While an employee survey has very slightly given the National Park Service a higher score in the annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government review, the agency is mired in the bottom 25 percent of the more than 300 agencies polled and is dead last among the 12 bureaus within the Interior Department.
The 2016 survey, conducted annually since 2003, gave the Park Service negative marks for effective senior leadership, pay, and work-life balance. The biggest improvement from the 2015 review results came in how employees viewed the fairness with which their leaders resolved disputes.
Out of 305 federal agencies surveyed, the Park Service ranked 262nd.
Notable in the survey is that women gave a more favorable score for their workplace than men, placing the Park Service 197th out of 285 agenices, while rankings by men placed the agency 269th out of 294 agenices. That's an interesting finding in light of the harassment issues the National Park Service has dealt with this year.
Also notable in the 2016 survey is that the Park Service's overall full-time workforce is the lowest it has been this century, at 12,440 employees in 2015. That compares to a high of 16,404 in 2002. Just 3 percent of the workforce has three years of service or less, a possible indication of the agency's ability to recruit and retain employees.
During that period of declining full-time employees, park visitation has grown from 266 million in 2003 to more than 307 million in 2015. What remains to be seen is whether the incoming Trump administration carries through on the president-elect's call for a hiring freeze, and how that affects Park Service employee levels and job satisfaction.
National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, whose eight-year tenure as director largely has been marked by troubling survey results, did not respond to a request Friday to discuss the findings.
During his tenure, in almost every category measured -- Effective Leadership, Employee Skills-Mission Match, Pay, Strategic Management, Teamwork, Innovation, Training and Development, Work-Life Balance, Support For Diversity, and Performance-based Rewards and Advancement -- the Park Service trailed all other Interior Department bureaus. The one exception was in Employee Skills-Mission Match, where the Park Service scored slightly above the bureau average in 2010, 2011, and 2012.
As for the Interior Department as a whole, it ranked 11th among 18 "large agencies," and also had a slight uptick in its overall ranking for 2016.