal employee’s personal views on their jobs and their levels of commitment to their work declined. The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government compiles data from the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, and shows wide-spread federal job dissatisfaction.

In 2013, the overall view fell three points, for a score of 57.8 out of 100. The private sector scored a 70.7 out of 100 in 2013. This is the lowest score since the rankings began in 2003. Federal employees reported being incredibly discontent about pay, with performance-based rewards and advancement, and gave senior leaders low marks in terms of effective leadership, and personal respect. The survey then breaks the agencies down by size, and ranks them within these categories from top to bottom.

The rankings are based on the overall index score, which “measures the performance of agencies and agency subcomponents related to employee satisfaction and commitment. The index is weighted according to the extent to which each question predicts ‘intent to remain.’” Here are the best and worst agencies by size.

Best Large Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NASA’s overall score improved 1.20 points on the index for a 74.0/100. It was already the top large agency going in to 2013, and is the most improved large agency in this round of rankings. NASA has consistently improved every year since 2007. NASA administrator Charles Bolden explained why the he thinks the agency was highly rated by employees. “The combination of employee engagement and intentional management of workforce culture is so compelling it overcomes even the most difficult management challenges.” Of the 19 large agencies, NASA held the top spot in every category except work-life balance, and pay, coming in second for each.

Worst Large Agency: Department of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security didn’t experience the biggest decline in employee satisfaction — that title goes to the Environmental Protection Agency — but it did slide 6.10 points. Its index score was a 46.8, making it 19th out of 19. The agency has been trending downward since peaking in 2010. It was in the bottom of the rankings in every category, only going as high as 16 out of 19 for Alternative Work and Employee Support Programs.

The lowest score was a 33.5 in the category of Effective Leadership: Empowerment, meaning employees do not feel empowered regarding work processes, and are dissatisfied with their involvement in decisions directly concerning their work.

Best Mid-Sized Agency: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

The FDIC declined by a point, but was still the top agency with its index score of 82.3. Like NASA, it took first place in its agency categories for all but two. Work-life balance again took second place, as did support for diversity. Employees felt that their talents and skill sets were effectively matched to their jobs, and scored nearly an 80 for pay satisfaction. The index score has been above 80 for the FDIC for three years, and past agency ratings helped it maintain a 5.1 point lead over the second place finisher, the Smithsonian Institute. That agency was unable to overcome the FDIC even after it gained 1.7 points.

Worst Mid-Sized Agency: The Department of Housing and Urban Development

HUD was hit twice with accolades no agency wants, it was the worst mid-sized agency, and it also had the steepest point decline, 10.8 for an overall 43.2.Individual category scores were all over the place, ranging from a 32.7 in Effective Leadership: Empowerment, to a 77.9 in Alternative Work and Employee Support Programs.

HUD’s chief human capital officer Mike Anderson said the agency was aware of the problems, and working to fix them. Employees have been hit hard in terms of pay, including a pay freeze, budget cuts, and five days of unpaid furloughs. “We are also trying to highlight and recognize employee accomplishments and draw a direct line between what people do and the mission of the agency,” said Anderson. “We want to increase transparency and build trust and relationships over time. We want to give employees a voice.”

Best Small Agency: Surface Transportation Board

The Surface Transportation Board notched up less than half a point this year for an 84.7/100 to beat the National Endowment for the Humanities by 0.1 point. The “Best Small Agency” was a tight race, with the top three all within 0.2 points of each other. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service rounded out the top three, and it is worth noting that all three agencies had higher scores than the first place finishers for mid and large agencies. The Board is charged with resolving “railroad rate and service disputes and review proposed railroad mergers.”It was in the top five for every category except pay, where it dropped to 11th place.

Worst Small Agency: Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

With a dismally low score of 26.8, it is surprising this agency was not dead-last in every category. Like with the Surface Transportation Board, it had its ups and downs. It had a high score of 71.8 for Employee Skills-Mission Match, and its top category was Teamwork where it took 15th place overall.

However, the agency declined 5.90 points from 2012, and its numbers have fallen consistently in the past few years. Low numbers from 2011 and 2010 explain, in part, why even though the Defense Nuclear Facilities Board’s score dropped by more points (33.4) than this agency’s rating, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative was still in last place. The mission of the office is “to develop and coordinate U.S. international trade, commodity and direct investment policy and oversee negotiations with other countries.”

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