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Hard Science

Experts Break Down Why NASA Is One of the Best Places to Work

It’s not just the dope suits. A review says leadership plays a huge role at both the agency level and executive branch. 
The seven astronauts of NASA's Project Mercury, the United States' first human spaceflight program.

NASA has been named one of the “Best Places to Work” among agencies in the federal government for the fifth year in a row. Here is a ranking of the best to last. So, what makes NASA earn such a top rank? Here’s a hint: it’s not all about the prospect of getting to advance human exploration.

NASA’s top rank comes from the annual report “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government,” produced by the Partnership for Public Service and the Deloitte consulting firm. The data was complied from the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS). This review provides insight into what employees think about leadership, pay, innovation, work-life balance, and more.

So, what makes for a good place to work, according to this review? Well, overall workplace satisfaction was highly influenced by pay (no surprise there), skill matching to the mission of their job, and leadership. “According to our analysis, effective leadership continues to be the key driver for federal employees in 2016, as it has been every year since the rankings were first launched in 2003,” the review reads.

The reason why NASA is such a great place to work? “It’s because Charlie Bolden [NASA’s administrator] is a great leader,” Max Stier, the Partnership’s president and chief executive, told the Washington Post.

There’s another leader, who has quite a bit of influence on employee satisfaction, and that’s the President.

Over the years of the Obama administration, federal employee job satisfaction fluctuated. The first two years saw ratings reach an all-time high with a government-wide score of 65 out of 100 back in 2010. But the next four years were marked by budget cuts, pay freezes, and a partial government shutdown. The last two have seen an up-tick, as this most recent review shows. The Partnership’s analysis indicates that this was largely due to the Obama administration’s direction, placing “a greater emphasis on strengthening the workforce and improving employee engagement.” The government-wide score currently sits at 59.4 out of 100.

President-elect Donald Trump will be inheriting this federal workforce, which still ranks lower overall than the private sector in terms of employee satisfaction. It will be interesting to see how his leadership will influence these rankings over the next four years.


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