Survey: Feds are happy at work despite tough times

But employees are less thrilled about pay and performance management.

Federal employees are committed to their work and mostly satisfied with their jobs despite the difficult political and fiscal environment, according to a new study.

The Office of Personnel Management on Thursday released the results of the 2011 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, which drew a record 266,000 responses. Nearly 92 percent of respondents said they believe the work they do is important, and 85 percent reported enjoying their jobs. OPM distributed the survey this past spring, at a time when the government was hamstrung by a potential shutdown and the looming debt ceiling crisis.

Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they would recommend their agency as a good place to work and 48 percent reported having sufficient resources to perform their jobs.

See OPM's rankings of agencies based on the survey results

Federal workers were less thrilled, however, about their pay in 2011 than they were in 2010. On pay satisfaction, 62.5 percent of the responses to the survey were positive, down from 65.8 percent in 2010. "There was a decrease in items related to pay, and that's to be expected," said John Foley, director of planning and policy analysis at OPM, referring to the two-year federal pay freeze in place. "Gratifying to us is that we didn't see a drop-off in people's commitment to work."

Employees' views on performance management within their agencies remained fairly negative. Forty-seven percent of respondents do not believe pay raises are adequately linked to performance, and only 36 percent said promotions in their workplace were merit-based. Forty-one percent of respondents said their offices do not deal adequately with poor performers.

"Performance management continues to persist as a problem area across government," OPM Director John Berry said in the introduction to the report. Foley said each agency needs to look at ways to improve performance management.

Overall, respondents were happy with their supervisors in a range of areas. Sixty-nine percent of surveyed feds said their managers did a good job overall; 77 percent gave high marks to supervisors for encouraging work-life balance; and 67 percent said managers promote employee development.

The survey results indicated that telework still has not taken off in the federal government despite the Obama administration's support for the practice. Just 21 percent of respondents reported teleworking, and 26 percent said they do not telework because they haven't been approved for it, even though their job could be performed off-site.

Using the data from the survey, OPM ranked agencies in a number of areas: leadership and knowledge management; results-oriented performance culture; talent management; and job satisfaction. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission earned the top spot in all four areas. Respondents also ranked NASA highly in all categories.