The Department of Homeland Security ranked dead  last again among federal agencies for overall employee satisfaction and commitment, with its score dropping to a historic low in the annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson promised to make worker morale a top priority before his Senate confirmation last year. Let’s examine what he has done since taking office.

Johnson and Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas created an employee steering committee focused on fairness in hiring and promotions, and they restarted a program that honors outstanding workers. Johnson handed out distinguished-service awards to more than 300 workers at a ceremony in October, drawing cheerful whoops from the crowd when he asked how their morale was doing.


Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson promised to make employee morale a top priority for his agency, which has finished last in the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings for three years in a row. (Evan Vucci/AP)

The agency said in a statement Tuesday that it has also invested more in training and professional development, in addition to building a communications platform that would “capture employees’ ideas effectively.”

In this year’s Best Places rankings, Homeland Security finished last among large federal agencies for the third consecutive year as employee satisfaction and commitment dropped three points to 44 percent. The steepest decline occurred in the area of senior leadership.

DHS said it is reviewing its programs for selecting and training executives to find out whether changes are needed. Since Johnson took office, the agency has also filled several key leadership vacancies, something management experts have long urged the agency to do.

A recent exodus of DHS employees has exacerbated the agency’s leadership problems, with workers leaving the agency at nearly twice the rate of the federal government overall during the past four years, according to a Washington Post review of federal data.

DHS’s efforts didn’t  improve the agency’s score in this year’s Best Places rankings, but many of the initiatives are less than a year old at this point. Next year’s results may serve as a better measurement of Johnson’s effectiveness.