Feds Want to Innovate, But Most Lack Leaders'Support

More private sector workers say their companies encourage creativity.

Despite budget cuts, hiring freezes and three years of relatively flat pay, most federal workers still remain motivated to innovate and improve the ways they do their work. But similar to past years, most feds lack the appropriate support from both their managers and their organizations, according to a new report.

The Best Places to Work snapshot of the most innovative agencies, released Monday by the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte, ranked the government-wide innovation score as down 1.7 points from 2011 to 2012, to 61.5 out of 100. The Partnership and Deloitte used the Office of Personnel Management’s 2012 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey to determine the rankings.

More specifically, the majority (91 percent) of employees are looking for ways to perform their jobs better, but far fewer (57 percent) said they are encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things. Only 36 percent of feds said they feel creativity and innovation are rewarded in their agency. The latter two questions slipped by 2 points and 2.5 points, respectively, since last year’s survey.

Those scores lie in stark contrast to how private sector workers view their ability to innovate and be creative on the job. For example, 71 percent of private workers say they are encouraged to come up with new and better way of doing things, the analysis found.

Meanwhile, most agencies saw a decrease in their innovation scores between 2011 and 2012, but there were a few agencies and subcomponents that actually improved their innovation scores, the analysis found. For the third year in a row, NASA was the top-ranked large agency on innovation, followed by the State Department, Environmental Protection Agency and the Navy, Air Force and Commerce departments. The Transportation Department, ranked 16th, improved its innovation score by 1.7 points, while the Social Security Administration lost the most ground with a 3.8-point decrease, according to the report.

Among mid-size agencies, the Federal Trade Commission ranked the highest on innovation, followed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which scored high even despite a 4-point decrease over 2011. The Securities and Exchange Commission, ranked 19th, saw the biggest improvement, increasing its score by 3 points.

For the third year in a row, the Surface Transportation Board was ranked the most innovative among small agencies, even despite a 4.7-point drop. With an innovation score of 83, the STB still holds the highest innovation score of any agency. The Office of Management and Budget had the largest increase among small agencies, increasing its score 6 points to 74.

“Government is slipping on innovation at a time when its ability to be creative is paramount, given the increasing needs for its services and the reduction in available resources,” the report states. “Innovation depends on the total environment that leaders and managers shape for employees. Leaders and managers should take some steps to improve their agency’s innovation culture.”

Where did your agency rank on innovation? What could your agency leaders be doing better to build up your ability and motivation to innovate? Are cultural/generational issues at play?