Federal Job Satisfaction Drops to 10-Year Low

Tomas Urbelionis/Shutterstock.com

The rankings are not reflective of employee views of the shutdown.

Federal employees’ satisfaction with their jobs has hit is lowest level in more than a decade and continues to trail that of their private sector colleagues, who actually registered a slight increase in job satisfaction this past year, according to a new report.

The new Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte shows a governmentwide job satisfaction and commitment score of just 57.8, tumbling 3 points since 2012 and marking the third consecutive year that the score has dropped. The overall score is down 7.2 points from its peak of 65 points in 2010.  

The drop comes as private sector employee job satisfaction improved by 0.7 points in 2013 for a score of 70.7, according to data by the Hay Group.

“The lower governmentwide employee satisfaction score is not surprising given the difficult conditions experienced by federal workers, including the third consecutive year of a federal pay freeze, furloughs, hiring slowdowns and across-the-board budget reductions and continued uncertainty around funding,” the report states.

The rankings are based on the Office of Personnel Management’s 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, which was administered between April and June 2013, months before the 16-day federal government shutdown in October. As a result, the rankings are not reflective of employee views of the shutdown. 

Governmentwide scores dropped from 2012 levels in all 10 of the categories surveyed, with the steepest drops in satisfaction shown in pay (down 4.7 points), training and development (down 3.2 points), and performance-based awards and advancement (down 2.2 points).

The data also show a decline from 2012 in each of the other 10 workplace categories ranked by the Partnership and Deloitte. Satisfaction with pay, for example, showed the most significant drop, falling 4.7 points from last year and 12.7 points since 2010. Declines in satisfaction also were seen for training and development opportunities, falling 3.2 points from 2012, and performance-based awards and advancement, falling 2.2 points since last year. Other categories – like teamwork, leadership, work-life balance and support for diversity – experienced slight declines among feds.

Of the 33 large agencies, NASA received the highest satisfaction score of 74 out of 100, making it the number one best large agency for the second year in a row. Other top large agencies were the Commerce Department (67.6), intelligence community (67.6), the State (65.6) and Justice (63.5) departments and the Social Security Administration (63).

Among medium-size agencies, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (82.3), Smithsonian Institution (77.2), the Government Accountability Office (74.4), Nuclear Regulatory Commission (73.8) and Federal Trade Commission (73.8) took the top spots.

Among small agencies, the Surface Transportation Board ranked first for the fourth survey in a row with a satisfaction score of 84.7. Other top-ranked small agencies were the National Endowment for the Humanities (84.6), the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (84.5), the Peace Corps (78.2) and the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (73.7)

The Homeland Security (46.8), Labor (55.6) and Army (55.6) departments were the lowest rated large agencies, while the Department of Housing and Urban Development (43.2) and National Archives and Records Administration (47.1) also ranked at the bottom among medium-size agencies. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (26.8), the Federal Election Commission (42.1) and the Federal Maritime Commission (42.5) were ranked at the bottom among small agencies and received the lowest satisfaction scores among all federal agencies.

NASA was the only large agency to defy the government-wide trend of a drop in job satisfaction, as the agency raised its satisfaction score by 1.2 points. All other large agencies except the Veterans Affairs Department, which saw a 0.6-point increase, experienced a decline in employee satisfaction and commitment. The Federal Communications Commission was the most improved mid-size agency, with a 4.6-point increase, while the International Trade Commission and the Federal Housing Finance Agency were the most improved small agencies, with 9.3- and 9.2-point increases, respectively.

Other agencies lost significant ground on federal employee job satisfaction this past year. Of the large agencies, employees at the Environmental Protection Agency saw the biggest decrease, with a drop of 8.3 points. For mid-sized agencies, the Housing and Urban Development Department’s score fell 10.8 points, while the Defense Nuclear Facilities Board’s score in the small agency category fell 33.4 points over the past year. The Office of Management and Budget, which was the most improved agency in the 2012 rankings, had a 14-point decrease in satisfaction in 2013.

“There is no doubt the three-year pay freeze, furloughs, budget cuts, ad hoc hiring freezes and continued uncertainty are taking their toll on federal workers,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership. “What it really means is that agencies aren’t positioned to successfully meet the needs of the American people.”

How did your agency rank, and is that rating an accurate reflection of morale in your IT shop? What impact are morale issues having on IT recruiting and retention at your agency?

(Image via Tomas Urbelionis/Shutterstock.com)