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Survey: Less Than Half of Feds Would Keep Their Jobs if Offered a Similar Position Elsewhere

Only 38% of respondents said they trust their executive leadership.

As agencies struggle to attract talented young people to government, new research shows more cause for worry: Less than half of federal workers would stay in their jobs if they were offered a similar position elsewhere. 

A newly released survey found that a majority of federal employees take pride in their work, but have low levels of trust in leadership and lack confidence that their organization aligns with their agency’s stated core values. 

The survey was conducted between May and June 2019 by Government Executive Media Group’s research unit, the Government Business Council, for Eagle Hill Consulting. The firm also made recommendations on how agencies can improve their workplace cultures to increase engagement and retention. 

“More and more, government leaders are using culture as a lever to achieve their agency’s mission,” said Melissa Jezior, Eagle Hill Consulting CEO. “But it’s equally important to understand that a strong culture can have a magnetic effect for attracting and keeping employees, especially federal employees who have a strong attraction to public service.”

According to the survey, 72% of respondents said they are proud to work for their organization, yet only 38% said they trust their executive leadership. 

Additionally, the majority of respondents reported workplace culture is important for their organization's productivity, efficiency and success. While 75% of federal employees said their organization possesses “core values,” just 55% said their organization aligns to those values.  

“Culture is how work gets done, and the research shows that employees instinctively know that culture directly impacts their individual performance. Culture sets the tone for employees to feel empowered and connected to their agency, which keeps them on the job and performing at the highest level,” said Jezior. “But, the disconnect we see in the research is that in many cases, an agency’s stated culture doesn’t line up its actual practices and policies. And it’s that misalignment that can ultimately lead to problematic employee experiences that can drive them out the door.” 

Eagle Hill said there are five elements critical to fostering a positive organizational culture: core values, authenticity, leadership, relationships and satisfaction. It recommended that agencies make culture a main part of their strategic plans, ensure accountability at all levels, routinely assess progress, and acknowledge what is and isn’t working.

The survey is part of a new report from Eagle Hill: “Mismatched Priorities, Unmet Expectations: The State of Organizational Culture in Federal Government.”