The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) is an independent agency responsible for regulating ocean-borne transportation in the foreign commerce of the United States. It is also the most-improved small agency in the 2009 rankings. The FMC’s dramatic improvement of 28 percent moved it from 23rd in 2007 to 6th in the 2009 rankings.
FMC’s substantial improvement is the result of a concerted effort to improve employee satisfaction that centered on employee engagement and work-life balance and was incorporated into a comprehensive human capital plan. This strategy was based, in part, on an ad hoc working group tasked with identifying quality of work-life issues – and then figuring out ways to address them.
An important step to improve communication was opening meetings of the full Commission and encouraging employees to attend. Now, FMC staff members have a much better understanding of the basis for management decisions. The Commission also sought to better educate staff regarding issues faced by the industry by inviting representatives from the maritime industry to speak directly with staff.
The Commission also moved aggressively to expand flexible work schedules, including telework and flextime, marking a profound change for the FMC culture. The Commission pilot tested a 10-hour workday and then surveyed employees on its impact before instituting this policy organization-wide. In this way, the Commission carefully evaluated impacts and was able to minimize resistance, including from supervisors, which has often been a barrier to larger-scale adoption of alternative work schedules.
Other specific FMC actions to improve employee satisfaction included initiating an emerging leaders program, expanding training and emphasizing online training to stretch already tight budgets, creating career coaching and mentoring programs, and developing a program to provide “spot” staff to units facing temporary work overloads.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the second-ranked large agency in 2009, is an independent agency in the legislative branch with a workforce of roughly 3,100 employees and a budget of $531 million. Often referred to as “the investigative arm of Congress,” GAO staff members examine how taxpayer dollars are spent, evaluate the effectiveness of federal programs and advise the Congress and agencies on how to make government work better. In fiscal 2008, GAO delivered measurable financial benefits of more than $58 billion –an all-time high that represents a $114 return on every dollar American taxpayers invested in GAO.
GAO maintained its high ranking in 2009 by continuing to “involve and engage” its employees and focus on work/life balance thorough liberal use of practices such as flexible work schedules and telecommuting. Employees also continue to have input into decisionmaking through periodic electronic surveys, active involvement of employee groups and managers who meet regularly with senior leaders.
While retaining its second place ranking in 2009, GAO actually improved its Best Places to Work score since 2007 despite facing big changes. One such issue was creating a positive relationship with GAO’s first-ever employee union, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Employees, which represents about 1,800 professional employees.
GAO worked hard to create the basis for a strong labor-management partnership. For example, the agency’s executive committee, which includes the Comptroller General, meets quarterly with union leaders. GAO also formed a diversity committee, which includes representatives from the employee advisory council, the union, nonunion members and representatives of liaison groups such as Blacks in Government.
GAO is also working on 40 management improvement projects that are engaging employees at all levels. The projects focus on critical employee issues including recognizing and valuing diversity, reassessing the organization’s performance appraisal system, managing an increasing workload, streamlining processes, developing staff, and strengthening recruiting and retention.
The number one ranked Best Places to Work large agency for two consecutive years, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) protects the health and safety of people, the environment and the nation by regulating the civilian use of nuclear power and nuclear materials. The Commission licenses and inspects nuclear facilities and the use of nuclear materials, and enforces compliance with standards and requirements.
For the first time in more than a decade, new nuclear power plants are being planned, and NRC is expanding its 3,200 person workforce. Roughly 400 new employees were brought on board in 2006, another 440 in 2007 and more than 500 in 2008. Half of its staff has been at NRC less than six years.
Despite a growing workload, NRC is committed to maintaining an employee-friendly workplace, and it ranks number one among large agencies on “work/life balance.” This has allowed the Commission to retain skilled employees who might otherwise have left. In short, a vital mission, increased visibility, a highly professional and growing workforce, good internal communications and a focus on employees, as well as mission, all converge to make NRC the top-ranked large agency in 2009.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the federal government’s central human capital office, has 5,700 employees and an annual budget of $230 million. The mission of OPM is to build a high-quality and diverse federal workforce based on merit system principles.
As the Best Places to Work rankings have consistently shown, leadership is the top driver of employee satisfaction. OPM, the second most improved large agency in 2009, applied this principle to improve its score by more than 14 percent since 2007.
