Job satisfaction increasing at financial regulatory agency

Employees at the Securities and Exchange Commission are happier now with their pay and their jobs than they were three years ago, according to a study by the Government Accountability Office.

"We conducted a follow-up to our 2001 human capital survey of SEC attorneys, accountants and examiners to benchmark their views," GAO said in a letter to SEC Chairman William Donaldson. The letter was signed by Richard Hillman, GAO's director of financial markets and community investment.

Since the last survey, the agency has implemented several personnel reforms. In 2002, the Investor and Capital Markets Fee Relief Act freed the SEC from federal pay regulations. Under the new rules, the agency was allowed to "bring salaries in line with those of other federal financial regulators," according to the GAO study(GAO-05-118R).

SEC officials also implemented work-life programs to assist employees with balancing their work and personal lives. That initiative included alternate or compressed work schedules, telecommuting and part-time arrangements.

"The 2004 respondents were significantly more satisfied with their pay and their ability to use flexitime and flexiplace," GAO stated, referring to two work-life programs. "In addition, overall the employees remained satisfied with their jobs and the meaningfulness of their work."

The survey was conducted in March and April 2004. GAO auditors contacted 531 SEC attorneys, accountants and examiners from the same target positions that were surveyed in 2001. Employees hired in the last three years were not surveyed.

While they were happy with compensation and benefits, SEC employees did find fault with management on several points. Compared with 2001, employees were less satisfied with the quality of supervision by their immediate supervisor, management's communication, and the effectiveness of the agency's performance appraisal system.

GAO called on SEC officials to address these issues. The agency declined to comment on specifics of the report, but instead issued a broader statement.

"Overall management is pleased by the progress that has been made and is committed to further enhancements," an SEC spokesman said.

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