Federal job satisfaction continues to lag behind private sector

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Overall federal employee engagement still lags behind the private sector, according to the latest Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings, although feds did indicate approval of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report from the Partnership for Public Service uses data from the 2020 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, conducted by the Office of Personnel Management, to quantify employee engagement, job satisfaction, work-life balance, professional development opportunities and more.

The government scored high across the board in a new category to determine how well federal leaders met the needs of the workforce during the pandemic. The government scored 86.1 out of 100 in the "Federal Government COVID-19 category." This score suggests that feds felt supported, said OPM senior advisor to the director of OPM, Kathleen McGettigan, during a Tuesday event on the results.

"Employees felt their leaders understood their needs and challenges during a difficult time and supported them with new and innovative ways to work, including flexibilities in when and how they work, technology to perform their jobs remotely and new ways to collaborate as an organization," she said.

Almost 60% of the federal workforce was on full-time telework during the peak lockdown months of the pandemic, according to the report.

Federal human resources officials can learn from these results as they develop telework and other workplace policies for the post-COVID environment, Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, said in a statement on the results.

"The response to the pandemic also provides a pathway for the future of federal work that could involve greater reliance on telework, enhanced use of technology for internal operations and for the improved delivery of services to the public," he said.

Overall employee engagement for federal employees remains well below private-sector levels at 69 points, as compared to 77. Only 22 of 71 agencies scored over the private sector individually.

Government responses on trust and confidence in supervisors also lag behind the private sector, with 82% of private-sector employees reporting trust, as compared to 76% of federal employees. Feds also reported lower scores on satisfaction with immediate supervisors.

In pay satisfaction, however, government employees did rate their experiences more favorably that their private-sector counterparts, with 67% of feds saying they're satisfied with their pay, as opposed to 54% in the private sector.

The rankings also give insight into the experiences feds have in different agencies.

NASA, for example, ranked in the top spot among 17 large agencies for the ninth year in a row. Employee engagement at NASA is 86.6.

The Department of Homeland Security is still sitting in last place among large agencies, also for the ninth consecutive year, with a score of 61.1.

The Social Security Administration also had a low score of 64.5. It dropped from 14th place among large agencies in 2019 to 15th this year. The Agriculture Department is another constant at the bottom of the list of large agencies. The Office of Management and Budget fell dramatically in the rankings. It moved from sixth place among small agencies in 2019 to a last place ranking of 29 in 2020.

About the Author

Natalie Alms is a staff writer at FCW covering the federal workforce. She is a recent graduate of Wake Forest University and has written for the Salisbury (N.C.) Post. Connect with Natalie on Twitter at @AlmsNatalie.


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