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.

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