The 2020 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government report, released by nonprofit organization Partnership for Public Service and global management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group, revealed that the majority of federal employees felt their needs were mostly met by agencies during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.
The report ranked large, mid-size, and small federal agencies, departments, and their subcomponents based on survey questions that gauged positive feedback to calculate engagement scores. The report also compared effectiveness of agencies on how they dealt with the impacts of COVID-19 including scores for leadership support, employee well-being, and job performance.
“The 2020 Best Places to Work data paints a picture of agencies that demonstrated agility and found creative ways for employees to successfully deliver on their missions in mostly remote settings while giving them the flexibility to meet their personal needs,” said Max Stier, CEO of the Partnership for Public Service.
Within the top large agencies, the Intelligence Community is ranked second with an engagement score of 76.7, behind the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in first with a score of 86.6.
The report says that the IC made extraordinary progress on professional development, including how it has “promoted cross-agency assignments that have enhanced personal and professional development, provided employees with new experiences and helped them cultivate cross-organizational networks,” and “encouraged and paid for continuing educational opportunities.”
The Intelligence Community is also praised for its work promoting and supporting a diverse “network to foster workplace inclusion and a culture that encourages collaboration, flexibility, and fairness.”
Furthermore, having an employee resource group with each intelligence agency allows workers to discuss diversity and inclusion issues with leaders, helping to promote success.
Out of the 17 total large agencies, the Department of Homeland Security ranked last with an engagement score of 61.1. Of the department’s components, the United States Coast Guard is ranked 107 out of 411 of the total federal sub-departments with a score of 77.1 as the best federal workspace in DHS.
The report highlights the Coast Guard’s effectiveness in creating a diverse and inclusive workspace, with the USCG’s education and awareness program training and certifying more than 100 employees across the agency to serve as “change agents.” Duties of change agents include coaching staff, promoting diversity and inclusion within small groups, and teaching about topics including discrimination, microaggressions, and privilege.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement ranked 315 out of 411 with a score of 66.9, under the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranked 286. Customs and Border Protection was ranked 328 with a score of 62.9.
“For the ninth straight year, the Department of Homeland Security ranked last among 17 large agencies,” the report noted. DHS’ work-life balance data show much improvement from previous years, though, with a rank of 12 and score of 74.2, nearly 20 points higher than last year since the pandemic. This is most likely due to how the agency transitioned to remote work, allowing for more employees to continue working from home and better tend to their families.
The Department of Justice was ranked 13 out of 17, just above the Department of State, with a score of 67.2. The DOJ’s top subcomponent was the Office of the Inspector General.
Among other departments within DOJ, the Drug Enforcement Administration was ranked 96 with an engagement score of 78, while the Federal Bureau of Investigation was ranked 223 out of 411, scoring 71.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, was ranked 192 out of 411 subcomponent agencies, with an engagement score of 72.4. The overall score for how it dealt with the pandemic within the agency was a ranking of 153 out of 393 agencies, with a high score of 91.4 for protecting its employees and community from the pandemic.
“We always have one emergency or another, but we have never had, in our 75-year history, a pandemic of this magnitude,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC’s principal deputy director.
According to Partnership for Public Service agency’s profile on the CDC, “the agency also faced a barrage of media stories on early mishandling of COVID-19 tests along with political interference in its report releases and publications, a situation that ‘has taken a toll,’ Schuchat said. Criticism of the agency has been ‘hard on the staff,’ she added. ‘They know how hard they’re working and how hard their peers are working.’”
The private sector continues to excel over the government scores, with higher overall engagement scores over the majority of the agencies from the 2020 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government findings.
“Federal leaders should understand that the government competes with the private sector for the best talent, and they should endeavor to meet or exceed employee engagement levels seen in the best private sector companies,” said the Partnership for Public Service report.
Eighty-two percent of private-sector employees report trust and confidence in supervisors versus 78.1 percent of federal workers reporting confidence. Eight-one percent of private-sector employees compared to 71.6 percent of federal employees reported job satisfaction.
“The 2020 data makes clear that the federal government still has a lot of work to do to improve its competitiveness with the private sector as an employer of choice,” Stier said. “The government must strive to meet or exceed the private sector when it comes to employee engagement.”
Read the full report at Partnership for Public Service.