Frequently Asked Questions

These FAQs are designed to provide a better understanding of the Best Places to Work rankings. If you have questions about the rankings that are not covered here or elsewhere on this website, please contact us.

Data Sources and Methodology

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

Most of the data used to develop the rankings was collected by the Office of Personnel Management through its Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. It was completed by 292,520 federal workers, for a response rate of 34%, a 10-point decrease from 2020. Visit OPM’s website to learn more about the FEVS methodology.

The Best Places to Work rankings include responses from more than 313,200 additional employees at 12 agencies that conducted separate surveys at the same time and had a response rate of more than 50%. 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. Visit our methodology page for more information.

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 reports. The rankings are based on an extensive government-wide employee survey conducted by OPM, plus surveys from 12 additional agencies and the intelligence community. In addition, we rank agency subcomponents. We also provide extra agency information on 12 workplace categories that range from employee opinions on leadership to their perceptions of work–life balance. Visit OPM’s website to learn more about the additional indexes it produces based on the FEVS.

Should I compare 2021 Best Places to Work scores with scores from previous years? 

The 2021 scores can be compared to the 2020 scores, but because of the methodological changes made in 2020, it would not be appropriate to compare these scores to years before 2020. Visit our methodology page for more information.

Why doesn’t the 2021 edition of Best Places to Work include the strategic management, support for diversity, and the training and development workplace categories?

The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, on which the Best Places to Work rankings are based, was amended in 2020, omitting some questions that appeared in previous editions of the survey. The 2021 survey looks similar to the 2020 edition in this regard, and this year we were unable to calculate strategic management, support for diversity and the training and development workplace category scores. For the 2022 rankings, we expect to adjust the categories and scores more comprehensively in line with the new, expanded survey instrument.

What is the data source for the private sector data?

Mercer, our technical partner, supplies data that is used to create a directly comparable private sector Best Places to Work engagement score and provides employee responses to 22 questions that offer points of comparison with the federal government. The benchmarks from Mercer are based on a normative database that is continually updated with client census survey data. See more information about private sector data in Private Sector Comparison

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

The demographic data on the agency pages is from OPM’s FedScope database. The information is based on full-time, nonseasonal, permanent employees at the end of September 2021, unless otherwise noted.

Why would an agency not have scores in some categories?

Several agencies do not take the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, but participate in the rankings voluntarily. These agencies conduct employee surveys comparable to OPM’s survey and include our three employee engagement and satisfaction questions. For agencies to have category scores and rankings, they need to have data for all sub-questions that make up that particular category. Several agencies that do not take the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey still participate in the rankings voluntarily, and their surveys may not include the questions required for each category. See our methodology page for details.

Who can participate in the Best Places to Work rankings?

Any agency with at least 100 federal employees is eligible to participate in the Best Places to Work rankings. Eligible agencies that do not participate in OPM’s government-wide annual employee survey can be part of the Best Places to Work rankings if they conduct a comparable survey that includes our three-employee engagement and satisfaction questions. The survey needs to be administered during the same timeframe as the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and have at least a 50% response rate. Please contact us to learn more about the survey requirements and how your agency can participate.

Why are agencies grouped by size?

We group agencies by workforce size to provide comparisons of organizations 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). 

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

The next Best Places to Work rankings will be released shortly after OPM administers and releases the results of its 2022 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

Scores and Rankings

How are the scores and rankings calculated? 

For the Best Place to Work employee engagement and satisfaction score, we use a measurement model developed by CFI Group, which uses the same methodology for the highly regarded American Customer Satisfaction Index. The score is derived from three different questions in OPM’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey:

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

The workplace category scores are calculated by averaging the percentage of positive responses to the respective survey questions across various aspects of the employee experience.

For detailed information about our calculation, visit methodology page.

Why aren’t past rankings shown? 

We have different numbers of agencies participating in the rankings every year. For example, in 2007, 222 subcomponents participated in the rankings while 432 subcomponents were included in 2021. We also have made changes to the ranking categories. For these reasons, the rank is not the most accurate reflection of an agency’s performance over time. We recommend focusing on agency scores and quartile trends instead.

What are the definitions of “senior leaders” and “supervisors”?

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 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: Typically, those who are responsible for employees’ performance appraisals and leave approval. 

More technical definitions about different positions are found in Effective Leadership page.  

For Agencies

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

There are many steps that agencies can take to improve employee engagement, and we offer a variety of resources, events and assistance for federal managers to better understand their data and build a tailored plan. To help leaders drive reforms, we work in partnership with agencies to conduct custom data analysis and lead them through a series of 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 resources page for more details.

For Federal Job Seekers

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

USAJOBS is the search engine and database for federal government jobs. 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 the Partnership’s  Go Government website to learn successful strategies for finding and applying for federal government jobs.

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.