A key to OPM’s improvement was the adoption of specific action plans to address the issues that the 2006 Federal Human Capital Survey and the 2007 Best Places to Work rankings surfaced. In addition to an enterprise-wide strategic action plan, each unit developed its own plan that reinforced the OPM-wide plan. The plans were not just put on the shelf. Each month, the units provided progress updates.
An important focus of the plans was improving communication across OPM, including the Federal Investigative Service (FIS), an operation that OPM took over from the Defense Department in 2006. This was accomplished through the periodic progress updates, a monthly employee newsletter and other outreach efforts. In 2009, the FIS subcomponent alone increased its score by almost 31 percent since 2007.
OPM has also focused on developing the competencies of its supervisors to improve their performance and also build employee trust. Supervisory training now focuses on targeted competencies linked to the results of the FHCS and supervisors’ forums now bring together leaders from across OPM to discuss common challenges. Performance management training has also been expanded, to improve communication with employees about performance expectations.
All of these efforts have spurred OPM’s significant improvement and have demonstrated what organizational commitment to change can accomplish.
While the Overseas Private Investment Corporation’s (OPIC) workforce is small in size with less than 200 employees, the impact of its work has touched millions of people around the world. Established as an independent agency in 1971, OPIC mobilizes U.S. capital in less developed countries overseas by providing political risk insurance, finance and investment fund support to U.S. investors.
OPIC’s work culture is grounded in its mission. OPIC helps to bring economic opportunities and a better quality of life to populations in the least developed areas of the world that lack access to health care, education and other basic necessities. The results of recent surveys reflect that OPIC employees like their work, believe their work is important, and have a feeling of personal accomplishment. However, a great mission alone does not create a “Best Place to Work.” OPIC’s success is also based on three important ingredients: a viable and progressive operating plan, an organization to support the plan and, most important, the people to make it happen.
Professional occupations represent 70 percent of OPIC’s total workforce, with the majority of employees possessing graduate degrees. OPIC’s noteworthy human capital accomplishments include a robust student intern program offering challenging assignments to more than 100 college students each year, an active telework program in which 60 percent of the workforce participates, recruitment in major occupational areas at the entry level that provides employees with promotion potential, and a strong incentive awards program.
OPIC has also focused on investments in technology over the last several years to improve the experience of working in and with the agency.
OPIC’s vital mission, highly professional and diverse workforce, and focus on employees and technology make OPIC a top-ranked small agency in the federal government.
To be one of the approximately 100,000 dedicated civilian and military professionals in the U.S. Intelligence Community, one must be able to know, understand, and, wherever possible, anticipate threats that range from conventional military action and terrorism to cyber attacks on our critical information infrastructure. In this regard, the IC must attract, engage and unify a workforce whose job it is to “know everything about everything,” from the most esoteric of technologies and languages to the psychologies and behaviors of foreign leaders and non-state actors. Being a “Best Place to Work” is almost a necessity in order to attract and retain highly capable individuals in this demanding environment. So how do they do it?
Formally established by the 1947 National Security Act, the IC comprises seventeen executive branch agencies and elements, most of which are part of six separate cabinet departments. These include the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, and the intelligence units in the Departments of State, Treasury, Energy, Homeland Security and of each branch of the US military, as well as units in the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
To help bind together this seemingly disparate group of organizations, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence was established in 2004 to help ensure these agencies and elements are integrated and are providing accurate and timely intelligence on challenges and threats to our national security for the President, the National Security Council, senior policy makers, warfighters, diplomats, law enforcement and homeland security officials.
To achieve this goal, the Director of National Intelligence developed a five-year strategic human capital plan for the IC that is designed to build a more agile and integrated “all source” workforce, win the war for talent and develop leaders at all levels of the institution. That plan has led to a number of groundbreaking initiatives, including a revolutionary civilian “joint duty” program that requires one or more interagency assignments as a prerequisite to senior executive rank, an IC-wide performance management system that reinforces and rewards collaboration and information sharing, critical thinking, and personal accountability, and an aggressive effort to recruit first- and second-generation Americans from our nation’s diverse ethnic heritage communities.
Today’s IC is comprised of individuals who serve across the United States and around the world, often in harm’s way. Yet they are bound together by their common mission and core values, including service to country.