Feds Feeling Less Empowered to Innovate

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Number who feel innovation is encouraged and rewarded continues to decline.

While the vast majority of federal employees continue to feel motivated to find new and innovative ways of performing their jobs, the number who feel that innovative spirit is both encouraged and rewarded at their agency continues to decline.

That’s according to a new Best Places to Work analysis by the Partnership for Public Service, Deloitte and Hay Group, which examined the 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results and found that the governmentwide innovation score – a calculation based on answers to three questions on the survey – fell 2.1 points to 59.4 out of 100. This is the lowest score since the Partnership first measured innovation in 2010 and continues a year-to-year decline.

More specifically, the majority (90 percent) of employees are looking for ways to perform their jobs better, but far fewer (54.7 percent) said they are encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things. Only 33.4 percent of feds said they feel creativity and innovation are rewarded in their agency. The latter two questions slipped by 2.5 points and 2.9 points, respectively, since last year’s survey.

“The downward governmentwide trend and the negative employee view on some key workplace indicators are troubling signs for sustaining a government that is able to innovate to meet new challenges,” the report states.

In spite of many of the challenges that have plagued the government in recent years – from budget cuts to pay freezes to sequestration – some agencies continued to rank above the governmentwide average on innovation. NASA, for example, had an innovation score of 76, down 0.5 points since 2012. The State (65.4) and Commerce (63.5) departments continued to rank well among large agencies, while the Federal Trade Commission (69.8), Nuclear Regulatory Commission (67.2) and National Science Foundation (66.8) received the highest innovation scores for mid-size agencies.

Small agencies registered slightly higher innovation scores than large and mid-size agencies, with the Surface Transportation Board (83.9), Peace Corps (74.3) and Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (74.2) earning the top spots.

“Innovation depends on the total environment that leaders and managers shape for employees,” the report states. “Creating that environment can be challenging for managers because they are dealing with day-to-day demands, and it is difficult to take the time to step back and examine new ways of doing business.”

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 or generational issues at play?

(Image via Brian A Jackson/Shutterstock.com)