Government-Wide Findings

Government-Wide Findings

A Look Across the Federal Government

The 2023 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® employee engagement and satisfaction score is 65.7 out of 100, representing a 2.3-point increase from 2022 regarding how our nation’s civil servants view their jobs and agencies. The data includes responses from more than 1 million federal employees, the highest total in the history of the Best Places to Work rankings.  

The 2023 government-wide score represented the first increase since 2020, when the federal workforce and the country began dealing with the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The increase in the government-wide score reflects a stepped-up effort on employee engagement and satisfaction by the Biden administration, and may also have been influenced by a flurry of important laws enacted by Congress during the past several years. These actions have required increased commitment by the workforce at agencies across the federal enterprise to implement a wide range of major new policies and programs designed to help individuals, companies and the economy. 

New laws included the Build Back Better Act, the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the CHIPS and Science Act, among others. 

Some sense of normalcy and stability developed in 2023, even if uncertainties remained, with many workers adjusting to the new realities of the workplace post pandemic, and agencies continuing combinations of in-office, hybrid and full-time telework. 

Among the employees surveyed in 2023, 53.7% have a hybrid work schedule, 14.3 % telework full time and 31.9% go to their workplace each day. This is almost identical to what occurred in 2022. 

Those who telework full time register the highest 2023 Best Places to Work score among federal employees (74.6) followed by those who work at headquarters (69.2) and those who work in field offices (61.7).

Of the 73 agencies included in the Best Places to Work rankings, 49 have registered increases or held steady in their employee engagement and satisfaction scores compared with 2022. Among the 459 subcomponents, 303 have improved or held steady. These numbers represent a substantial improvement from 2022 both for agencies and subcomponents across the government. 

The data also reveals that employee engagement and satisfaction scores are the highest at midsize agencies, followed by small and then large agencies. 

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.

Connection to the Mission and the Importance of Leadership 

The 2023 Best Places to Work data shows that the top factors influencing engagement and satisfaction center on employees having a strong connection to their agency’s mission as well as effective senior leadership. 

The connection to mission includes identifying with the work and goals of the organization, feeling inspired by the job, having a sense of accomplishment and believing that the work contributes to the common good. 

Effective leadership involves senior leaders generating high levels of motivation and commitment, maintaining high standards of honesty and integrity, and keeping employees informed about what is going on in the organization. Senior leaders encompass the heads of departments and agencies, and their immediate leadership teams, including members of the Senior Executive Service. 

It is noteworthy that one’s connection to mission has emerged as the most important driver of engagement and satisfaction for the first time in the history of the rankings. In past years, leadership was the leading driver of employee engagement, and it remains a critical component of a well-functioning workforce.  

Over the years, we have learned that good leaders not only focus on policy but also place an emphasis on creating workplace conditions that foster improved government effectiveness.  

Leaders should take targeted actions responsive to workforce needs, ensuring that employees are motivated and their concerns are both heard and addressed so agencies can achieve their missions and serve the public good.  

Federal leaders also should learn from the examples of high-performing agencies highlighted by the Best Places to Work findings and create workplace conditions that foster improved government effectiveness and performance. Moreover, agencies should strive to follow the best practices of top private sector employers. 

Notable Workforce Data 

In past years, employees gave their supervisors a higher score than their senior leaders, and that remains true for 2023. The 2023 supervisor score is 80.2, a 0.5-point increase from 2022.

Although the senior leadership score of 57.3 is low and an issue of concern, it has increased by 2 points from 2022. Given the impact of senior leaders on employee engagement and satisfaction, it should be celebrated that the senior leadership score has increased.  

In terms of length of government service, senior leaders and employees with less than one year of experience have the highest engagement and satisfaction scores. The scores for employees after their first year on the job tend to go down the longer they remain in the government, a signal that agency leaders need to pay closer attention to newer employees and find ways to help them maintain and improve their engagement and satisfaction levels.

The 2023 data also shows a 1.6-point increase in the government-wide diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility score, an area of focus for the Biden administration.

The same is not true on the issue of employee recognition for their work, which is the lowest category score among all workplace issues in the survey. Only about half of all employees agree their commitment to high-quality work is recognized in a meaningful way. 

