Feds Don't Feel the Government Is Rewarding Innovation

Digital Storm/Shutterstock.com

Federal employees overall believe innovation in government is declining, and that agencies do not sufficiently reward forward-thinking in general, an analysis of government data shows.

The so-called governmentwide “innovation score” dropped 2.1 points to 59.4 out of 100 points from 2012 to 2013 – the lowest score since 2010. Employees’ perceptions of how their agencies viewed creativity were even less encouraging: Just one-third of respondents believed their employer rewarded innovation, while 54.7 percent felt encouraged to think outside of the box. The nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, consultancy Deloitte and the Hay Group looked at data from the Office of Personnel Management’s 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey to determine respondents’ attitudes toward innovation. The 2013 survey reflects the input of 376,577 federal workers out of a civilian workforce of roughly 2 million.

“The bottom line is that federal workers are motivated to improve the way they do their work, but they do not feel supported by their organizations,” concluded the analysis, which is part of the Partnership’s annual Best Places to Work in Government project. Respondents also were less enthusiastic in 2013 about agencies giving them the opportunity to develop job skills and personally empowering them. The score for the question “I have a high level of respect for senior leaders in my organization,” also dipped slightly from 50.5 percent in 2012 to 49 percent in 2013.

The news isn’t all bad: 90 percent of the employees surveyed said they are “always looking for better ways to do their job,” the Partnership analysis said.

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but it can be tough to foster creativity in a work environment with dwindling resources and maxed-out employees. “Innovation depends on the total environment that leaders and managers shape for employees,” the report acknowledged. “Creating that environment can be challenging for managers because they are dealing with day-to-day demands, and it is difficult to take the time to step back and examine new ways of doing business.”

Job satisfaction among federal workers dropped nearly across the board in 2013 -- a year marked by furloughs, a pay freeze and proposals to reduce federal employee compensation -- according to the most recent viewpoint survey. Just 44 percent of employees in the 2013 survey said they had sufficient resources to do their jobs, down from 48 percent last year and 50 percent in 2010.

OPM will administer the 2014 survey across government beginning this month and ending in June. Some results will be available in late August, with full results announced in the fall.

The Partnership analysis included some broad recommendations for how federal managers can encourage creativity and innovation. The report suggested regularly providing a forum where employees can brainstorm and toss out ideas for doing things differently, building trust through mentoring and constructive feedback, creating a specific process for executing ideas, and assessing results through metrics.

Want to know which agencies were the most and least innovative in 2013 according to federal respondents? Click here.

(Image via Digital Storm/Shutterstock.com)

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