Government-Wide Findings

Government-Wide Findings

A Look Across the Federal Government

The 2022 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® index score is 63.4 out of 100, representing a 1.1-point decrease from 2021 in how our nation’s civil servants view their agencies and jobs. 

Only 19 of 74 agencies registered increases or held steady in their Best Places to Work index scores in 2022—4 of 17 large agencies, 5 of 27 midsize agencies and 10 of 30 small agencies. 

This 1.1-point drop in our 2022 government-wide engagement and satisfaction measure follows a 4.5-point decline in 2021 that may have been fueled by a number of factors, including uncertainty regarding federal workplace policies and practices stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. This uncertainty persisted last year and continues today.  

This troubling two-year trend represents a clear signal that the Biden administration and leaders across government need to urgently address workforce concerns with proactive efforts. Having a highly motivated and engaged workforce is critical to a well-functioning government and the success of our country, particularly given the civil service’s role in implementing major programs and policies. 

Since we launched the rankings in 2003, we have learned that good leaders not only focus on policy but place an emphasis on creating workplace conditions that foster improved government effectiveness and performance. 

Leaders should use this opportunity to take targeted actions responsive to workforce needs, ensuring that employees are motivated, that agencies can successfully achieve their missions and serve the public. These strategies are especially important for addressing the concerns of employees within demographic groups typically underrepresented in upper levels of leadership such as younger, disabled and LGBTQIA+ members of the workforce, among others.  

Though all agencies are facing similar challenges, several stand out as models of leadership and the employee experience, and can serve as exemplars for their peers. Agencies should also strive to meet standards set by the best private sector employers.

Government-wide Engagement and Satisfaction Score Trend

*Because the Department of Veterans Affairs and several other agencies did not participate in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and instead decided to administer their own internal surveys, they are not included in the government-wide Best Places to Work engagement and satisfaction score, but are part of the agency rankings.   

*A break in trendline represents significant changes to the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and calculation methodology. Therefore, yearly Best Places to Work scores should only be compared with those that are on the same trendline. 

Government-wide Best Places to Work in the Federal Government data: Partnership for Public Service.

Notable Issues Affecting the Workforce

There are several factors that may have contributed to the decline in the Best Places to Work index score in 2022 that deserve attention from leadership.  

During the summer when federal employees were surveyed, agency leaders were still in the process of making and implementing difficult decisions about whether employees should return to the office or work remotely part time or full time, leaving the workforce in flux. At the same time, thousands of employees remained on the frontlines providing critical public services as health risks from the pandemic persisted, while a number of agencies faced increased demands to implement major legislative initiatives, including the American Rescue Plan and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. 

Regarding the continued fallout from the pandemic, the data shows that 31.3% of the respondents reported coming to work in person and full time on a consistent basis, while 54.4% participated in some form of hybrid work and 14.2% said they have an approved agreement for full-time remote work. The 14.2% who were teleworking full time in the summer of 2022 represents a drop from 36.2% in November 2021, from 47.3% in September and October of 2020, and from 59% earlier in 2020 just after the pandemic began.

These changes had an impact on federal employees, with 25.9% of the respondents reporting they were considering leaving their organizations due to their work unit’s current telework or remote work options –13% to find a job within the federal government, 5% to retire and 3.1% to leave federal service.  

The 2022 data also shows a sharp drop in employee satisfaction with pay, declining 5.3 points for a category score of just 55.9 out of 100. At the time employees were surveyed, the consumer price index went up by 9.1%, the largest increase in 40 years, and employees had not been informed about a 2023 pay raise of 4.1% plus a 0.5 % locality pay adjustment, totaling an average 4.6 % increase.  

There was also a sizable decline from 55.7 points out of 100 to 50.0 on the issue of leadership empowerment. This measures the extent to which employees feel empowered with respect to work processes and how satisfied they are with their involvement in decisions that affect their work. Employee’s sense of recognition for their performance and innovative contributions also fell from 59.8 in 2021 to 56.5 in 2022. 

Overall, the leadership category, which measures the performance of supervisors, managers and senior leaders, stood at 67.3 out of 100 in 2022, a drop of 0.7 points from 2021. Supervisors had a score of 79.7 while the senior leader score stood at 55.3.  

The Diversity of the Employee Experience

Agency engagement and satisfaction efforts should be tailored based on the diversity of the employee experience. Based on the 2022 data, employees who are age 60 and over registered the highest Best Places to Work index score (71.6) of any age group and had the highest marks in most workplace categories. 

This contrasts with the experiences of younger employees. Federal employees in the age range of 30 to 39 once again had the lowest Best Places to Work score (59.5) of any age group in 2022, 3.9 points below the government-wide score of 63.4. In addition, this age group provided the lowest scores regarding their views of leadership, and on the issues of recognition, work-life balance, teamwork, as well as agency and work unit performance. 

The Best Places to Work scores for employees under the age of 30, meanwhile, dropped from 63.4 in 2021 to 60.2. Those under 30 expressed the highest dissatisfaction with pay of any age group – from 47.1 points in 2021 to 38.7 in 2022.  

Employees under 30 also have the lowest score (64.9) of any age group in the mission match category, which measures how well employees feel their agency and job description meshes with their career goals and aspirations, and creates self-motivation. Employees who score highly in the mission match category are likely to be committed to their work and remain with their organizations. The 2022 data is a warning for agency leaders regarding the retention and future recruitment of young employees needed to refresh an aging workforce.  

In a new workplace category that measures employee perceptions regarding how well their agency manages issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, white employees registered a score of 72.6, which is 4.4 points higher than the score for people of color (68.2).  

On the overall DEIA category, LGBTQIA+ employees scored 63.1 out of 100 while employees with disabilities have a score of 64.2. 

In terms of length of government service, members of the Senior Executive Service, senior leaders and employees with less than one year of experience had the highest scores. The engagement scores for those with less than one year of experience, however, tend to go down the longer they remain in the government, a signal that agency leaders need to pay closer attention to new employees and find ways to help them maintain and improve their engagement and satisfaction levels.  

A Call for Leadership Action

In what should be a concern for federal leaders, agencies scored only 42.9 out of 100 on the question that asked whether “the results of this survey will be used to make my agency a better place to work,” a slight increase from 2021, but a low score overall. This indicates low employee confidence in the willingness of agency leaders to take responsive actions when employees provide their feedback. 

The nation’s more than 2 million civil servants are vital to our system of government and the health of our democracy. The 2022 Best Places to Work analysis encourages the Biden administration and agency leaders to empower and recognize the federal workforce with targeted, proactive strategies responsive to their concerns. 

For recommendations on actions that can be taken, please be sure to check out our Resources page that includes “15 Editions of Best Places to Work,” as well as our Profiles in Improvement page. 

Recommended Steps to Improve Employee Engagement

Based on our findings from the Best Places to Work data, there are several approaches that can be taken by agencies to improve employee engagement and satisfaction. 

Increase employee involvement in decision-making and opportunities for leadership and employee communication. 
Maintain transparent goals and increase recognition of work critical to the achievement of those goals.
Create time, space and resources for innovation.
Create opportunities for interpersonal relationships through resource groups, coaching or mentoring. These efforts are not just critical for learning the work, but also create opportunities to raise concerns, provides spaces to grow and break down silos.
Tailor engagement planning to be inclusive of, and responsive to, targeted groups since employee perceptions vary by age and position.