Washington, DC - Sept 2019: Jamie L. Whitten Federal Building. Many USDA employees have been given mandatory reassignments to other states. Image: Evgenia Parajanian/Shutterstock.com

Employee engagement—often used as a proxy term for morale—declined slightly overall and fell in more agencies than it rose in 2019 under the annual best places to work in government report.

The overall score fell by 0.5 points to 67.1 out of 100 and declined in 54.6 percent of the agencies and subcomponents measured, while rising in 45 percent with the rest remaining the same. That was modest, the Partnership for Public Service said, given that the year was “a tumultuous time for our nation’s public servants.”


It noted that as in the past, though, the overall engagement level is well below that of a comparable measure of private sector employers, where the average score is 77, more than 15 points higher than the government’s average. Only 11 agencies scored above the private sector average.

Some of the biggest decreases were at agencies undergoing reorganizations, including the Corporation for National and Community Service, down 27 points to 39.3, and the USDA’s Economic Research Service down 30.1 points to 36.5 and National Institute of Food and Agriculture, down 24.2 points to 20.3.

The Office of Personnel Management saw an increase of 1.9 points to 67.1. OPM ranked 12th among mid-sized agencies. OPM underwent a partial reorganization with the shift of its background investigations function to DoD and was threatened with a breakup of its remaining portions—an initiative since delayed and possibly now off the table.