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National Park Service Better, Slightly, In Best Places To Work Survey


As an agency, the National Park Service made strides in the annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government survey, but there remain improvements to be made in the areas of work-life balance, support for diversity, pay, and strategic management.

Just how well the agency ranks among all government agencies is difficult to pin down this year, as the Office of Personnel Management "withheld information on 186 small agencies and subcomponents until early December. This made it impossible for the Partnership (for Public Service) to include these organizations in the 2017 rankings" released this week. But overall, the Park Service continues to be mired in the bottom 25 percent of all government agencies in terms of being a great place to work, according to the annual survey.

In terms of overall "effective management," the Park Service ranked 131 out of 147 agencies that the Partnership was able to survey. But when senior leadership was ranked, the agency stood 137 out of 147 agenices.

Among other poor grades, the Park Service ranked:

* 136 out of 149 in pay

* 145 out of 148 in terms of work-life balance, a category that "measures the extent to which employees consider their workloads reasonable and feasible, and managers support a balance between work and life."

* 138 out of 148 in strategic management pertaining to "the extent to which employees believe that management ensures they have the necessary skills and abilities to do their jobs, is successful at hiring new employees with the necessary skills to help the organization and works to achieve the organizational goals with targeted personnel strategies and performance management."

* 135 out of 148 when it comes to support for diversity

* 131 out of 148 in terms of teamwork, defined as the degree "to which employees believe they communicate effectively both inside and outside their team organizations, creating a friendly work atmosphere and producing high-quality work products."

Improvement was seen in employee skills--mission match, with the agency standing 95 out of 149 agencies. None of the rankings put the Park Service above the median rankings or into the upper 25 percent in terms of government agencies.

The Park Service, according to the survey, continues to be overly male (62.3 percent) and white (79.1 percent).

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, noting that his department improved from 11th to 9th in rankings of all large government agencies, applauded the results but said more work needs to be done.

"Interior should be hands-down the best place to work in the federal government, and we're going to get there," Secretary Zinke said. "What kid growing up doesn't look at a Park Ranger, a law enforcement officer, or a paleontologist and say, 'I want to do that when I grow up!'? During my confirmation hearing I pledged to make Interior the best place to work, and I'm happy to see we are already making progress. In the years to come we will reorganize the force to push more resources to the front lines and clean up the culture of harassment and discrimination. Moving from 11th to 9th is a nice step, but I won't be satisfied until we're No. 1."

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Consider the huge gulf between this (and many previous) NPS employee survey and surveys of the American public's opinion of federal agencies, where the Park Service is consistently near the top:

This suggests the NPS rank & file overall continue doing a tremendous job, despite a management cadre that is among the worst in the entire government.  It would be very interesting to see comparative surveys on transparency and accountability in federal agencies.  I suspect the NPS would be far back in the pack in these management categories as well: 

There will always be a complaint about compensation, as we 1. have jobs that through OPM decision simply do not rank out in upper echelons for nonsupervisory work, and 2. have a culture that (compared to other agencies with which I am familiar) precludes some of the more creative tools to boost compensation through special pay rates, etc.

But the single biggest factor with the NPS is its stubborn unwillingness at all levels of the organization to invest in its supervisors and yes, managers (beyond crisis management considerations e.g. whipping together a two hour course to deal with harassment.) I recall looking at internal numbers that something much less than half of supervisors have had the basic, week-long mandatory supervisory training required by the bureau and department - never mind work leaders and others who supervise but due to technical definitions aren't considered supervisors under OPM rules. And that training is the minimum baseline. I'm lucky that I have had opportunities to have great supervisory development training in my career do to one exceptional Superintendent and Administrative Officer I worked with in Alaska of all places who understood (both are retired now) the importance and followed that up with $. If I hadn't been lucky enough to work there, I would be in the same boat as most others.

On the other hand if you want to look at efficiency, I suppose that every dollar starved from employee development is a dollar one can spend hiring another seasonal employee to stretch the work (who is then poorly supervised.)

Another win for Trump. Making the NPS great again.

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