Last week, the non-profit Partnership for Public Service released the results of its annual “2011 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” rankings. Each year, the Partnership for Public Service surveys more than 266,000 civil servants on employee satisfaction and commitment across 308 federal agencies.
Our federal workforce is filled with committed, dedicated civil servants. The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings highlight the importance of listening to the people in our federal agencies. Federal employees can see where the problems are, and their views, as revealed in these rankings, allow Congress to ask the important questions of agency leaders.
With more than 65,000 federal employees in Virginia’s 8th District, the results of this survey are of critical importance to me as they reflect the employment satisfaction of a sizeable portion of Northern Virginia’s residents.
Increasingly, we have asked our federal workforce to do more with less. As expected, the Best Places to Work survey showed a 1.5 percent drop in government-wide employee satisfaction. Our federal workers have faced across-the-board pay freezes and a Federal Government on the brink of a shutdown. Further, federal employees make less than their private sector counterparts. While most individuals are drawn to public service based on the belief in their agency’s core mission and values, an engaged and content workforce leads to a more effective civil service.
This year’s rankings put the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) at the top of this list. Not only is FDIC first overall, but the agency made tremendous improvements over the past year, with employee satisfaction growing by more than eight percent. FDIC’s success comes from the top down, with employees awarding high marks for effective leadership and teamwork. I hope that other agencies will look to FDIC’s practices as agency heads develop plans to improve human capital.
The surveys also show where the Federal Government and specific agencies can do more to improve the well-being of the workforce. For those agencies coming in at the very bottom of the rankings, effective leadership and family friendly culture and benefits remained the biggest drag on overall scores. These results demonstrate the importance of maintaining and bolstering current benefits. In Congress, I have worked to improve benefits government-wide, introducing legislation that would allow federal employees to donate unused sick leave to an agency leave bank and a bill to strengthen training for agency supervisors to prepare the workforce for challenges such as the upcoming wave of baby boom retirements.
The Partnership for Public Service rightly states that “satisfaction drives employee engagement and ultimately leads to better performance.” As agency heads and managers grapple with budget cuts and added political mandates from Congress, I hope they will continue to strive to improve workplace satisfaction and human capital issues. The United States has the best civil service in the world and they should be recognized for it, rather than treated with disdain or scorn.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.