Best Places to Work Rankings- 2017- FS and BLM and NPS

Every year is an opportunity to point out different things about the “Best Places to Work” effort for government agencies. This year it’s kind of handy because they have published the ranks and changes since 2003 and across categories. Remember they are ranks, not absolute values, so other agencies going down can have just as much influence as the agencies we’re interested in going up.
Here’s the Forest Service:

Forest Service

Questions: (1) Do these differences actually mean anything (e.g. for 2007 66.4 was above median and in 2016 66.6 was below the median)?. It might be more useful to see the actual scores if the same questions were being asked through time.
Here are some other graphs
(2) it looks like scores have been climbing since 2013 based on the index score trend graph. What happened in 2013? Does it mean anything?
(3) They also have a graph of workforce size, which appears to have taken a big hit between 2010 and 2011 (4K ish employees). Is that real?

For comparison, here is BLM. The two agencies appear to have identical rank and index in 2017 (252 and 60.1). FS went up 2.5 and BLM 4.3.

BLM #252 Index 60.1

Here is the National Park Service:

National Park Service #285 score 57

I don’t know who exactly qualifies as senior leadership in the survey, but all three agencies were extremely close in their rankings on this. It also looks like.
It looks like all three agencies had a downward trend in total ranks starting in 2012. Their workforces also took a relatively big hit between 2010 and 2011. Are these perhaps related?

Perhaps others have more ideas and information on these observations.

4 thoughts on “Best Places to Work Rankings- 2017- FS and BLM and NPS”

  1. As far as as I can tell there is no meaningful difference over the 14 years; and with less than 10% turnover, it suggests to me that employees have settled in and are hanging on – quite likely realizing they’ve got a hell of a good deal going. It also suggests that the high profile media coverage about about discrimination and sexism are not generated from within the agencies.

  2. I have always found it interesting that when “management” talks about the results of this survey (at least in the Forest Service) that they only talk about the opposite of what is shown – for example, if 79% of employees thought that “teamwork” was poor, the FS would say that “21% of employees think we have good teamwork” as though that was a good thing.
    Does anyone know of any instances where these surveys have been used to actually do something to improve the ratings?

    • Before I retired, something (perhaps these surveys?) triggered Region 2 to do a “drill down” kind of employee survey (what’s really going on and what are people’s ideas for how it can be fixed?). There were very interesting results along with action items. For some reason I can’t find them in my files nor on the web, but especially the narratives were full of content. One of the challenges is designing surveys so that they provide useful information to people who want to fix things. That’s why I was so disappointed in the OIG harassment survey.
      That’s one of the many values of having an in-house social scientist- in order to be able to design and analyze meaningful surveys.
      I do still have the results of one employee survey from a Forest Review from 2007, and of all the forest reviews we did at that time, the concerns were fairly similar. (I think there’s an official name for these forest reviews but I have forgotten it).

      Major Themes from Employee Surveys- Forest X, Region 2, 2007

       Frustration and stress cause by heavy, complex workload.
       Too many priorities and initiatives; targets too high.
       Overworked ID teams – too many projects, too few specialists.
       Burden shift – everyone must be an expert in travel, HR, computers, budget, etc.
       Mandatory training takes too much time.
       Need more LEOs to enforce travel management, etc.
       Failure to meet planning deadlines.

      Working on the Right Things
       Too much time spent on planning vs. implementation, monitoring, on-the-ground work.
       Three themes are too vague, hard to measure
       Need to focus on travel management
       Pay more attention to recreation – increasing demand!
       Roads and trails are deteriorating
       Too much attention to public/interest group/political demands vs. needs on the ground.
       Good work in partnerships and volunteers.

       Leaders need to say no more often to members of the public seeking permits, land exchanges, etc.
       Leaders need to set firm, clear priorities and say no to other expectations.
       Leaders need to communicate more, be more open about decisions.
       Leaders don’t deal with performance issues. Need to hold people accountable.
       Leaders need to recognize and reward good work.

      Workforce Planning
       Cuts in workforce resulted in huge workloads.
       Employees feel their work isn’t respected.
       Employees stressed about coworkers losing their jobs. Morale is low.
       Were the right cuts made?
       Leadership didn’t communicate well about workforce planning, withheld information.
       Impact on effectiveness (fire suppression, fuels, etc.).
       Wellness program reduced, but did it save money?

      • Looks like some themes/concerns that have been around for a long time and are probably still around. I think now there is some concern that the focus is on the two “flagship” targets and some folks are feeling left out, and the agency is not doing the best job of explaining how those flagship targets address a lot of restoration and land management objectives that relate to all resource areas, not just fire and timber.


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