Methodology

The Partnership for Public Service created the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® rankings in 2003 to provide the most comprehensive rating of employee engagement across federal agencies and their subcomponents. We use the term employee engagement to refer to the satisfaction and commitment of the workforce and the willingness of employees to put forth discretionary effort to achieve results. 

The 2020 Best Places to Work rankings include 482 federal agencies and their subcomponents: 17 large agencies, 25 midsize agencies, 29 small agencies and 411 subcomponents. We group agencies by workforce size to provide comparisons of agencies that may face similar management challenges. Large agencies are those organizations with 15,000 or more employees. Agencies with 1,000 to 14,999 employees are included in the midsize category. Small agencies are those with at least 100 but fewer than 1,000 employees. Subcomponents—the subagencies, bureaus, divisions, centers and offices within agencies—need to have at least 100 employees to be included in the rankings. The number of employees was determined by using OPM’s FedScope database at the end of fiscal 2020 unless otherwise noted.

View List of Participating Agencies

The majority of the data used to develop these rankings was collected by the Office of Personnel Management through its Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. The survey was administered as a census to all full-time and part-time, permanent, nonseasonal executive branch employees between September and November 2020.  It was completed by 624,800 federal workers, for a response rate of 44.3%, a 1.7-point increase from 2019. Visit OPM’s website to learn more about the FEVS methodology.

The rankings also include responses from more than 303,800 additional employees at 12 agencies which were surveyed at the same time and had a response rate of more than 50%. The Congressional Budget Office, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Deposit and Insurance Corporation, Government Accountability Office, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Peace Corps, Securities and Exchange Commission, Smithsonian Institution, Tennessee Valley Authority’s Office of the Inspector General and the United States Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General  provided data from their own surveys. In addition, the rankings incorporate responses from employees at the nation’s intelligence agencies, which conducted a similar survey but did not report the number of respondents.

For the third year in a row, the Department of Veterans Affairs did not participate in the 2020 FEVS and instead administered its own internal survey. Since the VA’s survey included the three questions needed to calculate an agency’s Best Places to Work employee engagement score, the department is included in our rankings. However, like other agencies that conduct their own surveys, we have not included the VA’s data in the calculation of the 2020 government-wide score. The OPM data was weighted to represent all federal employees on demographic characteristics such as age, gender, race, supervisory status, agency size and occupation. The survey results have a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0%.

The Best Places to Work statistical model, developed with CFI Group in 2003, is based on the same methodology used in CFI Group’s American Customer Satisfaction Index. The Best Places to Work engagement score is calculated based on the percentage of positive responses to three workplace engagement questions and is weighted according to a proprietary formula developed with Hay Group (later acquired by Korn Ferry) in 2007.

The Partnership changed how it calculates the percentage of positive responses to each FEVS question in 2020. Previously, we divided the number of positive responses (e.g., the number of respondents who answered “agree” or “strongly agree”) by the total number of people who completed the survey. Beginning in 2020, the Partnership divided the number of positive responses to each question by the number of people who answered that particular question. This change resulted in smaller denominators, filtering out respondents who skip questions, and slightly larger percent-positives.

The workplace category scores are calculated by averaging the percentage of positive responses to questions across different aspects of the employee experience, including effective leadership, employee skills–mission match, pay, recognition and work–life balance. For 2020, categories were added to reflect employee views related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes employee perceptions of their agency’s performance during the pandemic and the support they received from their agencies and their leaders.  

The Partnership and BCG would like to thank OPM for its excellent administration of its employee survey, without which the Best Places to Work rankings would not be possible. 


