Majority of Feds Don’t Believe Agencies Will Reward or Promote Them

Analysis of government employee survey data calls results ‘unsettling.’

Less than half of federal employees believe they will be rewarded or promoted for doing a good job, according to a new analysis.

Forty-three percent, or four out of every 10 federal workers, said they thought they would receive performance-based awards or better job opportunities at their agencies, the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service and consulting firm Deloitte found. The data gauging employees’ perceptions of awards and promotions, based on the Partnership’s 2012 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government, reveal that it has been the survey’s lowest-rated category since 2005. The 2012 score is 2.5 points lower than the 2011 score.

“The results are unsettling,” the report said.

The analysis was based on six questions from the Office of Personnel Management’s 2012 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. They related to employee perceptions of fairness in performance evaluations, rewards and recognition for good work, creativity and innovation, merit-based promotions and opportunities for employees to move up within an agency. Of those questions, respondents gave the highest marks to the quality of performance evaluations, with 67 percent of employees saying they believed their reviews were fair.

The feedback on the other questions was less reassuring. Three out of 10 employees said they were happy with their opportunities to advance at work and believed that promotions were merit-based, while four out of 10 said they were rewarded for high-quality work and were satisfied with the recognition they received. Thirty-six percent believed creativity and innovation were rewarded at their agencies.

“The dissatisfaction may rest in part with the fact that there are may be limited opportunities for promotion and that some promotions are based primarily on length of service as employees move up the career ladder from new hire to full-performance level,” the report said.

The Partnership’s analysis also showed that federal workers on the lower end of the pay scale were less satisfied with performance-based awards than those at the higher end of the spectrum, particularly employees in the General Schedule’s 13 to 15 grades. In addition, the report found that government lags behind the private sector in some areas. Private-sector employees were more optimistic than feds about receiving recognition for a good job and the existing opportunities for advancing within their organizations. In fact, employees outside of government rated opportunities for better jobs in their companies 14 points higher than did federal employees -- one of the biggest disparities between the two sectors.

The (large, mid-size, and small) agencies employees perceived as doing the best jobs with performance-based awards and promotions were:

  • Commerce Department
  • Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board
  • Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
  • Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service
  • Federal Trade Commission
  • Intelligence community
  • NASA
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Surface Transportation Board

The agencies (large, mid-size, and small) with the lowest rankings in the category of performance-based awards and promotions were:

  • Broadcasting Board of Governors
  • Federal Maritime Commission
  • Homeland Security Department
  • International Boundary and Water Commission
  • National Archives and Records Administration
  • Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
  • Securities and Exchange Commission
  • Veterans Affairs Department

The report recommended that federal leaders and managers provide career development support through training and by allowing employees to participate in different projects within the unit, for example; recognize good performance through non-financial benefits such as telework or time-off awards; and communicate clearly and in a meaningful way with employees, giving them realistic feedback.

And, there is always the under-used but always appreciated expression of gratitude. “A simple and sincere thank you can go a long way,” the report said.