National Park Service Still Lags In "Best Places To Work" Survey Of Federal Agencies

National Park Service employees continue to give lukewarm marks for the agency when it comes to job satisfaction, according to this year's Best Places To Work in the Federal Government survey.

Overall, the agency's cumulative score of 61.3 placed the Park Service 166th out of 292 agencies surveyed for the 2012 report. That represented a drop of three slots from the agency's standing in the 2011 survey, but the latest survey included 50 more agencies than were surveyed in past years.

The annual survey (attached below), which was launched in 2003, is produced by the Partnership for Public Service. It relies on data from the Office of Personnel Management's Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey to rank agencies and their subcomponents.

Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, who placed a high priority on improving the "workplace" in 2009 when he was promoted to director, could not immediately be reached to discuss the latest survey results.

Among the areas slipping (most just slightly) from 2011 to 2012 in the opinion of the Park Service's workforce were effective leadership, which was pulled down when employees were asked to rank their immediate supervisors; pay; training and development; support for diversity, and; performance-based rewards and advancement opportunities.

Areas that improved, again, just slightly, were effective leadership in terms of empowerment, fairness, and senior leaders, and strategic management.

To be fair, recent years have been tough on federal employees in most agencies, according to those who compiled the information.

The 2012 results tell a troubling story about a workforce whose satisfaction and commitment levels have dropped to the lowest point since 2003, when the rankings first launched. The government-wide index score fell 5 percent, from 64 out of 100 in 2011 to 60.8 this year. The 3.2-point drop is the largest change in the history of the rankings. Meanwhile, employee satisfaction in the private sector remained constant, with a score of 70.0 according to Hay Group.

Government-wide, the new rankings show a decline in not just in the overall employee satisfaction, but also in all of the other 10 workplace categories that the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte examined. The most significant drop between 2011 and 2012 was in satisfaction with pay, which fell 4.1 points between 2011 and 2012 (and another 3.9 points between 2010 and 2011). The next highest drop in satisfaction was with rewards and advancement, which fell 2.5 points.

The declining job satisfaction levels across the federal government come during turbulent times, with employees buffeted by many uncertainties and feeling the effects of a two-and-a-half year pay freeze that runs until the early part of 2013, hiring slowdowns, buyouts, increased retirements and budget constraints.

The Park Service also was provided this year with employee satisfaction results for each of its seven regions, though that information was not immediately available to the public.

Looking at how the Park Service compared to other federal agencies in specific areas paints a gloomy picture for life with the agency.

The results show the agency's employees struggle to find a balance between work and personal life (the Park Service ranked 280 out of 290 agencies surveyed in this category), and don't view the Park Service's approach to strategic management highly (258 out of 290), and don't hold their immediate supervisors or senior leaders in high esteem (235 out of 290 for both) when compared with other agency scores.

The survey also placed the agency low compared to other federal agencies in teamwork (265 out of 290), training and development (254 out of 290), support for diversity (238 out of 290), and "alternative work and employee support programs" (59 out of 67 agencies), a category that reflects workplace flexibility (ie, telecommuting) and programs that help employees with "child and elder care subsidies and wellness programs."

Compared to other Interior Department agencies, the Park Service trailed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (48 out of 292), the U.S. Geological Survey (67), and the Bureau of Land Management (159) in overall employee satisfaction, was tied with the Bureau of Reclamation (also 166), and ahead of the Interior secretary's office (183), Office of Surface Mining (214), and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (260).

The Park Service's high-water mark, so to speak, in the survey came the first year, 2003, when the agency's cumulative score stood at 64.1. It dipped to 58.2 in 2007 before climbing as high as 63.7 in 2011 and 2012 before tailing off last year.

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Comments

I agree with most of the points on the survey with the notable exception of the teamwork section. The rangers I have the honor of working with hold each other in high regard and work together well. I hope this is not different in other parks across the country.

I believe that the NPS has results for each individual park unit who's number of responses was above a certain threshold. These results need to be made public, to aid prospective employees when they are deciding where to apply or accept a job, to identify specific factors that may be affecting morale, and to evaluate managers and hold them accountable. I suspect that the overall numbers hide substantial variations between parks, and I hope that the individual results are not swept under the rug to avoid embarrassment to particular superintendents.