Best Places to Work Report 2012

Here’s a link.

So a cursory analysis (more holiday chores call today) suggests that once again, the further you get from the direct supervisor (65% )to “senior leadership” (37%) the less people felt good about their leadership. We had the same kind of thing in our Region’s morale survey before I retired.

But here’s the thing; most people on the ground and many people higher don’t know for sure whether irritating programs and policies come from the “Forest Service leadership” or the Department. I always wanted to follow this survey up with more interviews in depth about what folks wanted leadership to do that they weren’t doing or, more likely, what they want leadership to not do that they are doing, and to parse that out.

‘Cause it could be that, say in some of the more draconian diversity efforts, the Department is chewing on FS leadership about not doing enough, and the folks on the districts think that the FS leadership dreamed up some of the more Dilbertian policies. So it’s easy to say that “leadership should” and much harder to figure out exactly how that would work. I gotta say that I feel a great deal of sympathy for these folks who can be between a rock and a hard place.

In our region’s surveys we also had narratives which I found to be much more illuminating than numbers, at least in terms of what kinds of things might make a difference. You have to listen with the “ears of your heart,” as Benedict of Nursia would say, and you can’t “listen” to percentages. Based on his Rule, I bet he knew a great deal about management and leadership. I bet there is a management book out there somewhere based on his teachings.. anyway, I digress.

I always like to compare the FS to BLM which has the same kind of mission, in the same kinds of places, with many of the same kinds of people.

You can always break it down by demographics as well.

But here’s my check on what I would call “related” agencies:

FS 53.4 down 4.7 (this “down” seems to be of concern in such a large agency)
Rural Development (USDA) 56.5
Farm Services Agency (USDA) 59.5
Solicitor’s Office (INT) 60.4
OGC (USDA) 60.4
Reclamation (INT) 61.3
National Park Service (INT) 61.3
BLM (INT) 61.8

Now, you could analyze to see if, as there appears to be, based on this 10 minute analysis, there is a “USDA” effect. Also, we know many folks who work with both agencies on Service-First and do some interviews. Anyway, that’s what I would do. I would also examine small versus large agencies, as sometimes that might make a difference. So I would take agencies of comparable size and missions and compare across Departments. The problem with this approach is that there is only one large one in USDA. So it seems like the Forest Service is hopelessly confounded with USDA in this kind of analysis.

The Forest Service has a cadre of bright and talented social scientists.. it would be interesting to set some of them to analyze these data in detail (publishing their findings on the internet with opportunities for discussion, including follow-up interviews). Seems like this has been going on long enough that understanding more would be good.

Anyway, what is y’all’s take on these numbers?
Anyway, what do you all see in these figures?

9 thoughts on “Best Places to Work Report 2012”

  1. Just in my little corner of the world …
    Our supervisors have little discernable training for handling employees, lack overall experience in the career field, employ few management tools, offer little in the way of consistent procedures and could easily be defined as self-serving hypocrites.
    Travel budgets are spent on leadership trips with questionable results.
    Age discrimination is the norm.
    Hiring is based on fulfilling a Cultural Transformation edict from a Department trying to undo decades of neglect towards minorities; never mind finding the best person for the position.
    Every six months a new Departmental campaign to “improve” our work environment is staged only to wither because of employee cynicism.
    IT efforts are a disaster as new “security” walls that ultimately reduce productivity are added to our computers. Calls for repairs and assistance may go 2 weeks without being answered. And the same software problems reappear.
    I’m just surprised that we didn’t finish lower in the survey.

    • I don’t actually know if they were surveyed. Of course, their opinions do matter to the FS and I think are included in the regular kinds of morale surveys, not sure though.

        • In our region, when I worked there, we had a regional morale survey. The metrics were not as interesting to me as the narratives. Yes, every unit got to see the results in terms of narratives written by unidentified people whose privacy was kept by a contractor. There was a lot of meat in those narratives that could have been explored further. We could have gone deeper and understood more. We had plans to do that, don’t know what happened except our RF left and perhaps everything lost momentum under a year or so sequence of actings? Actually, I think we did it a couple of years in a row under the RF who left, and instituted some actions in response. One was hiring more administrative folks (the details of which were controversial) and more supervisory training. I think there were others but I can’t remember. If anyone remembers more, please email me.

          My understanding was that other regions do the same thing; I think we used one of their surveys as a model.

  2. A letter to all FS employees from Tom Tidwell 12/13/2012:

    Good Afternoon,

    Today the Partnership for Public Service released results from the 2012 Government-wide Employee Viewpoint Survey, which determines agency rankings for the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government.

    Please accept my thanks for taking time to respond to this survey. I appreciate your candid feedback and the significant increase in Forest Service participation this year. I am also grateful for the local, regional and station efforts to improve our work environment throughout the organization. My vision is for our agency to become a national model where all employees thrive – a workplace of choice.

    The survey confirmed some good things that we already knew about our agency. Forest Service employees like our work, and we know it’s important. Employees expressed satisfaction with work-life balance programs. We also know that our units produce high-quality work and that we are held accountable for achieving results.

    The survey also revealed some areas that need more attention within the agency. I share your concerns and we are already taking steps to improve in those areas, particularly our management and leadership engagement. We are also taking steps to improve the way we value the unique contributions of all employees in a respectful and meaningful way. This emphasis on inclusivity will nurture our workplace and help our employees be their best.

    One topic that generates considerable concern among employees is our travel budget. While we are mindful of the President’s call for all agencies to reduce travel, agency leadership has been able to secure adjustments to increase portions of our travel allocation, to protect our field-based, mission-critical travel from further reduction. This is an example of leadership response to employee concerns, which should increase our capability to carry out our most important work.

    I never forget that it is because of you that the Forest Service provides such a tremendous value for the American people. Working together, we will continue to grow as an agency and ensure the most rewarding Forest Service career experience.

    Results from the survey can be viewed here:

    • Employees expressed satisfaction with work-life balance programs? Then why does the survey place us 277 out of 290 in that category?

    • I know this non-response was infuriating/depressing. To me, it validated my feelings that our leadership at the higher levels are completely focused on pleasing their masters instead of dealing with issues in the FS organization.


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