What's the best place to work in the federal government?

Tuesday - 8/31/2010, 8:57pm EDT

Max Stier, president, Partnership for Public Service

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By Olivia Branco
Internet Editor
Federal News Radio

The Partnership for Public Service along with the Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation at American University released its annual rankings of the best places to work in the federal government today.

For the third consecutive time, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ranked first and the Government Accountability Office ranked a close second on the list of 32 large agencies. Both agencies held the same positions last year. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Smithsonian Institution, and NASA rounded out the top five.

Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service, was a guest on The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris.

Stier explained the need for the rankings saying "it's a very rich data source that can be sliced and diced by different demographics as well but what we need here is data to allow managers to better manage their agencies and this is what the Best Places to Work rankings is intended to do."

The Department of Transportation showed a 15.8 percent increase in employee satisfaction (rank 26th), marking the largest jump of any agency.

Stier noted the Department of Transportation's focus on improving.

"They had a real investment by their leadership in improving the workplace. And when you do that, that means you get more satisfied employees and ultimately better performance from the agency which helps us all."

The Securities and Exchange Commission dropped its rating 6.4 percent, tied for 24th on the list. This marks the second straight year the SEC's rating fell.

The National Archives and Records Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development weren't as lucky. The two agencies tied for last place on the list.

As for small agencies, the Surface Transportation Board ranked first out of 34 small agencies, followed by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Congressional Budget Office, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and the Peace Corps.

Over 263,000 federal employees responded to the survey, which included over 290 federal organizations (32 large agencies, 34 small agencies, and 224 subcomponents).

The rankings offer an assessment of how federal employees view their jobs and the agencies for which they work. They are based on the Office of Personnel Management's 2010 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey conducted in February and March of 2010.

Responders answer questions on topics including leadership, pay, teamwork and work-life balance.

The overall highest-scoring workplace categories for satisfaction are, in order, employee skills/mission match, teamwork, pay and training/development.

Overall, the Partnership for Public Service reports satisfaction within the federal government workplace. This year's rankings reached an all-time high for satisfaction - 65 out of 100. This represents a 2.7 percent increase from the 2009 survey, and a 7.4 percent increase from 2003 when the rankings were first published.

Stier said he hopes agencies realize it requires work, and not just money, to move up in the rankings. "We have a government in which the leadership is typically rewarded for crisis management and policy development. And not for doing the real hard work of making organizations better."

"The purpose of these rankings is to shine a spotlight on whether the organization are working well according to the employees and our hope is then that we see greater investment. The most important investment of leadership, time in these issues. That's what this is all about. At the end of the day we want good performance from our government, we need engaged employees which means we need leadership to pay attention to these things."