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Survey points to morale disconnect between SES, others

Dec. 13, 2012 - 06:03AM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
The Veterans Affairs Department showed the largest drop in satisfaction among all large agencies in the latest Best Places to Work report by the Partnership for Public Service.
The Veterans Affairs Department showed the largest drop in satisfaction among all large agencies in the latest Best Places to Work report by the Partnership for Public Service. (Getty Images)

Federal employees’ overall satisfaction plunged in 2012 to its lowest point in nearly a decade, according to the Partnership for Public Service’s latest Best Places to Work report.

The governmentwide score measuring satisfaction and commitment dropped 3.2 points this year to 60.8 on a 100-point scale. It is the sharpest decline since the Partnership began issuing its reports in 2003. And it is barely above the 60.5 score measured in 2003.

But David Dye, federal human capital practice director at Deloitte, which worked with the Partnership on the report, said the survey found a surprisingly large morale disconnect between Senior Executive Service members and rank-and-file federal employees. SES members scored 82.6 on the scale — nearly 22 points higher than the entire government workforce.

Dye said this satisfaction gap between SES and other employees is the largest he’s ever seen, and it is concerning.

“We need to realize that we need to address this problem,” Dye said in an interview with Federal Times. “People keep talking about the fiscal cliff. In some ways, I think there’s a leadership cliff coming.”

Dye said that senior managers need to figure out new ways to engage younger employees.

“I think this is a wake-up call,” Dye said. “There’s a younger set of emerging leaders that think differently, like to be trained differently, learn differently, like to be rewarded differently. This is now an opportunity to think and act differently on how we communicate with folks and engage them to support agency missions.”

Dye said the government’s overall morale decline is likely due to the stresses faced by federal employees in the last year, such as at least two years of pay scale freezes, tight budgets, staffing declines and increasing workloads.

The report also said that private-sector workers’ satisfaction score this year stayed flat at 70, while feds’ scores declined.

Two-thirds of all federal agencies experienced decreasing employee satisfaction.

The Veterans Affairs Department showed the largest drop in satisfaction among all large agencies, from 63.8 to 56.7.

But some agencies, such as the Transportation Department and Office of Management and Budget, saw sizeable increases in satisfaction.

“These agencies prove that even in the most challenging climates it is possible to improve employee engagement,” the report said.

To calculate the government’s overall score, the Partnership and Deloitte used responses to three questions on the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey

• “I recommend my organization as a good place to work.”

• “How satisfied are you with your job?”

• “How satisfied are you with your organization?”

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