The Big Picture

Government-wide Analysis


Government-wide Scores Increase After Four Years of Decline

The 2015 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® data show a slight increase in federal employee satisfaction with their jobs and workplaces following four years of declining scores. Government-wide, federal employee job satisfaction and commitment increased 1.2 points from 2014, for a score of 58.1 out of 100. In contrast, the 2015 satisfaction rate for private sector employees is 76.7, according to Sirota, a survey research organization.

The improvement in federal employee satisfaction from 2014 to 2015 may be the result of several factors, including a rebound by the workforce from events such as the 2013 across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration, the partial government shutdown that same year that resulted in the furlough of more than 800,000 employees and three years of pay freezes that ended in 2014.

Among individual federal organizations, 70.4 percent saw their overall employee satisfaction and commitment ratings increase in 2015, compared with 43.1 percent in 2014 and 24 percent in 2013. Specifically, 73.7 percent of large agencies, 79.2 percent of mid-size agencies, 64.3 percent of small agencies and 70 percent of the subcomponents experienced an increase in employee satisfaction in 2015.

The overall Best Places to Work index score is calculated using a proprietary weighted formula that looks at responses to three different questions in the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. The more the question predicts intent to remain, the higher the weighting.

  • I recommend my organization as a good place to work. (Q. 40)
  • Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your job? (Q. 69)
  • Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your organization? (Q. 71)

The Best Places to Work rankings offer the most comprehensive assessment of how federal public servants view their jobs and workplaces, providing insights into worker satisfaction and commitment on issues ranging from leadership and pay to innovation and work–life balance. The vast majority of the data used to develop the scores and rankings was collected by the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey April through June 2015.

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PRIVATE SECTOR COMPARISON

When it comes to employee satisfaction with their jobs and workplaces, the private-sector far outpaces the federal government.

A comparison of 2015 Best Places to Work data and private sector survey results reveals an 18.6-point difference between the federal government (58.1) and the private sector (76.7) regarding employee satisfaction and commitment.

The private sector data, supplied by survey research firm Sirota, is based on more than 1.5 million employee survey responses at some 115 organizations around the world in a wide variety of industries. The Best Places to Work data is based on the views of more than 433,000 civil servants across the federal government who participated in employee surveys.

In addition to providing a private sector comparison to the Best Places to Work government-wide job satisfaction and commitment score, Sirota provides comparative data for 25 questions that are in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

The federal government scores are below the private sector on all survey questions by an average of 13 points. The largest gap—more than 25 points—is on the issue of resources. Less than half of federal employees feel they have sufficient resources to do their jobs, while 71 percent of private sector employees are satisfied on this issue. The gap is less stark in the area of supervisor-employee communication. The private sector exceeds the federal government by only about five points when it comes to employees feeling that their supervisors listen to what they have to say.

One critical area where the results clearly reveal room for the federal government to improve is performance management. Employees in the private sector and the federal government have similar views regarding the annual performance appraisal itself: more than two-thirds of employees in both sectors agree their reviews are fair. However, only 59 percent of government employees say they receive constructive feedback compared with 74 percent of employees in the private sector, a 15-point difference. There is an even larger gap of 22.6 points on the question of recognition and rewards. In the private sector, 67 percent of employees believe they are rewarded for great performance, while only 44.4 percent of government employees feel they are recognized for high quality work.

Many organizations in both the private and public sectors are reevaluating how they assess and promote high performance. There is growing evidence that frequent and constructive feedback from managers can be more helpful, motivating, and engaging for employees than annual performance reviews. These trends, along with our findings of big differences on feedback and recognition, suggest that federal agencies should consider new ways to improve performance conversations between managers and employees, and to honor employees for outstanding work.

Index Scores (Out of 100)

Click the link below to view the Best Places to Work agency rankings.

