The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the agency you might most hope is staffed top-to-bottom by employees who like and have a passion for their jobs. Unfortunately, DHS employees have the lowest average morale in the federal government, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
In its report to Congress, the GAO cited data from the 2011 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey indicating that on average, DHS employees have 4.5% lower job satisfaction and 7.0% lower engagement in their work than other government workers. "Engagement," by the way, is "the extent to which employees are immersed in their work and spending extra effort on job performance."
Especially unhappy and disengaged are employees of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Perhaps most troubling, the survey showed that TSA's airport security screeners are 13% unhappier and 14% less engaged with their jobs than TSA's administrative office staff.
In 2006, aviation consultant Michael Boyd, commenting on a group of TSA screeners fired for refusing to do pat down searches, called the $30,000 a year TSA airport screeners job "menial labor," stating "These are people who paw through luggage." Not exactly a formula for job satisfaction or engagement.
According to the GAO, since it began operations in 2003, the 200,000 employees of the DHS have consistently reported low job satisfaction.
What the GAO recommended: While acknowledging the DHS had made an effort to determine the root causes of its morale problems and had taken some corrective steps, GAO suggested that the agency could beef up its analysis of metrics from the satisfaction survey results in order to achieve better action plans.
"GAO found that despite having broad performance metrics in place to track and assess DHS employee morale on an agency-wide level, DHS does not have specific metrics within the action plans that are consistently clear and measurable," state the GAO in its report. "As a result, DHS's ability to assess its efforts to address employee morale problems and determine if changes should be made to ensure progress toward achieving its goals is limited."
Specifically, the GAO recommended that when formulating plans to address morale, the DHS at least consider results from all of its various units, compare DHS results to similar organizations and better address the root causes of low morale.
According to the GAO, the DHS agrees with the recommendations.