FAQs


These FAQs are designed to provide a better understanding of the Best Places to Work rankings.

If you have questions about Best Places to Work that are not covered here or elsewhere on our website, please contact us.


Data Sources and Methodology

What is the data source used for the Best Places to Work rankings?

The vast majority of the data used to develop the rankings was collected by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) through its Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS). The survey was administered April through June 2014 to permanent executive branch employees and completed by more than 392,700 federal workers, for a response rate of 46.8 percent. Participating agencies account for 97 percent of the executive branch workforce. The Best Places to Work rankings also include responses from more than 15,000 additional employees at 11 agencies, including four legislative branch organizations that were surveyed at the same time and had a response rate of more than 50 percent. In addition, the rankings incorporate responses from employees of the intelligence community, which conducted its own similar survey but did not report the number of respondents due to classification restrictions. Visit our methodology page for more information.

Visit OPM’s website to learn more about the FEVS methodology.

Back to top

Who can participate in the Best Places to Work rankings?

Any federal agency with at least 100 full-time or part-time permanent employees is eligible to participate in the Best Places to Work rankings. Eligible agencies that do not participate in OPM’s survey can be part of the Best Places to Work rankings if they conduct a comparable survey that includes our three index questions. The survey needs to be administered during the same time frame and have a minimum 50 percent response rate. Please contact us to learn more about the survey requirements and how your agency can participate.

Back to top

How are your Best Places to Work rankings different from other rankings?

Our Best Places to Work rankings include only federal agencies, not private-sector or nonprofit employers as found in other workplace assessments. The rankings are based on an extensive government-wide employee survey conducted by OPM, plus surveys from eight additional agencies and the Intelligence Community. Other employer rankings generally are derived from online reviews by employees. In addition, we include rankings on many more agencies than the annual OPM report and also provide extra information for every agency on 10 workplace categories that range from employee opinions on leadership to their perceptions of work–life balance.

Back to top

What is the data source for the private-sector data?

Hay Group, our technical partner, supplies data that are used for the private-sector Best Places to Work index score and also provides employee responses to 10 questions that offer points of comparison with the federal government. The benchmarks from Hay Group are based on data collected from more than 6.7 million employees at 400 companies around the world in a wide variety of industries.

Back to top

What is the source of the demographic data included in the agency profile?

The demographic data on the agency profile pages is from OPM’s FedScope database. The information is based on permanent employees as of fiscal year 2013, unless otherwise noted.

Back to top

What is the definition of large, mid-size and small in the agency rankings?

Agencies with more than 15,000 permanent employees are included in the large category. Those with 1,000 to 14,999 permanent employees are included in the mid-size category. Any with more than 100 and fewer than 1,000 permanent employees are included in the small category. Subcomponents—the subagencies, bureaus, divisions, centers and offices within agencies—need to have at least 100 permanent employees. The number of employees was determined by using OPM’s FedScope database. Our criterion was based on the number of permanent employees as of fiscal year 2013, unless otherwise noted.

Back to top

Why are agencies grouped by size?

We group agencies by workforce size to provide comparisons of agencies that may face similar management challenges in terms of numbers of employees and locations. The groupings have undergone several changes over the years. In 2003 the rankings featured only one list of agencies, including agencies as large as the Department of Defense (over 600,000 employees) and as small as the Office of Management and Budget (450 employees).

Back to top

When will the next Best Places to Work rankings be released?

The next Best Places to Work rankings will be released shortly after OPM completes and releases its 2015 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

Back to top

Scores and Rankings

What does the Best Places to Work index measure and how is it calculated?

The overall rankings are based on the Best Places to Work index score, which measures employee satisfaction and commitment. The measurement model for Best Places to Work was created in 2003 by our partner, CFI Group, which uses the same methodology for the highly regarded American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

The Best Places to Work index score is derived from three different questions in OPM’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS):

  • I recommend my organization as a good place to work.
  • Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your job?
  • Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your organization?

To calculate the score, we use the percentage of positive responses in a weighted formula. The more the question predicted intent to remain, the higher the weighting. The weightings for the formula are proprietary.

Back to top

How were the workplace categories determined, and what survey questions does each include?

Our partner, CFI Group, created the measurement model for Best Places to Work in 2003. It used structural equation modeling to determine the clusters of questions included in each of the 10 workplace categories: effective leadership; employee skills–mission match; pay; strategic management; teamwork; training and development; work–life balance; support for diversity; performance-based rewards and advancement; and alternative work and employee support programs.

Visit our What the Categories Measure page to see OPM’s survey questions included in each category.

