WASHINGTON – June Huber is aware that people do not dream of working in the General Services Administration. And it does not pay much.
But it’s her job as deputy chief people officer in GSA to attract good employees and to keep them satisfied.
“Our responsibilities are a lot less sexy (than NASA’s). We don’t put people in space, we do things to support the federal government . . . so we try harder,” Huber said.
That effort has apparently paid off — GSA was ranked one of the best workplaces in the federal government Thursday, just behind the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The 2003 study, by the Partnership for Public Service and the Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation, has ranked agencies before, but this is the first year it has included rankings by women, minorities and younger workers.
NASA was considered the best place to work by all three groups. GSA was ranked second-best by women and was among the top five for minorities and young workers.
Other leading agencies included the National Science Foundation, ranked second-best by people under 40; the Environmental Protection Agency, picked fifth by all three demographic groups; and the Social Security Administration, considered second-best for minorities.
Robert M. Tobias, director of the public policy institute, said the ranking is useful for college students thinking about public-sector jobs and for managers in the 28 agencies included in the study.
Vicki Novak, NASA’s associate administrator for human resources, said her agency has always tried to create a good working environment, but said that its mission — space exploration — helps keep employees motivated.
The situation is different at GSA, where Huber said the mission includes making sure staplers are on federal workers’ desks and other tasks. To keep its employees satisfied, the agency offers incentives like family-friendly schedules and letting new workers try different departments before settling on one.
In overall rankings — which included responses from all workers, not just the targeted demographic groups — the lowest-ranking agencies were the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the departments of Defense and Education, among others. But Partnership for Public Service Vice President Kevin Simpson said that agencies that were not in the top ranks are not necessarily agencies where workers are dissatisfied.
Overall, the study found that women, workers under 40, bosses, non-minorities and employees located in agency headquarters were generally more satisfied than their counterparts.
When seen from the demographic perspective, however, some agencies ranked differently.
The Office of Management and Budget, for example, scored better with men than women. In the Department of State, people over 40 were happier than younger workers, while minority employees were happier in the Housing and Urban Development Department and the Social Security Administration than non-minorities.
While headquarters workers are generally more satisfied, it was field-office employees who were happier in the Small Business Administration and the Agency for International Development.
In all the agencies studied, bosses seemed to be happier than front-line people.
Novak said a possible reason that women were more satisfied is because options for child care and work flexibility are more important to them.
Simpson attributed the happy younger workers to a generational change in the federal government — as many employees retire, it is opening doors for younger people.
He said that contrary to traditional beliefs, the study showed that workers defined their satisfaction based not on salary, but on three factors: Teamwork, how their skills match the mission of the organization and how good their boss is.
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