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Are you creative? You might be better off in the private sector

Feds look for ways to improve, but are not given institutional support, survey finds.

Federal agencies continue to trail the private sector in fostering innovation and creativity, a new Partnership for Public Service survey finds.

The study, released Monday, draws data from the Office of Personnel Management’s 2011 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey of 266,000 government employees from 33 large agencies, 35 small agencies and 240 agency subcomponents, and from another OPM study of the private sector workforce. It found that the federal government lags the private sector particularly on the question of encouragement to innovate: 71 percent of respondents in the private sector responded positively to that question compared to 59 percent of federal employees.

Partnership for Public Service President and Chief Executive Officer Max Stier called the discrepancy “a troubling difference.”

“You would hope, given the nature of what the public sector is trying to achieve, that you would feel employers would be more supportive,” Stier said. “If we are going to deal with the challenges we face, they are going to need people who feel they are being supported and encouraged to do things better. That’s not what we’re seeing when benchmarking against the private sector.”

When respondents were asked whether they were looking for new ways to do their jobs better on their own, 92 percent of federal employees responded in the affirmative versus only 60 percent in the private sector. This means the discrepancy is not “intrinsic of the federal workers themselves,” Stier said.

Rather, it’s a problem of workers not getting the institutional support that they need, he said.

“That’s a real challenge. You can address that, and you don’t have to address that with money,” Stier added.

The survey defines innovation as “the process of improving, adapting or developing a product, system or service to deliver better results and create value for people.” Conditions that foster innovation, according to the report, range from employees being given opportunities to demonstrate leadership skills, recognition for good work and employee involvement in decisions that affect their work.

NASA received the top innovation score, followed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The Securities and Exchange Commission received the lowest innovation score out of 30 large agencies.

The Surface Transportation Board, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and Peace Corps were ranked top small agencies on innovation; the National Labor Relations Board was rated the least innovative small agency.

(Image via Red rockerz Design Studio/Shutterstock.com)

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