18 December 2012

In the United States, 687,000 federal civil servants from 362 agencies responded  to this year’s satisfaction survey. The results suggest that 80% like the work they do, with nearly as many saying their agencies achieved what they were meant to. Two thirds would recommend their agency as a good place to work.  68% said that, overall, they were satisfied with their job.

Unsurprisingly the two year pay freeze in the US civil service has contributed to pay dissatisfaction – fewer than 59% are satisfied with their salary, 48% said they received recognition for doing a good job, and only 40% felt innovation and creativity were rewarded.  43% (an increase of 2% in the year) said that no action was taken with poor performers who cannot or will not improve.

These averaged statistics hide wide disparities between agencies according to the Federal Government Best Places to Work survey.

NASA, intelligence agencies and the State Department  scored highest among large agencies – with more than 15,000 employees.  The lowest rated agencies overall were the Office of the US Trade Representative (small),  the Broadcasting Board (medium) and the Homeland Security Department (large).

“The common element for the agencies that are doing well is really good leadership …(with)  individual leaders that prioritise making their organization run better and focusing on talent to make that happen…” 

“Every agency has the ability to be NASA.”

The Australian State of the State report published earlier this month indicates that Australian public service satisfaction levels are lower than in the US. However, unlike the US, Australian engagement levels have remained stable over the last two years – with new entrants and senior officials having the highest and slightly improving engagement levels.  They are higher than the United Kingdom, although the UK statistics gathered in the Civil Service People Survey are from 2011 so may not be a direct comparison.

The only related New Zealand statistics are agency specific.

The overall engagement levels are’

US Federal Civil Service 68%
Australian Public Service 61%
British Civil Service 56%

As with the US survey, the Australian report confirms that leadership remains an essential factor in maintaining high employee engagement.  “Leaders who are visible to their employees have an especially powerful effect”.    When asked whether they thought senior leaders in their organisation were sufficiently visible, employees who strongly agreed they were, showed substantially higher scores (double in some cases) on all components of employee engagement.