Sector Change (2014‑15) 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2007 2005 2003
Federal Government 1.2 58.1 56.9 57.8 60.8 64.0 65.0 63.3 61.8 62.1 60.5
Private Sector 76.1

CATEGORY SCORES

The 2015 government-wide data show increases in employee satisfaction in all of the 10 workplace categories examined. The biggest increases came in the categories of training and development, which had a score of 57.5 out of 100, pay with a score of 54.2, and performance-based rewards and advancement, with a score of 42.4. All three categories increased by nearly two points. Within the leadership category, the rating for senior leaders increased by 1.4 points to 43.8. Senior leaders, who have routinely been given relatively low ratings by their employees, are defined as the heads of departments and agencies as well as their immediate leadership teams; the teams typically include career executives and political appointees.

Many issues influence how federal employees rate their satisfaction and commitment with their jobs and workplaces. According to our analysis, effective leadership continues to be the key driver for federal employees in 2015, as it has been every year since the rankings were first launched in 2003. This category encompasses employee views on supervisors, fairness, empowerment and senior leaders. Effective leadership has continuously been one of the lowest-rated workplace categories, and 2015 followed this trend with a government-wide score of 51.6. Two other key factors that influence overall satisfaction and commitment are how well employees believe their skills are matched to the mission, and pay.

Government-wide Scores by Category (Out of 100)

Click the links below to view agency rankings by category. Click on the column headings to sort by change or scores by year.

Category Change (2014‑15) 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2007 2005 2003
Effective Leadership 1.2 51.6 50.4 51.8 52.8 54.9 54.5 52.7 51.5 51.5 49.1
Effective Leadership: Empowerment 1.3 44.1 42.8 43.8 45.8 48.5 49.1 48.6 47.9 47.4 45.4
Effective Leadership: Fairness 0.6 52.5 51.9 52.6 53.0 54.3 53.3 49.1 46.6 47.5 46.4
Effective Leadership: Senior Leaders 1.4 43.8 42.4 45.4 46.7 49.3 49.0 47.3 45.6 45.3 42.7
Effective Leadership: Supervisors 1.3 62.8 61.5 61.8 62.3 63.9 63.3 61.9 61.5 61.8 61.7
Employee Skills–Mission Match 0.8 75.2 74.4 75.2 77.3 78.6 78.9 78.8 78.1 77.9 78.8
Pay 1.7 54.2 52.5 50.3 55.0 59.1 63.0 60.4 61.3
Strategic Management 1.1 52.3 51.2 52.6 54.7 56.8 56.4 57.2 56.0 56.4 58.1
Teamwork 0.8 63.7 62.9 63.9 64.4 65.3 65.3 71.2 70.2 71.0 67.9
Innovation 1.1 60.0 58.9 59.4 61.5 63.2 63.3
Training and Development 1.8 57.5 55.7 56.1 59.3 60.7 61.1 61.5 59.8 60.8 57.7
Work–Life Balance 0.9 59.1 58.2 58.2 60.0 60.2 60.7 62.1 61.4 62.9 63.6
Support for Diversity 0.6 55.6 55.0 54.8 55.5 57.8 56.9 60.5 58.0 58.6 60.4
Performance-Based Rewards and Advancement 1.6 42.4 40.8 41.2 43.4 45.9 46.4 45.6 44.4 43.8 42.9

Click on the graph legends to highlight selected data series. Hover over the graphs to view data by year.


DEMOGRAPHIC SCORES

The 2015 Best Places to Work rankings offer valuable insights into employee views of the federal workplace, including a look at the perspectives of workers from different demographic groups. We include the demographic analysis to allow agency leaders to identify possible issues that may be affecting one group in an agency more than another. However, the response rate on the survey’s demographic questions is lower than the response rates for the other segments of the survey. Therefore, many of these scores are not comparable to the overall government-wide index score. For example, the average scores for women and men are both higher than the government-wide average (58.1).

Government-wide, men are marginally less satisfied with their jobs than women, with a score of 60.4 out of 100 compared to 61.1 for women. The scores for women and men increased since 2014 by 1.0 and 0.9 points, respectively.

Examining the scores by age, respondents 40 and over scored 58.9, and those under 40 scored 56.1, a 2.8-point gap in worker satisfaction and commitment. The under 40 age group experienced a 1.7 point increase in job satisfaction in 2015, while those 40 and over saw their score increase by 1.2 points.

