DHS' low morale becomes congressional matter

Over time, surveys have shown that employees at the Homeland Security Department are consistently less satisfied than the government-wide average, according to testimony presented at a House subcommittee hearing on March 21.

The trend began in 2004, when a White House-sponsored survey showed that 56 percent of DHS employees said they were satisfied with their jobs, compared to 68 percent government-wide, David Maurer, director of the homeland security and justice team at the Government Accountability Office, testified at the hearing.

In subsequent years, DHS employees continued to report lower satisfaction, ranging from an 8 percent difference in 2006 to a 4 percent disparity in 2011, Maurer told the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management.

While DHS workers generally had less positive statements about their work in comparison to other federal employees, there was no statistical difference on satisfaction with pay.

Furthermore, surveys showed that DHS components have different levels of satisfaction, with the Transportation Security Administration scoring 11 percentage points below federal averages while Customs and Border Protection scored above average.

Catherine Emerson, chief human capital officer for DHS, testified that efforts to improve morale are ongoing.

Furthermore, she suggested that the most recent drop in satisfaction at DHS was part of a broader trend.

“Our drop in Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey scores between 2010 and 2011 was mirrored government-wide to a lesser degree, suggesting external factors also shaped 2011 results,” Emerson said.

DHS is applying a strategy to improve employee morale, including establishing an Employee Engagement Executive Steering Committee.

Other features of the strategy include improved communications, training, diversity, inclusion and employee recognition, as well as strengthening of management leadership skills.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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