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3 Ways to Improve Your ‘Best Places to Work’ Ranking

Image via Stephen Finn/

Last month, the Partnership for Public service released their annual “Best Places to Work” index and, to put it bluntly, the results were alarming. An across the board drop in employee satisfaction (among the lowest in the index’s history) raised important questions and left many wondering how, with so many challenges on the horizon, employee satisfaction can possibly improve?

(Related: Ask EIG: How Do I Motivate and Retain Talent During Sequestration?)

While times are tough, all hope is not lost. According to a team of researchers under Adam Cole, Senior Director at CEB, there are three key ways federal managers can improve employee satisfaction—and ultimately an agency’s score in the Best Places to Work index.

(Related: The Five Best Places to Work in Government | The Five Worst)

1. Celebrate Employee and Agency Successes

“A lot of organizations that really struggle to enhance their brand and their status as an employer of choice don’t celebrate successes, big or small,” said Cole. “They never pause to call out where somebody put in extra effort or where a team did outstanding work…and if they do, it’s fairly infrequent.”

He says this leads to two problems: First, you’re not getting credit for the things you and your team do well. Second, and most detrimental, you miss out on an opportunity to teach the workforce what a high performer looks like.

“The single most impactful way to manage poor performers is to recognize high performers,” said Cole. “Show them what high performers look like, give them an example to emulate and frankly, breed a little bit—just a little bit—of competitive envy in the workforce.”

2. Solicit Upward Feedback

According to CEB’s findings, many organizations that did the worst in the Best Places to Work index were ones where communications flowed only one way: down the chain of command. When communication fails to be a two-way street, management misses out on significant opportunities to engage and empower employees.

“The ideas that can be the most creative are at the front line, where folks are interacting with citizens and agency stakeholders,” said Cole. “The more managers seek advice from employees and expect employees to provide input about a manager’s ideas, the better off an agency will be.”

Agencies should look for ways to create feedback chains between managers and direct reports, across peer networks and through digital tools that allow employees to submit feedback and new ideas to senior management.

3. Reinforce Workplace Inclusion

But what good is feedback if opinions are all the same? “An organizations commitment to having diverse perspectives in its workforce, is one of the single biggest drivers of overall employee engagement,” said Cole. “But ultimately the inclusivity of a culture is even more important than diversity.”

Meaning: Organizations need to go beyond simply having a diverse workforce, they need to build those diverse perspective into new teams. Managers who build teams that celebrate diverse opinions and feedback—rewarding those who speak their mind, challenge the status quo and attack legacy practices—build teams that are at once diverse and inclusive.

“We've eroded a lot of the value of having a diverse recruiting strategy if everybody gets into the culture and then different perspectives aren't really tolerated,” said Cole. “Ultimately, we've found that communications, transparency and empowerment are much, much stronger at the organizations that place highly in the survey."

About the Best Places to Work Index

The 2012 Best Places to Work rankings were based on 687,000 responses to three questions on OPM’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey thought to best measure overall employee satisfaction:

  1. I recommend my organization as a good place to work.
  2. Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your job?
  3. Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your organization?

Do you see these three practices in place at your organization? What other ways can agencies increase employee satisfaction, given all the challenges ahead? 

Image via Stephen Finn/

Mark Micheli is Special Projects Editor for Government Executive Media Group. He's the editor of Excellence in Government Online and contributes to GovExec, NextGov and Defense One. Previously, he worked on national security and emergency management issues with the US Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security. He's a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and studied at Drake University.

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