*The Department of Veterans Affairs does not participate in the FEVS. The government-wide Best Places to Work employee engagement scores from 2003 to 2017 include the views of employees from the VA. The scores from 2018 to 2020 do not include their data. Because the VA represents approximately 18% of the federal workforce, the government-wide scores between 2003 and 2017 should not be compared to scores between 2018 and 2020.
Federal employees faced formidable challenges in 2020 due to the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, with the majority the nation’s civil
servants working remotely while tens of thousands were on the front lines maintaining the continuity of our government and delivering critical services to the public.
Federal agencies rose to the occasion despite the disruptions and hardships, posting a score of 86.1 out of 100 in the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government COVID-19 category that measures employee views on their organization’s response to the pandemic.
This positive response included employee views on whether their organizations supported their mental and physical well-being during the pandemic (88.6); whether they received the resources they needed to do their work (88.6); whether their agencies were able to successfully deliver on their missions during the crisis (85.8); and whether they had leaders who communicated effectively and prioritized their welfare (81.4).
In addition, the 2020 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey on which the Best Places to Work rankings and findings are based, showed that 85.4% of employees reported that their work unit “achieved our goals” at least most of the time during the pandemic while 84% said their colleagues cooperated to get the work done.
These responses occurred between mid-September and early November of 2020, with 59% of respondents reporting that they teleworked every day during the peak of the pandemic compared to just 3% before the pandemic.
These findings suggest that most federal leaders understood the needs of their employees and the challenges they faced during this once-in-a-century deadly pandemic, an extremely difficult time, and engaged and supported the workforce in new and innovative ways. This included providing employees with the technology necessary to do their jobs in remote settings, the flexibility to meet their personal needs and greater collaboration within agencies and across the government.
The 2020 experience provides a foundation and 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.
Overall, the 2020 Best Places to Work government-wide engagement score measuring employee satisfaction with their jobs and organizations was 69.0 points out of 100.
Besides the government-wide engagement score, the 2020 Best Places to Work data provides insights into various aspects of the federal employee experience including their views of agency leaders. While employees felt their leaders supported them during the pandemic, additional data based on a set of non-COVID related questions shows that long-standing issues with federal leadership persist in the eyes of the federal workforce.
The 2020 government-wide score for the effective leadership workplace category stood at just 64.2 out of 100. Supervisors drew a rating of 78.0 out of 100, but senior leaders came in considerably lower at 57.8 out of 100. In addition, employees gave their leaders only a score of 57.9 on empowerment, which measures satisfaction with their involvement in work processes and decisions that affect their work.
On other work-related issues, federal agencies posted a score of 75.9 out of 100 for the match between employee skills and agency missions; 75.7 for work-life balance; 72.1 for teamwork; 67.0 for satisfaction with pay; 66.6 for agency efforts to be innovative; and 61.5 for agency efforts to recognize the good work of employees.
In addition, only 42.9% of respondents agreed that “the results of this survey will be used to make my agency a better place to work” compared to 66% for the private sector, a 23.1-point gap. Top performing federal agencies like NASA, which in 2020 had a score of 68.2% on this question and topped the private sector, believe that being responsive to employee concerns is a key factor in job and organization satisfaction.
The pandemic demonstrated that pro-active federal leaders had a significant impact on employee engagement. This experience provides a unique opportunity for President Joe Biden and his administration – a once in a generation opportunity–to transform the workplace by building on the lessons of past year and by placing a heightened focus on improving government-wide federal employee job satisfaction and commitment, factors that are critical for a well-functioning government.
How do we calculate the engagement score?
The Best Places to Work engagement score is calculated using a proprietary weighted formula that looks at responses to three different questions in the federal survey. The more the question predicts intent to remain, the higher the weighting.
- I recommend my organization as a good place to work. (Q. 17)
- Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your job? (Q. 36)
- Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your organization? (Q. 38)
Due to changes to the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, on which the Best Places to Work rankings are based, and the Partnership’s method for calculating the percentage of positive responses to the FEVS questions, 2020 scores should not be compared to previous years. For more information, see the Methodology section.