Report: Government Employee Experience is Hindering Government Performance

Ayman alakhras/

But public sector organizations can take some easy steps to improve employee experience.

More than one in five government employees report a low-quality experience in the workplace, resulting in a less engaged workplace across the public sector than the private sector, according to a study released this month by Forrester Research.

The study, titled “Yes, Government (Employee Experience) Can Get Better,” found 21% of government employees worldwide report a low-quality experience, compared to 14% of private sector employees. Conversely, private sector employees are 13% more likely to report a high-quality experience. Poor employee experience in the public sector is driving poor productivity, with 61% of government employees stating they are productive at work most days. That’s 10% lower than private sector employees, according to Forrester Research Senior Analyst Judy Weader, who helped author the report.

“There is some depressing data here, but we can use it to light a fire under ourselves,” Weader said. “This is where opportunities come in, and it begins with mission success. If you want to be able to deliver promises to constituents, you are going to have to find ways to support you employees to do that for you.”

The report, which examined the empowerment, inspiration and enablement of more than 1,000 public sector employees, also indicates poor employee experience is driving disengagement in government ranks, with 27% of government employees disengaged against 19% who are highly engaged. Comparatively, only 18% of employees in the private sector are disengaged while 29% are highly engaged.

Poor employee experiences also have a “trickle-down” effect, Weader said. Only 34% of government employees are “willing to recommend their organization’s services or products” to friends and family, as opposed to 54% of employees in the private sector. Further, fewer than four in ten government employees would recommend a job at their organization to friends or family, while half of private sector employees would.

“If you’re working in an environment you don’t feel is supporting you as a human being and helping you be successful, then are you going to reach out naturally to friends and family and say, ‘Hey, want to come work with me?’’’ Weader said. “This is where we have a cascading problem but also a great opportunity. I see so much potential here.”

The report offers several ways agencies can begin to improve the quality of employee experiences they provide. The two most cost-effective steps, Weader said, are “removing barriers and hurdles that hamstring workers” and setting policies that support productivity with a human lens. In one example, Weader cited how the state of Michigan removed more than 3,000 administrative rules identified as “unnecessary regulatory burdens” in an effort to create a more engaged workforce. The years-long effort proved a success in both customer and employee experience measurements.