Employee Engagement

Without an engaged, productive workforce, agencies will not meet the needs of Americans.

The Partnership for Public Service is committed to the idea that a highly engaged workforce drives productivity and service quality. That’s not an unproven theory—from the private sector to government, employee engagement is directly connected to employee output and organizational performance. According to Gallup, companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share.

While the federal government isn’t looking to maximize profits, it still needs to keep an eye on the bottom line and operate effectively and efficiently. Yet government lags the private sector in employee engagement—and the gap between the sectors is growing. The 2016 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® data revealed a slight increase in overall federal employee engagement to 59.4 out of 100—but that’s compared to the private sector’s 77.1, according to data from the survey research firm Sirota. Clearly, there is room for improvement.

While budget constraints, hiring and pay freezes and public mistrust make it challenging for federal leaders to engage their workforce, we’re helping agencies implement strategies to improve employee morale and productivity. Through strong leadership and attentiveness to workforce needs, the federal government can improve employee engagement and better serve the American people.


First released in 2003, our annual Best Places to Work rankings are the most comprehensive analysis of employee satisfaction and commitment in the federal workspace.

By analyzing the data, agency leaders and Congress can understand the key drivers of employee engagement and work to develop a healthier, more satisfied and increasingly productive workforce. Agencies looking to engage their employees should start by following these strategies.

Senior leaders should prioritize employee engagement

Change cannot happen without buy-in and commitment from leadership. Executives should use Best Places to Work survey data as a roadmap to drive change—and they need to be held accountable when these measures of success don’t indicate improvements.

Communicate often and in many forms

Low employee engagement is often a reflection of poor communication. Agency leaders need to use multiple communication methods to connect employees to the mission, the agency and their coworkers to improve workforce satisfaction.

Make changes based on employee feedback

Employees need to know their voices are heard. Design and execute short-term activities based on employee comments, and then solicit feedback to gauge how those efforts are received. When employees see tangible results, it helps to build trust and improves organizational culture.

Invest in employees

The Best Places to Work data has consistently identified leadership as the key factor determining employee engagement. And yet, effective leadership has continuously been one of the lowest-rated workplace categories. That trend continued in 2016 with a score of only 53 out of 100. To drive engagement and performance, agencies need highly capable leaders throughout their organization, from the executives at the top to career employees at the team level.

Leadership development programs help agencies improve both management and engagement. Participants improve their leadership skills and appreciate that their agency recognizes their contributions by investing in their professional growth. In addition, those employees who work under supervisors that have formal leadership training also feel more engaged and connected to their work. According to Gallup, 59% of employees are more likely to be engaged when their supervisors also feel engaged.

The Partnership has numerous leadership development opportunities for employees of all experience levels and backgrounds. We help leaders adopt low- and no-cost solutions to enhance employee engagement, and we provide training programs tailored to the specific leadership needs of employees.

Best Places to Work in the Federal Government

First released in 2003, our annual Best Places to Work rankings are the most comprehensive analysis of employee engagement in the federal government.
The rankings and accompanying data give federal leaders a way to measure the morale and health of the federal workforce as a whole as well as at individual departments, agencies and their subcomponents.


Ten Years of the Best Places to Work Rankings

The Partnership and Deloitte examined the past decade of Best Places to Work rankings to profile six high-performing agencies. Learn from their experiences and get tips to increase employee satisfaction and commitment at your agency.

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2016 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government

Looking at Agencies by Mission

This report expands on the traditional Best Places to Work rankings by placing a select group of agencies into five mission areas: public health, law enforcement and border protection, national security, energy and environment, and infrastructure.

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2015 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government

Moving the Needle on Employee Engagement During the Presidential Transition

During a presidential transition, managers must find ways to creatively and proactively communicate with employees. Read the Partnership and Deloitte’s latest Best Places to Work analysis to learn more about the essentials of communicating with federal employees during a presidential transition.

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2015 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government

Connecting HR, IT and Contract Specialists to their Agency Missions

In this analysis, the Partnership and Deloitte identify three key factors that have the greatest influence on the HR, IT and contract specialist communities’ job satisfaction and commitment.

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2015 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government

Employee Job and Workplace Satisfaction in the Law Enforcement Community

How do employees in the law enforcement community view their jobs and work environments? What are the unique workplace issues facing this community? How can law enforcement leaders address these issues? This analysis identifies three top workplace challenges facing law enforcement and provides effective strategies that agencies are using to improve in these areas.

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“Report ranks best and worst agencies for federal employees”
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“Agencies with top engagement sit high, but agencies at the bottom sit very low”
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“Gaps in employee engagement found among agencies in law enforcement, other key policy areas”
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“New Best Places to Work report compares fed engagement by mission area”
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Public Law No. 112-141. MAP-21, Title I, Subtitle C, Sections 100121
“Phased Retirement”

The legislation allows federal employees to phase into retirement by working on a part-time basis, while receiving a partial annuity and additional credit toward their retirement. Such employees are required to mentor and share knowledge with younger employees.

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Public Law No. 112-73
The Civilian Service Recognition Act of 2011

Requires the head of an executive agency to provide a flag to the next of kin of a federal employee who dies as a result of injury incurred in the course of their service in the federal government.

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Public Law No. 111-292
Telework Enhancement Act of 2010

This legislation requires agencies to develop and promote an explicit telework policy. Managers and employees have to examine the feasibility of telework given their specific roles within the executive agency. In addition, periodic reports must be submitted to Congress outlining the degree of telework use, employee satisfaction with telework and other relevant information.

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Public Law No. 108-136, Title 11, Section 1128
National Defense Authorization Act, “Employee Surveys”

These provisions direct agencies to conduct annual surveys of their employees to assess leadership and management practices that contribute to agency performance. The survey also assesses employee satisfaction with agency leadership and work environment as well as opportunities for professional development and growth.

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