We the Partnership

The Department of Homeland Security’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® scores: The story behind the numbers

By Angela Bailey
September 2, 2021 | Updated on September 3, 2021

At the Department of Homeland Security, our Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® scores are an excellent example of why it is so important to get an understanding of the story behind the ranking. Equally as important is making sure the story we are telling captures more than what is wrong, especially when we are telling that story ourselves.

DHS is a living, breathing organization made up of over 250,000 people — not just “employees.” They worry about the same things all Americans worry about, take pride in the work they do and make sacrifices in order to honor the DHS mission to protect our nation. The resilience of the DHS workforce is unmatched: more than 80% of DHS’s employees worked unpaid during recent government shutdowns, while 65% held the frontlines during the COVID pandemic. Every day, DHS employees perform some of the most difficult, dangerous—and at times thankless—work in the nation. This is an important part of the DHS story.

Also part of our story is how we came to be. DHS was created in response to one of our nation’s worst moments: when the incomprehensible attacks on our country occurred on September 11, 2001. As a result, numerous agencies and organizations were brought together to form the department we have today.

Some of those agencies, such as Customs and Border Protection, have roots dating back to 1789. The U.S. Secret Service was created over 154 years ago, in 1865. And, added to this mixture of historically significant agencies were new agencies established to address emerging threats, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, established in 1979, and the newly created Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, established in 2018.

So, when I pull back the curtain on our Best Places to Work rating, I see a group of dedicated citizens from all segments of society who share a vision, and—despite the odds against them—have increased employee engagement at DHS steadily over the last five years. This is a true testament to the shared connection and spirit of the DHS workforce. This, too, is a part of the DHS story—to never give up, to believe in the power of “we,” and to remain focused on the mission and the people and communities we serve.

We know there is always room to grow, learn and improve. That is why, under the leadership of Secretary Mayorkas, we have redoubled our efforts to build the department our workforce truly deserves. We recognize that no one serves alone and that means we need to care for our employees’ families as well.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought into stark reality just how critical our employee and family readiness efforts are, especially those dedicated to ensuring we address mental health needs. Integrating our employee and family readiness efforts with our leadership development programs and our inclusive diversity initiatives has driven a more meaningful and holistic employee engagement strategy at DHS.

The reality is that our success is a shared one. We succeed when we strengthen our connections with one another, lead with intention, and ultimately elevate the human experience for all within DHS and the lives we touch outside of the agency. A simple score doesn’t capture all of that.

Read more about the 2020 Best Places rankings in “Celebrating top performers in the 2020 Best Places to Work rankings.”

Angela Bailey is the chief human capital officer at the Department of Homeland Security.


Leave a Reply