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OPM viewpoint survey: Leadership shapes best agencies for workers

The nonpartisan, nonprofit Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte has released its 2017 annual ranking of the "Best Places to Work in the Federal Government." The rankings are based largely on the findings of the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey performed by the Office of Personnel Management.

"Since the first rankings were released in 2003, they have provided a mechanism to hold agency leaders accountable for the health of their organizations; serve as an early warning sign for agencies in trouble; and offer a roadmap for improvement," reads the report.

The rankings are divided by large, midsize and small agencies and agency subcomponents, and we recommend checking your agency's results -- and you can compare up to five agencies. One note: the Partnership is still evaluating some late data on 21 small agencies and 165 agency subcomponents, but their analysis should appear sometime in January.

2017's top performers were:

  • Large agency: NASA
  • Midsize agency: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  • Small agency: Overseas Private Investment Corporation
  • Agency subcomponent: Office of Inspector General, Tennessee Valley Authority

What factors made these agencies the best federal workplaces?

According to an analysis by the Partnership, effective leadership is the most important factor. The Partnership defines this as "employee views on supervisors, fairness, empowerment and senior leaders."

"It is really important and critical that leaders listen," said the Partnership's vice president for research and evaluation. Indeed, she said, improvements in an agency's rankings are often "directly related to leaders paying attention."

The second most important factor is a skills-mission match between the agency and its employees, although that alone isn't enough to perform well on the survey. For example, the Partnership noted that U.S. Army's Cyber Command scored very well for skills-mission match but still came in 147th of 150 agency subcomponents. The problem? It came in dead last for effective leadership.

Fair resolution of employee disputes requires effective leadership

On a day-to-day basis, employees may care more about the agency's direction, their confidence and competency, and the rewards of their position. That's natural enough, but a key component of a positive workplace is the fair and appropriate resolution of employee disputes.

When employees find themselves facing discipline or termination, it's critical for them to know they will be treated fairly. Effective leadership that makes clear that employees' rights are valued, and which prohibits retaliation, can go a long way toward improving an employee's overall experience at work.

If you have been notified that you may be subject to discipline, don't try to go it alone. Protect your rights by hiring an attorney familiar with federal employment law.

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