Federal Employee Survey Finds Low Trust in Leadership, High Level of Pride in Public Service

Findings Suggest Strengthening Organizational Culture in Federal Agencies Could Foster Improved Employee Engagement, Retention

Arlington, Va., December 12, 2019 – At a time when government agencies face immense pressure to attract and retain employees in a tight labor market, a new survey of federal employees finds that less than half (49 percent) of employees would stay in their job if offered a similar position elsewhere. The survey also indicates that only 38 percent of federal employees say they trust their organization’s executive leadership. Yet, most federal employees (72 percent) say they are proud to work at their organization.

These findings are contained in a new research report from Eagle Hill Consulting, Mismatched Priorities, Unmet Expectations: The State of Organizational Culture in Federal Government, available here.

The survey also finds that most respondents say their agency has core values – the foundation of organizational culture – but only about half (55 percent) say their organization’s policies align to its core values. Also, the vast majority of federal employees surveyed (86 percent) agree that culture directly impacts an organization’s success, while most say culture drives their productivity (79 percent) and ability to serve customers (76 percent).

“More and more, government leaders are using culture as a lever to achieve their agency’s mission,” said Melissa Jezior, CEO of Eagle Hill Consulting. “But it’s equally important to understand that a strong culture can have a magnetic effect for attracting and keeping employees, especially federal employees who have a strong attraction to public service.”

“Culture is how work gets done, and the research shows that employees instinctively know that culture directly impacts their individual performance. Culture sets the tone for employees to feel empowered and connected to their agency, which keeps them on the job and performing at the highest level. But, the disconnect we see in the research is that in many cases, an agency’s stated culture doesn’t line up its actual practices and policies. And it’s that misalignment that can ultimately lead to problematic employee experiences that can drive them out the door,”Jezior explained.

The research includes the following key findings:

  • 72 percent of federal employees say they feel proud to work for their organization, yet about half say they would leave if offered a similar job with comparable pay and benefits.
  • Only 38 percent of federal employees say that they trust their executive leadership.
  • 86 percent of federal employees say culture has a direct impact on their organization’s success. But less than half see respect, integrity, and innovation as active elements of their organization’s culture.
  • 79 percent say culture impacts their productivity and efficiency, 76 percent indicate that culture impacts their ability to best serve customers, and 74 percent say culture impacts their will to do good work.
  • While 75 percent of federal employees say their organization has core values, only 55 percent say the organization’s policies align to core values.
  • Less than half (46 percent) agree that the way their organization advertises itself aligns with their experience on the job.
  • 61 percent say that overall, they are happy at work and 58 percent would recommend their organization as a good place to work.

Eagle Hill identifies the five critical elements of organizational culture as: Core Values; Authenticity; Leadership; Relationships and Satisfaction. To build and sustain a strong culture, the research recommends four key action steps for federal agencies:

  1. Make culture core to your organization’s strategic plan. Elevate culture planning to your agency’s larger strategic planning process, on par with performance, human capital and budget planning.
  2. Bring culture alive at all levels. Provide the appropriate structure and assign accountability for culture to every level of the organization. The right governance equips the entire organization to drive toward its values-based priorities.
  3. Assess often how you’re doing on culture. Monitor risks and nurture the organizational culture to continue to grow it in the desired direction. Because the external and internal factors that can shape culture change frequently, culture improvement is never a one-and-done exercise.
  4. Acknowledge what is working and adjust what is not. Recognize the challenge of the potentially entrenched cultural practices of employees who have decades of tenure. Take a candid look at how to elevate employees who have embraced the precepts of the organizational culture and enthusiastically contribute to bringing the culture to life.

The Eagle Hill Consulting Federal Workplace Culture Survey 2019 was conducted online by Government Business Council (GBC) between May and June 2019. The online survey included federal workers from a random sample of civilian and military respondents across the United States. The survey polled respondents on aspects of culture including leadership, core values, employee satisfaction, employee experience, and teamwork.

Eagle Hill Consulting LLC is a woman-owned business that provides unconventional management consulting services in the areas of Strategy & Performance, Talent, and Change. The company’s expertise in delivering innovative solutions to unique challenges spans across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, from financial services to healthcare to media & entertainment. Eagle Hill has offices in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, Boston, MA and Seattle, WA. More information is available at www.eaglehillconsulting.com.

Media Contact: Tyler Flood
703.229.8600 | tflood@eaglehillconsulting.com | @WeAreEagleHill