The 2015 data show a 14.5 point gap between the highest- and lowest-scoring racial and ethnic groups. Employees who classify themselves as Asian are the most satisfied with their jobs and workplaces, registering a score of 67.0. They are followed by black employees (62.4), white (61.0), Hispanic or Latino (59.6), Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders (59.1), American Indian (56.9) and multiracial (52.5) employees. The scores increased for all of the racial and ethnic groups with the exception of those who identified as multiracial. This group’s score decreased slightly by 0.4 points.

Members of the Senior Executive Service (SES), the federal leadership corps, have a job satisfaction score of 82.9—a 1.1 point increase from 2014. The data show a gap of 24.9 points between the satisfaction of members of the SES and the satisfaction of the rest the workforce (58.0).

For the first time, the Best Places to Work rankings for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) are available. This group has a satisfaction and commitment score of 57.7, which is 4.9 points lower than the score for those who identified as heterosexual (62.6).

Government-wide Index Scores by Demographic (Out of 100)

Click the links below to view agency rankings by demographic. Click on the column headings to sort by change or scores by year.

Demographic Change (2014‑15) 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2007 2005 2003
Female 1.0 61.1 60.1 61.4 63.9 67.1 66.1 63.6
Male 0.9 60.4 59.5 60.3 64.3 66.4 67.9 63.1
40 and over 1.2 58.9 57.7 61.5 64.6 66.5 66.8 63.3
Under 40 1.7 56.1 54.4 59.5 63.4 67.8 68.8 63.3
American Indian or Native American 1.5 56.9 55.4 57.6 58.3 61.2 63.2 61.3
Asian 1.5 67.0 65.5 67.3 68.8 71.7 71.2 67.3
Black or African-American 0.4 62.4 62.0 63.2 64.9 67.8 66.8 64.5
Hispanic or Latino 0.9 59.6 58.7 60.9 64.4 67.4 68.8 65.1
Multi-racial -0.4 52.5 52.9 53.9 56.9 59.8 55.8 55.7
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander 1.5 59.1 57.6 61.1 62.9
White 1.1 61.0 59.9 60.7 64.4 66.8 67.6 63.5
Employees with Disabilities 1.3 55.8 54.5 55.9 58.0
LGBT 57.7
Senior Executive Service (SES) 1.1 82.9 81.8 80.8 82.6
Veterans 1.1 59.6 58.5 59.5 63.1

Click on the graph legends to highlight selected data series. Hover over the graphs to view data by year.


OCCUPATION SCORES

For the first time, the Best Places to Work rankings include results for five mission-critical occupations across government: auditors, contract/acquisition specialists, economists, human resources specialists, and information technology/cybersecurity specialists.

The Office of Personnel Management and the Chief Human Capital Officer Council have focused on these occupations because shortages or a loss of staff in these job categories could interfere with the ability of agencies to effectively accomplish their missions.

What Do They Do?

Among these occupational groups, economists have the highest overall government-wide Best Places to Work satisfaction and commitment score (68.1 out of 100), followed by auditors (62.8), HR specialists (60.6) and contract specialists (58.3). IT specialists have the lowest score (56.2,), nearly two points below the overall government-wide score for all employees.

The low satisfaction and commitment score for IT specialists is particularly troubling because of the importance of computer systems to the basic functioning of government, from managing information and finances, communicating internally and interacting with the public. In addition, security is a major concern, with the government’s computer networks now averaging almost 70,000 intrusions a year. The most egregious case was disclosed in June 2015 when OPM announced that more than 20 million current and former federal employees had their personal information stolen.

The Government Accountability Office recently identified the management of IT acquisitions and operations as a major government problem, placing this issue on its 2015 “high risk” list. GAO noted that the executive branch needs to better manage the more than $80 billion that it invests annually in information technology acquisitions and operations.

Government-wide Index Scores by Occupation (Out of 100)

Click the links below to view the agency rankings by occupation.

Occupation 2015
Economist 68.1
Auditor 62.8
HR Specialist 60.6
Contract Specialist 58.3
All Employees 58.1
IT Specialist 56.2
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