Leadership determines best agencies to work in, research finds

Leadership engagement is the number one indicator of the best federal agencies to work in, according to Mallory Barg Bulman, vice president of research and evaluation at the Partnership for Public Service, which Wednesday released its “2017 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” rankings with Deloitte.

“It is really important and critical that leaders listen,” said Bulman, adding that positive changes in agency rankings can often be “directly related to leaders paying attention.”

For example, Bulman said that the FBI’s effective senior leadership score noticeably decreased after the firing of Director James Comey, and the FBI’s overall score dropped 2.1 points from 2016 to 2017.

Bulman added that the second most important factor is the skills-mission match between employees and agencies because “it is really critical to look at federal employees’ ability to meet the mission of their agency.”

This year’s top large agency, NASA, has consistently remained at the top of the “Best Places to Work in federal Government” rankings and has increased their scores every year since the rankings began. This year they achieved a score of 80.9.

“NASA has continually committed to improvement,” said Bulman, explaining that the agency’s consistent score increases from year to year indicated that the agency “hasn’t rested with good enough.”

DHS also made notable advances with a 6.2-point increase from last year’s score, though the agency still remains in last place among large agencies.

Overall, the federal government did very well, with a 2.1-point rise in federal employee engagement compared to 2016, the highest level of engagement since 2011.

“The gains in federal employee engagement are promising and indicate that an intentional focus on the management of the workforce can make a difference,” said Max Stier, Partnership president and CEO. “A highly-motivated and engaged workforce is critical to a well-functioning government and the success of our country.”

However, the government still lags over 16 points behind the employee engagement of the private sector, according to data provided by employee research firm Mercer | Sirota.

“When comparing the government to the private sector, we must see greater progress,” said Stier. “Federal leaders should understand that the government competes with the private sector for the best talent, and the government should endeavor to meet or exceed employee engagement levels seen in the best private sector companies.”

U.S. Army’s Cyber Command was featured on the rankings for the first time, and scored 147th of 150 subcomponents evaluated, with a score of 46.6, which was over 15 points less than the score achieved by the Army overall.

According to the report’s scoring categories, though Cyber Command scored very well with Employee Skill Mission Match, 71.2, the subcomponent scored dead last in effective leadership with a score of 48.2.

The “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” rankings are based largely on data from the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey that was conducted by the Office of Personnel Management. This year OPM initially withheld the data on 186 agencies and subcomponents in the survey after reviewing its privacy policies, but released the missing data on December 5, 2017. The “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” rankings will be revised to reflect this data in early 2018.

“OPM’s decision to now provide more complete government-wide data will make it easier for agencies to compare themselves to their federal counterparts, and help Congress and the Trump administration engage in comprehensive oversight of federal workforce management,” said Stier.

Complete rankings and score breakdowns can be found at

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