Published Online: November 26, 2003
Published in Print: November 26, 2003, as Federal File


Federal File

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Needs Improvement

A recent report, "Best Places to Work in the Federal Government," has some bad news for the Department of Education.

Apparently, it isn't one of them. Not by a long shot.

The study ranked the Education Department 26th out of 28 departments and agencies assessed. The Nov. 12 report comes from the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, in collaboration with American University's Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation.

"The first point to make is that these are relative rankings," said Max Stier, the president of the Washington-based partnership. "To say that the Education Department comes in 26th doesn't mean it's not a good place to work."

What it does suggest is that its employees "are, by and large, less satisfied" than those in other agencies, he said.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration ranked first; the Federal Emergency Management Agency was last.

The study relied upon a statistical model that used responses from more than 100,000 federal employees to questions about job satisfaction and related issues. Those data come from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's 2002 Federal Human Capital Survey.

Mr. Stier said the overall job-satisfaction ranking tells only part of the story. The report also looked at 10 specific work-environment issues.

The Education Department was fourth in "having a family-friendly culture and benefits," and sixth on "pay and benefits." The study said the department has the second most ethnically and racially diverse workforce, but it was rated 26th in employees' perceptions of "support for diversity."

Education Department spokesman Daniel Langan said agency leaders are changing the department's culture. "It's not surprising to ... to hear about some discomfort within the department, as everyone is asked to think differently about what they do, how they do it, and how better to serve the people of this great nation," he said.

The department is proud of its high ranking for family-friendly culture, he added.

But Mr. Stier said the "most important drivers" of employee satisfaction are effective leadership, fully utilizing the skills of employees, and teamwork. The Education Department ranked near the bottom on those measures.

—Erik W. Robelen

Vol. 23, Issue 13, Page 16

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