Best Places to Work Category2020 FEVS QuestionsQuestion Number
Best Places to Work IndexI recommend my organization as a good place to work. 17
Best Places to Work IndexConsidering everything, how satisfied are you with your job? 36
Best Places to Work IndexConsidering everything, how satisfied are you with your organization? 38
Effective Leadership: EmpowermentHow satisfied are you with your involvement in decisions that affect your work?33
Effective Leadership: Senior LeadersIn my organization, senior leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment in the workforce.26
Effective Leadership: Senior LeadersMy organization’s senior leaders maintain high standards of honesty and integrity.27
Effective Leadership: Senior LeadersI have a high level of respect for my organization’s senior leaders.31
Effective Leadership: Senior LeadersHow satisfied are you with the information you receive from management on what’s going on in your organization? 34
Effective Leadership: SupervisorSupervisors in my work unit support employee development. 21
Effective Leadership: SupervisorOverall, how good a job do you feel is being done by your immediate supervisor?25
Employee Skills–Mission MatchMy work gives me a feeling of personal accomplishment.3
Employee Skills–Mission MatchMy talents are used well in the workplace.6
Employee Skills–Mission MatchI know how my work relates to the agency’s goals.7
InnovationI feel encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things.2
PayConsidering everything, how satisfied are you with your pay?37
RecognitionEmployees are recognized for providing high-quality products and services. 14
RecognitionHow satisfied are you with the recognition you receive for doing a good job? 35
TeamworkThe people I work with cooperate to get the job done. 9
TeamworkManagers promote communication among different work units (for example, about projects, goals, needed resources). 29
Work–Life Balance My workload is reasonable.5
Work–Life Balance My supervisor supports my need to balance work and other life issues. 19
COVID: Employee Well-Being questions ask respondents whether a resource was needed and available to them, needed but not available to them, or not needed by them.
COVID: Employee Well-BeingExpanded telework. 43a
COVID: Employee Well-BeingExpanded work schedule flexibilities. 43b
COVID: Employee Well-BeingExpanded leave policies. 43c
COVID: Employee Well-BeingMore information on available leave policies. 43d
COVID: Employee Well-BeingExpanded mental health resources (e.g., assistance with stress of COVID-19). 43e
COVID: Employee Well-BeingExpanded physical health resources (e.g., temperature checks, COVID-19 illness testing) at my agency worksite. 43f
COVID: Employee Well-BeingTimely communication about possible COVID-19 illness at my agency worksite. 43g
COVID: Employee Well-BeingProtection of employees at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 exposure. 43h
COVID: Employee Well-BeingLimited access to my agency worksite buildings/facilities (e.g., closures, limits on activities with external visitors/groups). 43i
COVID: Employee Well-BeingSocial distancing (e.g., limits on group size, reduced access to common areas) in my agency worksite. 43j
COVID: Employee Well-BeingRearranged workspaces to maximize social distancing. 43k
COVID: Employee Well-BeingEncouraged use of personal protective equipment or other safety equipment in my agency worksite. 43l
COVID: Employee Well-BeingCleaning and sanitizing supplies available to reduce risk of illness in my agency worksite. 43m
COVID: Employee Well-BeingTraining for all employees on health and safety protocols. 43n
COVID: Supportive Leaders During the COVID-19 pandemic, my organization’s senior leaders have demonstrated commitment to employee health and safety. 44
COVID: Supportive Leaders During the COVID-19 pandemic, my organization’s senior leaders have supported policies and procedures to protect employee health and safety. 45
COVID: Supportive Leaders During the COVID-19 pandemic, my organization’s senior leaders have provided effective communications about the pandemic. 46
COVID: Supportive Leaders During the COVID-19 pandemic, my supervisor has shown concern for my health and safety. 47
COVID: Supportive Leaders During the COVID-19 pandemic, my supervisor has supported my efforts to stay healthy and safe while working. 48
COVID: Supportive Leaders During the COVID-19 pandemic, my supervisor has created an environment where I can voice my concerns about staying healthy and safe. 49
COVID: Job Support questions ask respondents whether a resource was needed and available to them, needed but not available to them, or not needed by them.
COVID: Job Support Consistent communication (e.g., organizational status, what to expect). 50a
COVID: Job Support Training for new/changed work or work processes because of the pandemic. 50b
COVID: Job Support Reallocation of resources (e.g., staffing, budget, materials) to support changes in work because of the pandemic. 50c
COVID: Job Support Help with commuting issues (e.g., alternatives to public transportation). 50d
COVID: Job Support Options for work/business travel. 50e
COVID: Job Support Information on remote work policies, procedures, and expectations. 50f
COVID: Job Support Training on how to work remotely. 50g
COVID: Job Support Equipment and technology for working remotely (e.g., laptops, cell phone, Information Technology infrastructure). 50h
COVID: Job Support Expanded collaboration tools (e.g., video conferencing, teleconferencing). 50i
COVID: Job Support Expanded training for using remote work tools and applications. 50j
COVID: Job Support Expanded Information Technology (IT) support. 50k
COVID: Job Support Information about data security policies and procedures. 50l
COVID: Agency Performance During the COVID-19 pandemic, my work unit has met the needs of our customers. 55a
COVID: Agency Performance During the COVID-19 pandemic, my work unit has contributed positively to my agency’s performance. 55b
COVID: Agency Performance During the COVID-19 pandemic, my work unit has produced high-quality work. 55c
COVID: Agency Performance During the COVID-19 pandemic, my work unit has adapted to changing priorities. 55d
COVID: Agency Performance During the COVID-19 pandemic, my work unit has successfully collaborated. 55e
COVID: Agency Performance During the COVID-19 pandemic, my work unit has achieved our goals. 55f