Agencies don't reward innovation, feds say

Most federal employees are trying to find ways to do their jobs better, but only a minority think their agencies care, according to a new survey.

The “innovation snapshot” concludes that although nine out of 10 federal employees are seeking ways to better perform their jobs, only about four out of 10 believe innovation and creativity are rewarded.

According to the sponsor of the study, the Partnership for Public Service, the results suggest that “federal workers are motivated to drive change through creativity, but need stronger support from their organizations and leaders to do so.”

PPS created “innovation scores” based on the percentage of federal employees who responded positively to what the group identified as three innovation-related questions contained in the 2010 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey conducted by the Office of Personnel Management.

Respondents had been asked to respond to the statements “I am constantly looking for ways to do my job better,” “I feel encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things,” and “Creativity and innovation are rewarded.”

The group’s analysis of the responses showed that although 91 percent of employees are looking for ways to perform their jobs better, only 39 percent believe innovation and creativity are rewarded.

When broken down by agency, the top five large organizations for innovation were NASA, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the General Services Administration, the State Department, and the Army.

PPS noted that NASA and the NRC also were among the five highest-ranking agencies on the Partnership’s annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government list.

Among the agencies ranking near the bottom of the innovation list were the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; the Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, and Transportation departments; and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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Reader comments

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 alaskaman

Government should reward people who come up with ways to increase productivity and save money. The private sector does it. Many good ideas aren't being brought forth simply out of fear that some stupid boss will retaliate against them. The old "don't rock the boat syndrome" is being played out way too much. I think if a person's idea saves the government money that person should be paid a small percentage of the savings as a cash award...like 10% sounds reasonable. Boeing gave out such awards to my dad years ago.

Thu, Aug 18, 2011 Aggravated

I work for a government agency that always gets the blame for spending too much money for items that the public buys everyday. Most people do not know that Congress is the reason we buy $500.00 hammers and its not going to stop, we are always told to get the best price we can; but there are so many regulations put on us that we cant, we have to follow regulations. I dont think we should buy from countries that we know produce inferior items and we should ban them. But we dont.. congress wont let us; but let this get out and its the emplyees of the agency that are to blame, Congress would never take the blame.

Tue, Aug 16, 2011

Innovative? We are using the same computer program that was with us in the 1960s, I believe. The data is said to be so cumbersome (humongous) that it would be very difficult to replace. It is used by both federal and state components of the program. Instead of computers helping us do our job, they have become tyrants who force us to work harder than we would if we could just use some of the newer, more efficient programs.

Fri, Aug 12, 2011 John Krumm Cambridge, MA

My work center is at the very Center of innovation within US DOT. Yet, we are often bound because we are industrially funded, and our recommendations for cost effective transport and logistics are ultimately accepted or rejected by the agencies who we serve (we're industrially funded). Simple recommendations which could easily save $25B per year, every year, will never see the light of day, because of the politics involved. Meantime, we have a House that is openly hostile to Government workers, an administration who appears always ready to bargain with our benefits to secure another term. After 32 years of service, I do wonder if the nation actually wants to remain united and find better ways. It often seems the partisanship and the political positioning is what is desired, not good government. Not only do I feel innovation is not really desired or rewarded, I fear for the Union I have dedicated my life to.

Thu, Aug 11, 2011 Fatnlo

Most of the management in the government is regurgitated. Brought to the forefront by the buddy system. This has created an environment riddled with the same thought processes. If you are to be truly innovate, you must encompass thought that is diverse (and I don't mean just cultural diversity). We have become stagnant. Add onto that a culture that has been encouraged to be lazy and the perfect storm has been created. I've done 12 years private, and 8 yrs public and must say that I've given the government a chance, but it is so broken I don't believe I can give any more.

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