Job satisfaction is rising at most agencies, but lags for IT workers

Happy workers

For the second year in a row, federal agencies saw employee happiness scores improve over the previous year, but IT and cybersecurity specialists’ job satisfaction still lags behind the rest of government.

Overall, the 2016 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings, produced by the Partnership for Public Service in conjunction with Deloitte and mostly derived from the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, report a governmentwide job satisfaction score of 59.4 out of 100, a 1.3 percent rise from 2015.

However, the score still falls short of the government’s all-time best score, 2010’s 65.0 rating, and considerably trails the private sector’s average job satisfaction score of 77.1.

Of the 18 agencies that have more than 15,000 employees, only four saw their job satisfaction scores decline: the intelligence community, the Department of Justice, the Social Security Administration and the Department of the Air Force.

For the fifth year in a row, NASA registered the highest satisfaction rating of large agencies, clocking in at 78.6. NASA was the lone large agency to exceed the private-sector average.

The departments of Commerce, State, Health and Human Services and the intelligence community rounded out the top five. The Department of Agriculture was the most improved agency, with a 3.7-point jump to 63.1.

The bottom five large agencies were the departments of the Air Force (59.3), Treasury (58.8), Army (57.8), Veterans Affairs (56.7) and Homeland Security (45.8).

The National Endowment for the Arts topped all government agencies with an 85.9 satisfaction score, while the Federal Election Commission had the lowest, coming in at 28.4 (a 6.6-point decrease from 2015).  And for the fifth consecutive year, the Secret Service saw a drop in employee satisfaction, scoring 32.8.

IT and cybersecurity specialists, meanwhile, reported being the least satisfied with their jobs, trailing the governmentwide average of 59.4 by 2.8 points. Other occupations broken out in the index are economists, auditors, human resources staff and contractors.

For large agencies, NASA bumped the Social Security Administration from the top spot for IT employees, improving 2.7 points to a score of 72.4. SSA dropped 3.4 points to 68.0.

Out of all the agencies, IT professionals reported being most satisfied at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (76.4), followed closely by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (76.3), which drastically improved on its bottom-five midsize agency score of 52.4 last year.

For large agencies, DHS IT workers remain the least satisfied, despite a four-point increase to 50.2. For midsize agencies, IT workers were least satisfied at the Small Business Administration (28.5).

Partnership for Public Service President and CEO Max Stier said improving happiness in the workplace should be a priority for the next administration.

“Best in class private-sector organizations understand that improved employee engagement leads to better performance and improved outcomes,” Stier said in an announcement of the new scores. “People are our government’s greatest asset, and the new administration should commit itself to strengthening the federal workforce and improving the workplace culture.”

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter


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