David S. Ferriero, archivist of the United States

David S. Ferriero, archivist of the United States NARA

Employee satisfaction dips at several agencies

Officials vow to turn low marks on annual survey into positive changes.

Several agencies fared significantly worse in the 2012 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey than in 2011 -- and they are taking it seriously.

While most agencies experienced little change from last year, the annual study administered by the Office of Personnel Management showed a dip in employee satisfaction ratings governmentwide. Agencies with the most significant declines include the National Archives and Records Administration, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Social Security Administration.

“We were disappointed and saddened to see the scores,” Miriam Kleiman, a NARA spokeswoman, told Government Executive. “We know morale is a problem and are redoubling our efforts to improve our scores and, more importantly, our employees' sense of satisfaction with their work and the agency as a whole.”

NARA, already one of the lowest-rated agencies in 2011, consistently scored around 4 percentage points lower in 2012 in categories such as job satisfaction, talent management, and leadership and knowledge management.

Kleiman explained that NARA is in the midst of a major restructuring, noting the changes will take time to take effect. David S. Ferriero, archivist of the United States, said for some the overhaul "is a breath of fresh air, and for other people it’s an issue of dealing with change.”

NARA officials said they plan to learn from this year’s assessments. “The National Archives implemented many changes after last year's survey results, but this year's results show we need to do much more,” Kleiman said.

She added there are some positives to take away from this year’s study.

“What we find most encouraging about the [survey] results is that year after year, the vast majority of National Archives employees continue to believe the work they do is important, like the work they do. and know how their work relates to the agency's goals and priorities,” she said.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was among the top-rated agencies in the 2011 survey, but experienced a near across-the-board decline in employee satisfaction ratings in this year.

“The NRC is still performing above most agencies of the federal government,” said spokeswoman Holly Harrington. “With that said, the NRC takes this data seriously, and we’ll be studying it closely to determine what it’s telling us and what changes we may need to make in future.”

Officials at the Social Security Administration, which also took a hit this year, said the agency is still sorting through the information revealed in the survey.

“As we continue to receive our agency-specific results from OPM, we are conducting comprehensive analyses to identify meaningful and actionable issues,” said Dorothy Clark, an SSA spokeswoman. “We will, in turn, use this information to develop potential solutions for our employees’ concerns.”

As previously reported, the Office of Management and Budget was the only agency to make significant gains in its viewpoint survey marks. OMB said it made “dedicated efforts” to improve on its ratings in 2011.