The category scores are calculated by averaging the percentage of positive responses to the respective survey questions. The alternative work and employee support programs category includes program participants only. Those who said “no basis to judge” were removed from the calculation. We require responses from at least 30 participants in each program to calculate a score.

Back to top

How did you determine effective leadership was the key driver of the Best Places to Work index score?

Our technical partner, Hay Group, performed a regression analysis to determine which workplace categories were the best predictors of the Best Places to Work index score. Government-wide, the key driver is effective leadership. In addition, we analyzed subcategories within effective leadership and found that senior leaders have the largest impact on the Best Places to Work index score.

Back to top

What are the definitions of “senior leader” and “supervisor”?

OPM’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey included the following definitions:

Senior Leaders
The heads of departments/agencies and their immediate leadership team responsible for directing the policies and priorities of the department/agency. May hold either a political or a career appointment and typically a member of the Senior Executive Service or equivalent.
Managers
Those in management positions who typically supervise one or more supervisors.
Supervisors
First-line supervisors who do not supervise other supervisors; typically those who are responsible for employees’ performance appraisals and approval of their leave.
Back to top

Why do some agencies not have scores in all the categories?

The Architect of the Capitol, Congressional Budget Office, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Farm Credit Administration, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Government Accountability Office, Government Printing Office, Intelligence Community, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Peace Corps, Smithsonian Institution, and U.S. Army Audit Agency do not participate in the OPM survey but conduct comparable surveys that include our three index questions. These agencies may or may not include the questions required for the category scores.

Back to top

Why do some agencies not have scores for every demographic group, and how did you decide on demographics to include in the rankings?

To calculate a Best Places to Work index score for a demographic group at an agency, we require at least 30 respondents in the category. If there were fewer than 30, we did not report a score. We use most of the demographics in the OPM employee survey, including gender, age, race/ethnicity, disability, veterans and Senior Executive Service (SES). Data for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) employees was not available due to the small number of respondents. For more information about LGBT federal employee perspectives, please see page 31 of OPM’s FEVS report.

Back to top

Why are the rankings from past years not included on the website?

We have different numbers of agencies participating in the rankings. For example, in 2007, 222 subcomponents participated in the rankings and the median rank was 111. In 2014, 315 subcomponents participated in the rankings and the median rank was 157. We also have made changes to the ranking’s categories. For these reasons, the rank is not the most accurate reflection of an agency’s performance over time. We recommend focusing on score and quartile trends instead. However, if you would like to know an agency’s past published rankings for historical context, please contact us.

Back to top

For Agencies

What can an agency do to improve its Best Places to Work scores?

There are many things that agencies can do to improve employee satisfaction, and we offer a variety of resources, events and levels of assistance for agencies to better understand their data and build a tailored action plan. To help leaders drive reforms, we launched an advisory services program that works in partnership with agencies to conduct custom data analysis and lead them through a series of action-planning activities that identify and address employee concerns. We also have compiled case studies that examine federal agencies that have successfully used their Best Places to Work data to drive change. Please see our agency services page for more details.

Back to top

Can I download my agency’s data?

Yes. The Excel Tool, made possible by our technical partner, Hay Group, is a resource to help managers and agency leaders improve government performance by boosting employee satisfaction and commitment. The Excel Tool displays agency results for the survey questions and workplace categories included in the Best Places to Work rankings and features the following types of reports for your agency:

  • Agency results for the Best Places to Work rankings
  • Agency key drivers, the two to three workplace categories most important to improving your Best Places to Work score
  • Agency results for individual survey questions (e.g., percentage of employees providing a favorable, neutral and unfavorable response)
  • A comparison of agency results to the previous year (trend)
  • A comparison of agency results to the federal government-wide results
  • A comparison of agency results to the private sector
  • A breakdown of survey results by key demographic categories (e.g., age, minority/non-minority, gender, supervisory status)

The 2014 Excel Tool will be available in late January.

Back to top

For Federal Jobseekers

I am trying to find a job in the federal government. Where do I go for more information?

USAJOBS.gov is the search engine/database for federal government jobs. As the one-stop shop for government jobs, USAJOBS.gov typically has roughly 30,000 vacancy announcements on the site at any given time. All of the competitive jobs, those that are open to non-federal employee applicants, are listed there. Many agencies will also list job openings on their websites.

Visit our Go Government website to learn successful strategies for finding and applying for federal government jobs.

Back to top

I was thinking about applying for a job at an agency that is ranked low. Should I reconsider?

Not necessarily. We hope that job seekers will use our Best Places to Work website as a resource, but there are many other factors to take into consideration when thinking about applying for a job.

Back to top
Share