OPM Survey: Oldest federal employees most satisfied, engaged workers

Monday - 11/11/2013, 4:44pm EST

The oldest federal employees are also the most satisfied and engaged workers, according to the Office of Personnel Management's annual Employee Viewpoint Survey.

The overall satisfaction score for so-called "traditionalists," those federal employees born in 1945, was 67 percent — more than 8 percentage points higher than the governmentwide average. The oldest feds, who make up about 1.7 percent of the federal workforce, are also more engaged in their work, scoring 70 percent overall on a combination of metrics denoting engagement — compared to 64 percent for the broader federal workforce.

OPM's annual survey, released Friday, showed a noticeable downturn in overall employee satisfaction compared to last year, down a total of 4 percentage points to 59 percent governmentwide. In large part, that decline was driven by a sharp drop in employees' satisfaction with their pay.

But OPM's analysis of the survey data also revealed a generational divergence when it comes to employee satisfaction, and knowing how satisfaction and engagement levels shake out across age barriers can be helpful as managers attempt to build back up the battered morale of the federal workforce, OPM said.

"It is important for agencies to know their generational breakdown in order to create a work environment that allows each generation to use their skills effectively," the OPM report concluded. "It is also necessary for agencies to encourage the different generations to work and communicate with each other to improve knowledge transfer and make their agency a better place to work."

(Source: OPM Employee Viewpoint Survey)

According to the survey, the pre-Baby Boom generation of federal workers is more likely to believe they are recognized for their service, believe they have sufficient resources and are satisfied with training opportunities.

Overall, traditionalists lay claim to the highest percentage of "high- satisfaction" workers in the federal government, according to the survey. Some 51 percent of these federal workers are considered high-satisfaction — compared to 41 percent for Baby Boomers and 40 percent for both Generation X and Generation Y workers.

Scores for other age cohorts, on the other hand, remained fairly constant across generational barriers. For example, across the Baby Boom, Generation X and Generation Y generations, overall satisfaction scores stood at 59 percent — also the governmentwide average.

Baby Boomers, employees born between 1946 and 1964, and Generation Xers, those born between 1965 and 1980, maintained the same employee engagement score — 64 percent.

However, Generation Y workers were actually slightly more engaged than their older colleagues, clocking in at 65 percent.

Similarly, Generation Y workers — those born after 1981 — were more likely than their Baby Boomer and Generation X colleagues to be satisfied with training opportunities and believe that they have sufficient resources to get the job done. Just 42 percent of Generation X workers said they have sufficient resources, such as material, staffing and funding, to get the job done, compared to 47 percent of their younger colleagues.

Baby Boomers make up nearly half of the federal workforce — 48 percent. Generation X workers account for about 37 percent and Generation Y employees nearly 13 percent of the federal workforce.

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