US Public Sector: Insufficient Encouragement for Employees to Innovate

By May 14, 2013

From 2011 to 2012, the Innovation score at US government departments and agencies dropped by 1.7 points to 61.5 out of 100. The latest survey report points the finger at a lack of support and encouragement for federal staff from management.

In spite of the budget squeeze and a freeze on recruitment and pay, the vast majority of United States federal workers claim they are keen to innovate and are constantly looking for ways to perform their jobs better. These are among the findings of the 2012 annual rankings of the US federal agencies entitled: ‘The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government’, published by leading management consultancy Deloitte Consulting LLP in conjunction with the Partnership for Public Service, a non-profit organisation working to revitalise federal government. The analysis sheds some light on employee satisfaction regarding issues ranging from leadership to pay and work/life balance, and reveals that many employees say they often lack encouragement from their managers to be innovative.

Improving the culture of innovation at federal agencies

Analysis of a survey conducted in mid-2012 shows that the vast majority (91%) of federal employees are looking for ways to do their jobs better. By contrast only 57% of them stated that they felt encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things and a mere 36% of people working in government departments said they felt that creativity and innovation were rewarded at their agency. The scores for these last two criteria have declined by 2 and 2.5 points respectively since the previous year. Additional research by the Hay Group reveals that these scores compare badly with the way employees in the private sector view their opportunities to be innovative and creative, with some 71% of private sector workers saying they do receive encouragement to suggest new ideas in the workplace. The report argues that innovation depends to a large extent on the environment generated by leaders and managers and that these senior staff now need to take action to promote an innovation culture in their agencies.

Innovation scores slipping

The majority of federal agencies saw their Innovation scores slip between 2011 and 2012. For the third consecutive year, the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) topped the rankings for Innovation with 72.8 points, followed by the Department of State, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Navy, and the Air Force. Among large agencies, the Department of Transportation, ranked 16, improved its score by 1.7 points, while the Social Security Administration lost the most ground with a 3.8 point decrease, the report reveals. Given the growing need for federal services and the decrease in available resources, the government’s capacity for creativity and innovation is now critical, argues the Deloitte/Partnership for Public Service report.


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