How is engagement in government different?

Engagement in government jobs is particularly important because of the specific challenges leaders in this realm face. Leaders must be able to inspire their employees despite criticism, and without the typical financial incentives other companies are fortunate to be able to allocate.

An overwhelming majority (71%) of government workers are disengaged, while only 29% report being engaged. “Those who criticize government, and the people who work in government, have lost sight of the critically important work of the public sector," explains Robert Lavigna in his book Engaging Government Employees: Motivate and Inspire Your People to Achieve Superior Performance. "At the same time government is being castigated and hamstrung by budget cuts, the public continues to ask the public sector to solve some of the toughest and most intractable problems”.

Furthermore, states in the Northeast and Midwest have reported lower engagement levels than Southern states. For the fourth year in a row, NASA was the top rated large agency in employee engagement by the 2015 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, and best agency to work for by the Partnership for Public Service. The Homeland Security Department ranked last among large agencies, and its overall engagement scores fell for the sixth year in a row.

The clear difference between these two organizations is the employee engagement program they are running. NASA currently utilizes employee viewpoint surveys, the NASA workforce is also allowed to vote on which questions they would like to see included. “The truth of the matter is that you ask someone’s opinion about what could be improved in their agency, and if they don’t see anything done with that opinion for six months or seven months or eight months, that’s a real problem,” Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service said. “The only way the agencies can actually do anything with this is if the information is turned around a lot of faster”. If other government agencies want to improve their employee engagement, they need to look no further than NASA.

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