As an agency, the National Park Service is moving in the wrong direction in the annual Best Places To Work directory of federal agencies.
While the Park Service stood 139th among federal agencies in the 2010 rankings, the latest accounting shows the agency has slipped to 163rd out of 240 agencies.
When he was appointed director of the agency in 2009, among the pledges Jon Jarvis made was a commitment to improve the day-to-day life of Park Service employees.
"To help you succeed, we will provide the funding, training, succession planning, recognition, facilities, and policies you need to get your work done," he said at the time.
But the agency, struggling with funding in a sour economy, ranks poorly in its employees' view of pay, training, teamwork, work/life balance, diversity, and other areas, according to the latest rankings produced by the Partnership for Public Service, which relies on data from the Office of Personnel Management's Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey to rank agencies and their subcomponents.
In the category of work/life balance, the Park Service ranked 221 out of 229 agencies; under teamwork, it ranked 217 out of 229; under strategic management, it stood 212 out of 229; in terms of training and development, it stood 210 out of 229; in the category of support for diversity, it ranked 214 out of 229; in the category of effective leadership--supervisors, the agency stood 204th; in effective leadership--leaders it did a bit better, ranking 190th.
The Park Service did score relatively high when it comes to matching employees to their missions, as the agency stood 77th out of 229 agencies.
In comparison to some other agencies, the Park Service ranked better, overall, than the U.S. Forest Service, but more poorly than the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Director Jarvis did not immediately respond to a request for his views on the latest rankings. However, the agency's program manager for workplace enrichment, Kate Richardson, attributed some of the agency's poor showing to the government's struggling fiscal standing.
"Uncertainty over jobs, operations, pay and benefits have made 2011 an especially difficult year and 2012 doesn’t appear that it will be any better," she said in a release. "However, 93 percent of NPS respondents believe the work they do is important and 99 percent are willing to put in extra effort to get a job done. On the flip side, only 42 percent are satisfied with the training they’ve received for their present job – a 5 percent drop from last year."
Here's how Ms. Richardson summed up the 2011 rankings:
* The NPS ranks 163 out of 224 agencies, a 4.3% decrease from 2010;
* For context, there was a governmentwide decline of 1.5% and DOI decline of 3.7%
* OPM survey administered to a random sample of employees from all federal agencies and should be viewed as interim assessment for the all employee survey in Spring 2012
* NPS has taken specific actions to address employee concerns since 2008 but trend is still declining
* Targeted action by NPS leadership can have a significant impact on improving the NPS ranking:
-- A 5 point increase would rank NPS in the top 100 federal agencies
-- A 10 point increase would rank NPS in the top 30 federal agencies
-- A 16 point increase would rank NPS in the top ten federal agencies
-- Actions need to occur in high impact areas as identified in the survey, primarily in the leadership subcomponent.
Looking at historically low scores and recent declines, the following specific actions are recommended for fostering change:
* NPS strengths in support of the mission should be sustained and leveraged.
* Senior leadership should fully engage and champion employee engagement:
-- Strengthen internal communication, personally engage in employee feedback activities, and initiate priority actions.
-- Establish performance measures around employee engagement and hold leaders, supervisors, and managers accountable to them.
* Supervisors and managers should be held accountable for effective leadership attributes and actions:
-- Require individual development plans (IDPs) for every employee.
-- Ensure supervisors are receiving both mandatory training and continuing education.
-- Ensure regular and meaningful performance discussions. Utilize the performance and development discussion guide.
-- Improve recognition practices as identified in the award and recognition guidelines.
* Training offices and supervisors should work closely to ensure a full complement of development and training is available to employees:
-- Require first 40 supervisory training within first quarter of new supervisor's tenure.
-- Ensure that employee IDPs are used as a developmental tool, and as a means for establishing regular, ongoing dialogue about employee and organizational needs.
* NPS inclusion and diversity workforce strategy needs to be committed to and fully implemented:
-- Cultural assessment gets high visibility and support as baseline for cultural change
-- Cultural competencies training is deployed Servicewide.