Feds continue to hold a dim view of senior leaders

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Leaders of agencies garnered low ratings from federal employees on an array of job satisfaction issues in the latest “snapshot” of the ongoing Best Places to Work in the Federal Government survey by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service.

Leadership effectiveness scored only 54 points of a possible 100 in the Federal Leadership Challenge study set for release Thursday and based on data from the Office of Personnel Management’s 2011 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

Senior leaders received lower rankings than front-line supervisors on such issues as the “ability to generate worker motivation and commitment; encourage integrity; manage people fairly; and promote professional development, creativity and empowerment,” the study said. Senior leaders are “the heads of agencies, departments and their senior management teams.”

But on the upside, the ratings for leadership effectiveness have been trending upward since the study began in 2003, and tangible efforts to improve employee engagement have shown some success.

Still, only 46.3 percent of federal employees governmentwide said they felt personal empowerment with respect to work processes. And 50.7 percent were satisfied with their involvement in decisions that affect their job. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission ranked No. 1 in leadership, followed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and NASA. The Homeland Security Department came in last among large agencies, according to the study, done with support from Deloitte and Hay Group.

The success story the study highlighted is the U.S. Mint, part of the Treasury Department. After years at the bottom of the rankings in employee satisfaction and commitment, the Mint’s score in 2011 rose to 68.5 of 100, up from 56.5 in 2010 -- a 21.2 percent gain. In a ranking of agency subcomponents, the Mint also jumped from 201st of 224 in 2010 to 57th of 240 subcomponents in 2011. “Executives from the Mint said they have been empowering employees and giving them greater flexibility to do their jobs,” the analysts said. “They have held regular town hall meetings, and visited all of the Mint’s facilities outside Washington, D.C., to hear and respond to employee concerns.”

The study also noted that federal workers are less satisfied than their private sector counterparts in the information they receive about goings on in the organization. In the closest comparable survey question, nongovernment employees scored 14 points higher. “In the private sector, employees rate leaders higher on communication, have more positive views of their supervisors, feel more empowered and may feel more motivated by leaders than their counterparts in the federal government,” the study said.

“Federal employees are struggling with feeling empowered in their work and roughly half do not hold favorable views of their agency’s leaders,” the analysts concluded. “The low scores given to senior leaders in government, and at particular agencies, should be a call to action.”

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