Survey of National Park Service employees shows an agency that's 'fallen on hard times'
Working at a national park is no picnic, according to a new survey of employees.
The Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan nonprofit, recently released its annual rankings of the best places to work in the federal government. The rankings are based on surveys that ask agency employees to evaluate their job and organizational satisfaction.
“This is not a happiness index – it's an engagement index,” said Max Stier, the group's president and CEO. “This is really about whether you have an environment that is going to get the best out of employees where they're giving their discretionary energy to better serve the public. So it really matters.”
The National Park Service ranked 371st out of 432 sub-agencies overall, placing it in the bottom 15th percentile. The NPS ranked especially poorly in the categories of work-life balance (406th), pay (400th), and senior leadership (396th).
Despite the fact that visitor satisfaction is high, many national parks remain underfunded and understaffed, which Stier said impacts the scores.
He noted that the agency's overall score has been consistently low for about the past eight years.
“You're not talking about an organization that, you know, has fallen on hard times,” he said. “It has, frankly, struggled for as long as we have really done these surveys.”
Other federal agencies with a big presence in the Mountain West are also struggling, the survey results show. The Bureau of Land Management ranked 348th out of 432, and the U.S. Forest Service ranked 406th. Meanwhile, the Mountains and Plains region of the Environmental Protection Agency ranked 52nd.
Stier said more investment is needed in these federal environmental agencies in order to allow employees to do their jobs well.
“If they feel like their hands are tied behind their back and they don't have the resources they need, then that's a real challenge for creating the kind of engaged environment that allows them to succeed in the way they want to,” he said.
The NPS did score higher for employees identifying with the agency’s mission (187th), which Steir said reflects an eagerness to serve that ought to translate into employee satisfaction.
“The yellow light is blinking here,” he said. “We will be benefited by it. Our national parks are great treasures and our civil servants and those that are working in the Park Service are also a great treasure. And we should be taking care of both.”
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