(Barry Bahler/DHS)

Is DHS the Government’s ‘Worst Place to Work’? Some Employees Think So

The Department of Homeland Security has not fared well in the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government ratings by the Partnership for Public Service. DHS was the lowest rated among the 17 large agencies.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service and global management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group released the 2019 rankings on December 17, which show a federal employee engagement score of 61.7 out of 100, a 0.5 point drop  compared to 2018.

The lengthy government shutdown affected 800,000 of 2 million federal employees, and there were a number of critical leadership vacancies across the government as many agencies had to deal with a variety of political headwinds. Nevertheless the data actually shows small improvements in employee attitudes overall across all agencies.

In general, employee views on training and development, and on performance-based awards and advancement, rose by 0.8 points. Effective leadership, which encompasses employee views of their supervisors, senior leaders, fairness in the workplace and individual empowerment, rose 0.3 points. The categories that declined were pay, down 0.4 points, and support for diversity, which dropped 0.2 points.

But what of DHS? It’s engagement score of 52.3 is down slightly on last year’s 53.1. The agency lost most points for pay, and employee skills and mission match. However it improved ratings for teamwork, training, innovation, and effective leadership, thanks to Kevin McAleenan’s direction and expertise in balancing some of the most pressing security concerns the country has seen for many years.

Although overall the agency occupies the lowest rung of the ladder, some of its components improved their engagement score, including the Secret Service which rose by 8.9 points, marking its third consecutive year of progress. The U.S. Coast Guard, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the agency’s Office of the Secretary also registered improvements in 2019, scoring 73.4, 51.5, and 53.0 respectively.

Conversely, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis had a rating of just 41.0, although this is an increase of 13 points over last year.

As in past years, the federal government continues to lag behind the private sector when it comes to employee engagement. According to data provided by employee research firm Mercer | Sirota, the 2019 engagement score for private sector employees is 77.0 out of 100, 15.3 points higher than the federal government. Only 11 of the government’s 70 large, midsize and small agencies included in the Best Places to Work rankings scored above the private sector average this year, including NASA, the Federal Trade Commission and the Peace Corps.

This will not help the agencies’ cause as they try to compete with industry to attract the top talent.

See all the rankings here

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Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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