Feds' job satisfaction on the rise

Federal employee job satisfaction rose to 58.1 out of 100 in the Partnership for Public Service's annual rankings, but IT specialists have the lowest score.

Shutterstock image (by ra2studio): businessman holding a smiley face emoticon.

After a downward trend in job satisfaction since 2011, the outlook is looking better for feds.

The 2015 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings by the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte show that federal employees' overall job satisfaction increased 1.2 points from 2014, to a score of 58.1 out of 100.

"We're very pleased to see this," said Sean Morris, a principal at Deloitte. He credits the improvement to agencies gaining a better understanding of what employees need. "We're starting to reap that reward because they put the foundations in place."

Seventy percent of agencies had improved scores in 2015, compared to 43 percent in 2014 and only 24 percent in 2013.

Although things are looking up for feds overall, IT and cybersecurity specialists had the lowest job satisfaction score -- 56.2, nearly two points below the governmentwide score.  

Other occupations that fared better are economists, auditors, human resources specialists and contract specialists -- all positions that have historically been difficult for government to fill. Morris said the results highlight the fact that agencies need to understand the unique skill sets IT specialists bring to the table.

"We're starting to better understand what their needs and requirements are," he said. "Not all occupations are going to interact in the same way. Economists aren't typically found in a studio environment; IT specialists are often located together. Do [agencies] provide the types of environments that are collaborative?"

Furthermore, IT job satisfaction varies depending on where feds work http://bestplacestowork.org/BPTW/rankings/occupations/large/it.

IT and cybersecurity specialists at large agencies are most happy at the Social Security Administration (71.4), NASA (69.7), Justice Department (65.4) and Commerce Department (61.2). They are least satisfied at the Environmental Protection Agency (51.7), Transportation Department (51.3), Department of the Army (50.7) and Department of Homeland Security (46.2).

For midsize agencies, IT specialists reported being happiest with their jobs at the General Services Administration (68.5), Securities and Exchange Commission (68.1) and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (67.3). They are least satisfied at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (52.4), U.S. Agency for International Development (47.2), National Archives and Records Administration (37.9) and Small Business Administration (18.6).

IT professionals at small agencies were most satisfied with their jobs at the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (79.5) and least satisfied at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (54.8).

Morris said the agencies that have consistently ranked in the top tier have a strategy, stick to the strategy, and encourage feedback and engagement between leaders and employees.

Sometimes the little things can make all the difference. According to Morris, at the Partnership for Public Service's awards breakfast on Dec. 8, Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu 'said something as simple as putting a microwave in the office kitchen can show employees that their voices are being heard.

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