Government-wide Analysis

Overall Findings and Private Sector Comparison

The tale of two governments

The 2018 Best Places to Work rankings represent the tale of two governments, one with agencies that have committed leaders fostering high and improving levels of employee engagement, and the other where a lack of leadership has led to static or declining employee engagement.

The 2018 federal government-wide Best Places to Work employee engagement score is 62.2 points out of 100, a 0.6 point decline from the modified 2017 government-wide score. Because the Department of Veterans Affairs did not participate in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey in 2018, but did participate in 2017, the Partnership removed the VA from the 2017 government-wide data to enable an accurate year-to-year comparison. The Partnership only includes agencies that take the FEVS in the government-wide score.

The Best Places to Work data shows that employee engagement declined in 59.1 percent of the federal organizations included in the rankings, while only 39.6 percent of federal organizations registered increases and 1.3 percent stayed the same. This represents a stark contrast to the previous three years when more than 70 percent of federal organizations experienced gains in how employees viewed their jobs and workplaces.

The 2018 data show an urgent need for federal agencies to step up efforts to improve the employee work experience – from training and developing leaders to ensuring employees have a positive work environment and the resources they need to do their jobs. Having a highly-motivated and engaged workforce is critical to a well-functioning government and the success of our country.

Government lags behind the private sector

The 2018 federal government-wide Best Places to Work employee engagement score is 62.2 points out of 100. In contrast, the private sector employee engagement score is 77.1 out of 100, 14.9 points higher than the government’s, according to data provided by employee research firm Mercer | Sirota. Only 13 of the government’s 73 large, midsize and small agencies included in the Best Places to Work rankings scored above the private sector average.

The private sector data is based on nearly 4.7 million employee survey responses from more than 120 organizations around the world in a wide variety of industries. The Best Places to Work data is based on the views of more than 847,000 civil servants across the federal government who participated in employee surveys.

Federal leaders should understand that the government competes with the private sector for the best talent, and they should endeavor to meet or exceed employee engagement levels seen in the best private sector companies. The best private-sector organizations understand that improved employee engagement leads to better performance and improved outcomes. The Trump administration should aspire to meet the private sector standard by placing a focus on supporting the federal workforce and improving the workplace culture.

Big leadership gaps

In addition to providing a private-sector comparison to the Best Places to Work government-wide employee engagement score, Mercer | Sirota provides comparative data for 28 questions that are in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey administered by the Office of Personnel Management.

The federal government scores fall below the private sector on all survey questions by an average of 10.5 points. The largest gap – 31 points – is on the issue of employee voice. Just over one-third of federal employees believe the results of the FEVS will be used to make their organizations better places to work. This compares to 68 percent of private sector employees.

But acting on concerns raised by employees is not the only area where federal leaders – including supervisors and managers – lag behind their private sector counterparts.

Eighty two percent of private sector employees reported having trust and confidence in their supervisors, beating government by more than 13 points. In addition, 71 percent of federal employees reported satisfaction with their immediate supervisors, nearly 11 points behind the private sector.

Regarding recognition from management, less than 45 percent of federal employees believe that awards in their work units depend on how well they perform their jobs, compared to 54 percent of employees in the private sector.
Federal leaders also are struggling to create a culture of innovation across government. Roughly 60 percent of public servants agreed that they feel encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing their jobs, lagging almost 16 points behind the private sector. In addition, 59.2 percent of federal employees reported that their talents are used well in the workplace compared to 78 percent in the private sector, a nearly 20 point gap.

We know that leadership plays a critical role in employee engagement. The data from the surveys shows that federal leaders have substantial work to do to make the federal employee experience competitive with the private sector.


The Best Places to Work rankings, produced by the Partnership for Public Service and Boston Consulting Group, offer the most comprehensive assessment of how federal public servants view their jobs and workplaces, providing employee perspectives on leadership, pay, innovation, work-life balance and other issues. 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 from April through June 2018.


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. 40)
  • Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your job? (Q. 69)
  • Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your organization? (Q. 71)

Methodology List of Participating Agencies Frequently Asked Questions

Question Best Places Category Gov’t-wide Private Sector Difference
Awards in my work unit depend on how well employees perform their jobs N/A 43.2 64 -20.8
Employees are recognized for providing high quality products and services Performance-Based Rewards and Advancement 50.9 68 -17.1
How satisfied are you with the information you receive from management on what’s going on in your organization? Effective Leadership 48.8 54 -5.2
How satisfied are you with the training you receive for your present job? Training and Development 53.3 66 -12.7
How satisfied are you with your involvement in decisions that affect your work? Effective Leadership 51.8 68 -16.2
I am given a real opportunity to improve my skills in my organization Training and Development 65.3 69 -3.7
I can disclose a suspected violation of any law, rule or regulation without fear of reprisal Effective Leadership 63.5 74 -10.5
I feel encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things Innovation 60.2 76 -15.8
I have enough information to do my job well Training and Development 70.9 75 -4.1
I have sufficient resources (for example, people, materials, budget) to get my job done Work-Life Balance 46.8 71 -24.2
I have trust and confidence in my supervisor N/A 68.9 82 -13.1
I know how my work relates to the agency’s goals Employee Skills-Mission Match 84.1 88 -3.9
I know what is expected of me on the job N/A 79.9 87 -7.1
My performance appraisal is a fair reflection of my performance Performance-Based Rewards and Advancement 69.9 73 -3.1
My supervisor listens to what I have to say N/A 76.7 81 -4.3
My supervisor provides me with constructive suggestions to improve my job performance N/A 63.8 76 -12.2
My supervisor supports my need to balance work and other life issues Work-Life Balance 78.9 82 -3.1
My supervisor treats me with respect N/A 81.4 87 -5.6
My talents are used well in the workplace Employee Skills-Mission Match 54.6 73 -18.4
My training needs are assessed Training and Development 54.3 72 -17.7
My work gives me a feeling of personal accomplishment Employee Skills-Mission Match 71.4 77 -5.6
My workload is reasonable Work-Life Balance 58.4 71 -12.6
Overall, how good a job do you feel is being done by your immediate supervisor? Effective Leadership 71.1 82 -10.9
Physical conditions (for example, noise level, temperature, lighting, cleanliness in the workplace) allow employees to perform their jobs well N/A 65.9 73 -7.1
Supervisors in my work unit support employee development Effective Leadership 66.9 75 -8.1
Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your pay? Pay 59.9 58 +1.9
I believe the results of this survey will be used to make my agency a better place to work N/A 37.0 68 -31.0
When needed I am willing to put in the extra effort to get a job done N/A 95.3 82 +13.3