It has become a depressing ritual for Department of Homeland Security leaders: each year employee morale sinks further, and each year DHS does its best to put a good face on a seemingly intractable problem.
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson engaged in the latest round of rallying the troops on Monday after the 2015 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey again showed the department at the bottom of the pack. DHS ranked last among large agencies with a 53 percent “employee engagement” score and a 47 percent in “global satisfaction.” That compared to engagement and satisfaction scores of 61 percent and 62 percent, respectively, in 2010.
Even worse, DHS fell 1 percent in both categories this year, despite a frenzy of morale-boosting efforts including an employee steering committee dedicated to fairness in hiring and promotions, enhanced employee training programs and Johnson’s department-wide “Unity of Effort” initiative, designed to tackle the department’s management challenges. DHS’s struggles with employee morale date back to its creation during the George W. Bush administration, when 22 autonomous agencies were plucked from across the government and welded into one department.
Johnson, who took over the sprawling domestic security agency in December 2013, pronounced himself “disappointed that our efforts to improve employee satisfaction at DHS were not reflected Department-wide in this year’s results of the Federal Employee Viewpoint survey.”
But the former Pentagon General Counsel said he was “not discouraged.” In a public statement and a department-wide email, he told employees that he and Deputy DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas “will not give up. We know that improving employee satisfaction across a 22-component, 240,000-person department takes time. ”
And Johnson said he took comfort in what he called some positive developments in the viewpoint survey, which has long been a measure of federal job satisfaction and forms the basis of the widely read annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government report.
He said he was encouraged that a number of DHS agencies and offices showed improved results, including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Office of Science and Technology, and his own domain — the Office of the Secretary. Johnson also cited results showing that 85 percent of DHS personnel recognize the importance of their work — which ranges from securing U.S. borders to protecting the president — and 93 percent are willing to put in extra effort to get their jobs done.
“The men and women of the Department of Homeland Security are our greatest asset, and I and the other senior leaders of DHS are committed to improving employee satisfaction,” Johnson said in his public statement. “We will continue our efforts to make DHS a place where all employees feel valued and where their hard work is recognized and rewarded.”