A closer look into our 2018 government-wide employee engagement score

By | December 13, 2018

On December 12, the Partnership for Public Service honored the top-rated and most improved organizations in our 2018 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings. The awards celebration is one of my favorite events because it recognizes high-performing federal agencies and the leaders who create positive work environments.

Our goal in producing the Best Places to Work rankings and accompanying data is to encourage and assist good management of the federal workforce. Government is most effective when it has an engaged workforce, good leaders and the processes, structures and information to make smart decisions.

At bestplacestowork.org, you can find detailed data showing where agencies stand and resources that can help turn the Best Places to Work rankings into a plan for change. As you dive into the data, it’s worth noting that our 2018 government-wide employee engagement score and our trend line from 2017 to 2018 differ from the Office of Personnel Management’s 2018 engagement index and two-year comparison.

This year marks the first time since we launched the Best Places to Work rankings in 2003 that the Department of Veterans Affairs did not participate in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey on which our rankings are based, and instead administered its own internal survey. Since the VA’s internal survey included the three questions used to calculate the Best Places to Work government-wide employee engagement score, the department is included in our 2018 rankings for large agencies.

However, just like other agencies that conduct their own surveys and meet our criteria, we did not include the VA’s data in the calculation of our 2018 government-wide employee engagement score. This is the same decision made by OPM in calculating its index.

Our paths differ, however, in the way we handled the 2017 government-wide comparison data. To ensure that we would have an apples to apples comparison between 2018 and 2017, we removed the VA data from our original 2017 government-wide employee engagement score.

As a result, this year’s government-wide Best Places to Work employee engagement score of 62.2 represents a 0.6-point decline from the modified 2017 government-wide score that no longer includes the VA.

When OPM released its 2018 engagement index, it decided to take a different approach. While the VA was not included in OPM’s employee index score for this year, it chose to keep the department’s data in its 2017 scoring rather than modify it as we did. This led to an increase in OPM’s 2018 government-wide engagement index score.

At the end of the day, our government’s most important asset is its people. This year’s Best Places to Work findings demonstrate that collectively we have a lot of work remaining to support and strengthen the federal workforce.

This must be a collaborative effort that advances government overall. We at the Partnership for Public Service look forward to working with the White House, the new Congress and federal leaders across government to help foster and facilitate those conversations.

Max Stier is the president and chief executive officer of the Partnership for Public Service.