In addition, although the 2023 data shows a 1.5-point increase in employee satisfaction with pay, the category score is just 57.4, despite a federal government-wide pay raise of 4.6% in 2023 and 2.7% in 2022. 

The data also reveals that 33.8 % of employees are considering leaving their organization within a year. This includes 18.2% who might look for another job in the federal government and 11.6% who might leave government completely, including by retiring. 

Age and Diversity Influence the Employee Experience 

Agency engagement and satisfaction efforts should be tailored based on employees’ life and work experiences.  

Based on the 2023 data, for example, employees age 60 and older have the highest Best Places to Work score of any age group (73.4), an increase of 1.8 points from 2022. In contrast, federal employees between 30 and 39 have the lowest Best Places to Work score (62.3) of any age group.  

Our data shows that this 30-39 age group has the lowest scores in important workplace categories, including views of senior leadership, recognition, work-life balance and professional development. Considering that this group will soon assume leadership and supervisory roles across the federal government, leaders need to pay close attention to why they struggle and how to enhance their engagement and satisfaction.  

The 2023 Best Places to Work scores for employees younger than 30, meanwhile, have risen to 64.2, an increase of 4.0 points from 2022. These employees, however, express the highest dissatisfaction with pay of any other age group (41.5), while employees older than 60 score 67.7 regarding pay, a more than 26-point difference. 

Employees younger than 30 also have the lowest score (67.4) of any age group in the mission-match category in 2023. Employees who feel connected to their agency’s mission are likely to be committed to their work and remain with their organizations. The 2023 data is a warning for agency leaders about retention, and the future recruitment of the young employees needed to refresh an aging workforce.  

In the workplace category that measures employee perceptions about how well their agency manages issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, employees who identify as Asian1 register the highest score of 74.7 in 2023, followed by white employees with a score of 73.4. 

In the overall DEIA category, employees who identify as LGBT2 have a score of 65.3, while employees with disabilities score 66.4.   

In terms of overall employee engagement and satisfaction, employees who identify as Asian have the highest score (72.2) followed by Blacks or African Americans (70.0), whites (66.2), Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders (64.6), and American Indian and Alaska Native (61.4). Those who identify as two or more races score 59.5. 

Although the engagement and satisfaction scores for women and men are similar, when it comes to equity, women score lower than men—65.4 versus 68.5. 

Listening to the Workforce 

Employees give their agencies a score of 47.7 out of 100 on the question of whether “the results of this survey will be used to make my agency a better place to work.”  

Although still low, this represents a 4.8-point increase from 2022 and suggests an increased confidence in the willingness of agency leaders to take responsive actions when employees provide feedback.  

This year’s survey response rate is also higher compared with 2022. Analysis shows that communication from leadership about the employee survey results is a key to improving the survey response rate. According to the data, 70% of respondents say their organization shares the employee survey results. Agencies whose employees indicate their organization shares the survey results have a higher survey response rate. 

The nation’s more than 2 million civil servants are vital to our system of government and the health of our democracy. The 2023 Best Places to Work analysis shows signs of improved employee engagement and satisfaction across the federal government and should encourage agency leaders to continue to place increased emphasis on empowering and recognizing the federal workforce with targeted, proactive strategies responsive to its concerns. 

For recommendations on actions that can be taken, be sure to check out our additional resources including the Profiles in Improvement and Employee Engagement Toolkit.  

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. This includes:

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 and space 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, provide space 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.
  1. The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey’s question on the respondent’s racial identity provides the following options. Those who marked more than one answer are included in the group who identified as two or more races.
    1) American Indian or Alaska Native; 2) Asian; 3) Black or African American; 4) Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; 5) White
  2. The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey’s question on the respondent’s sexual orientation included the following four options in 2023: 1) Straight, that is not gay or lesbian, 2) Gay or Lesbian, 3) Bisexual, and 4) I use a different term. 
    An additional question asked if the employee if transgender. OPM combines respondents who answered options #2-4 with those that answered they were transgender to create the LGBT demographic group. ↩︎