If there were ever a time for the federal government to recognize the value of new approaches and ideas, this would be it.
But at most major federal agencies, fewer than half of employees believe that’s actually happening, according to a survey analysis released today by the Partnership for Public Service.
The two exceptions were NASA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, where more than 60 percent of respondents agreed that “creativity and innovation are rewarded.” At the three military services and 23 agencies, however, the comparable ratios were below 50 percent and at a couple—including the Transportation Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—they were below one-third.
At the bottom was the Securities and Exchange Commission, where just 28.4 percent of responding employees saw such incentives for innovation.
That’s the same SEC that’s picking up a slew of new responsibilities under the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul signed last year. In an email, spokesman John Nester touted the fact that–in response to another survey question–nearly 9 in 10 SEC staffers said they were “constantly looking for ways to do their jobs better.” The agency is “looking for ways to better encourage and reward them for that,” Nester added.
The analysis draws on data from last year’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, which attracted responses from more than 250,000 full-time permanent feds. At every agency covered, overwhelming majorities of respondents said they were “constantly” looking for ways to do their jobs better. At most, more than half said that they felt encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things.
“We have a work force that is individually motivated to try new things to succeed and they’re not receiving either leadership or organizational support in trying to be creative and innovative,” Partnership President Max Stier said in a phone interview. “That’s a problem.”
The analysis singles out a half-dozen conditions–such as involving employees in decisions that affect their work–that help drive innovation. And probably managers at just about every federal agency would claim that they’re all for getting away from business as usual. So is there a disconnect between lip service and reality? What do you think?