Workforce

DHS fights low morale

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The Homeland Security Department is trying to elevate the low morale in its workforce that the Government Accountability Office reported Oct. 31.

The problem is widespread, affecting the various component agencies that comprise the department. In response to GAO’s report, Jim Crumpacker, director of the departmental GAO-OIG Liaison Office, wrote that DHS has hosted focus groups, performed analyses and conducted surveys at the department and component levels since 2006. The department has also instituted the DHS Exit Survey and a DHS Survey Analysis, Reporting, and Action Planning Tool to help components analyze the data. In addition, they created the Employee Engagement Executive Steering Committee in 2010 to guide planning efforts to boost morale.

DHS’s Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer reviews the department’s and component agencies’ action plans, looking for the high and low responses regarding job satisfaction and engagement and then determining how to improve the scores. The aim is to ensure those plans are tied to root causes of the morale problems. Crumpacker added that DHS will compare itself to other agencies’ efforts, while also setting clear and measureable metrics.

DHS employees’ low morale is not a new phenomenon. The department has lingered at the bottom rung of job satisfaction in various surveys through the years. In the Office of Personnel Management’s 2011 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, DHS ranked 31st out of 33 agencies.

That survey showed DHS employees’ job satisfaction rate is 4.5 percentage points lower than the overall federal government average. In measuring engagement, or the extent to which employees are immersed in their work and spend extra effort on job performance, DHS employees came in 7 percentage points below the government average.

In the 2011 survey, 68.5 percent of 266,376 full-time, permanent employees said they were satisfied with their work. At DHS, it was only 64 percent of employees. Across government, 67.1 percent of employees said they were engaged in their work, but only 60.1 percent of employees at DHS.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

Reader comments

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 Joaquin Memphis

First of DHS is a department not an agency. Amazing people complain when the average salary is over 80K.

Thu, Nov 8, 2012

We always do a good job of dodging the real cause of a problem.

Tue, Nov 6, 2012 More To The Story

Ironically, top DHS management selected the Deputy HR Officer of the FAA who served at the FAA during the time FAA was making headlines for not being able to fire ATC's sleeping on the job etc. based on labor agreements entered into at the time the current Chief Human Capital Officer served there as the Deputy HR Officer. GAO reported poor, questionable and ineffective personnel practices at the FAA were all based on labor agreements allowing local officials to enter into agreements with local unions without FAA's national office knowing about it. Result, numerous ULPs successfully filed. Bottom line, top management at DHS simply ensured poor and ineffective personnel practices at FAA have seemingly now engulfed other agencies at the DHS.....

Fri, Nov 2, 2012

As an employee of DHS, my husband contacted our federal legislature about the problems on my (and my coworkers behalf). About a month later, two people were murdered on the job site. To date, no one has been arrested. And they wonder why moral is low.

Fri, Nov 2, 2012 Earth

At my first Job, long long ago, if I had a problem I could go to “Personnel”. At my next job I became a “human resource” to be “managed” like some replaceable robotic component. The abstract of the GAO refers to “human capital” as if the people working for them are some sort of accounting figure on a spreadsheet.
The second thing that popped out at me was that: “For example, employees in TSA’s Federal Security Director staff reported higher satisfaction (by 13 percentage points) and engagement (by 14 percentage points) than TSA’s airport security screeners.” I guess Rank has its privileges. (Do you have a sufficiently expanded intellect to automatically cogitate of the converse of that statement?)
The most brazen indictment comes in the last paragraph when they discuss how they can’t determine what the problem is because some of the departments didn’t do certain statistical analysis. Statistical analysis, REALLY? You want to figure out why moral is low by statistical analysis on exit surveys. Let me guess, a computer conducted multi-choice questionnaire. LOL I bet I could write an AI program that demonstrated greater human compassion than the MBA’s managing DHS.

Of course the citizenry should be very concerned that the main security department with the greatest contact with the citizenry has one of the worse records of moral. The risk of malfeasance, misplaced goal seeking and outright predatory behavior implicit in that verity imply a strong need for replacement of management. Indeed I would be greatly surprised if malfeasance, misplaced goal seeking and outright predatory behavior isn’t rampant in the upper layers of management given the disparity of moral reported and it would be only a matter of time till it filtered down. Clearly the disparity hasn’t triggered effective human compassion from the upper ranks or they wouldn’t have reported such a disparity of moral. Why are they so happy when those working under them aren’t? And why must the GAO document this?

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