NASA retained its title as the highest-rated large agency for employee engagement, according to the Partnership for Public Service’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government report.

NASA retained its title as the highest-rated large agency for employee engagement, according to the Partnership for Public Service’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government report. Anadolu / Getty Images

Federal agencies’ engagement and morale bounced back in 2023, according to annual rankings

The Partnership for Public Service’s annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government report found that roughly two-thirds of federal agencies saw boosts in employee engagement and job satisfaction last year.

A good government group on Monday published its annual rankings of federal agencies and agency subcomponents stemming from an analysis of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, finding that federal employees’ engagement and job satisfaction rebounded after two years of declining scores.

The 2023 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey found that across government, employee engagement increased 1 point to 72 out of 100, and scored federal workers’ job satisfaction at 64 out of 100, a 2-point increase over 2022’s survey.

According to the Partnership for Public Service’s own analysis of the data employee engagement and satisfaction was 65.7 out of 100 last year, an increase of 2.3 points from 2022. The Partnership each year publishes the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government, which seeks to rank engagement at every agency and agency subcomponent.

In a report accompanying the annual rankings, the Partnership heralded the Biden administration’s efforts to improve employee engagement, resulting in roughly two-thirds of agencies experiencing an increase in their Best Places to Work scores: 49 of 73 federal agencies either improved their scores or “held steady” in 2023, while 303 out of 459 agency subcomponents either improved or maintained their scores.

“The increase in the government-wide score reflects a stepped-up effort on employee engagement and satisfaction by the Biden administration, and may also have been influenced by a flurry of important laws enacted by Congress during the last several years,” the Partnership wrote. “These actions have required increased commitment by the workforce at agencies across the federal enterprise to implement a wide range of major new policies and programs designed to help individuals, companies and the economy.”

The Partnership posited that employee engagement may have partially increased by virtue of employees having concrete new policies to implement, such as provisions from the Build Back Better Act, the bipartisan infrastructure law and the CHIPS and Science Act. Agencies saw a similar spike in engagement during the peak of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration continued its long-running domination of the large agencies category, despite a 1.8-point drop in engagement to 82.5 in 2023. In second place for the third straight year was HHS, which increased its score from 74.3 in 2022 to 75.2 last year. And for the second consecutive year, the intelligence community came in third, scoring 72.6.

Among midsize agencies, the Government Accountability Office finished in the top spot for the fourth straight year, although the agency’s score of 87.2 marked a 0.5 point drop from 2022. The General Services Administration leapfrogged two agencies to finish second with an engagement and satisfaction score of 84.5, while the Securities and Exchange Commission finished third.

The Homeland Security Department, which has finished last or second to last in its size category for the last decade, improved to 14th out of 17 large agencies. It jumped nearly 6 points in 2023, from 54.9 in 2022 to 60.8 last year. That comes in no small part due to a series of recent personnel changes—modeled after Title 5 compensation and workplace protections—at the Transportation Security Administration, whose Partnership scores increased from 45.2 in 2022 to 57.5 last year.