Nuclear Regulatory Commission Ranks as Top Workplace

By Stephen Barr
Friday, April 20, 2007

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was dubbed the No. 1 large government agency to work for in rankings released by a nonprofit group yesterday.

The NRC, which has headquarters in Rockville, got high marks from employees in several categories, including effective leadership, training and development, teamwork and support for diversity.

Dale E. Klein, the NRC chairman, said the top ranking reflected the "culture of being an open agency" and management's focus on improved communication with employees. Having a physical fitness center in the building also helped boost the rating, a senior staff member joked.

In remarks at a luncheon, Klein said the agency encourages managers to talk and listen to employees on a regular basis.

The NRC, which regulates commercial nuclear power plants and safe handling of radioactive materials, has about 3,400 employees. With a resurgence underway in the nuclear industry, the commission has been on a hiring binge since October 2005 and plans to add 400 workers this year. About 10 percent of the staff has worked at the NRC for less than three years.

The rankings -- compiled every other year -- are produced by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service and American University's Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation. The partnership runs programs aimed at getting more young people interested in working for the government, and the AU program conducts research in how agencies can more effectively carry out policy decisions.

For 2007, the partnership and AU refined the ratings and created three groupings -- large agencies (2,000 or more employees), small agencies (100 to 1,999 employees) and agency subcomponents (regions, divisions, bureaus and offices).

Under this approach, the NRC ranked No. 1 among large agencies and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service was the top small agency. The Treasury Department's office of inspector general was the top-ranked subcomponent.

The FMCS, which helps resolve labor-management disputes, has less than 300 employees. "You can't work here very long before being overwhelmed by a contagious spirit of helpfulness and teamwork," said Arthur F. Rosenfeld, the agency's director.

Max Stier, president of the partnership, said the data showed that employee satisfaction, on a governmentwide basis, remains about the same as in 2005. But he said that the spread in scores between the top-ranked and lowest-ranked agencies has increased, suggesting that "the best are getting better and the worst are getting worse, and that's a problem."

An employee satisfaction and engagement index, created by the Hay Group consulting firm for the "Best Places to Work" rankings, showed that the government lags behind the private sector when it comes to creating an environment that engages workers and improves productivity.

The government scored 61.8 on a 100-point scale, compared with a score of 71 for large, private-sector companies, the partnership said.

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