Survey finds innovation in government at all-time low

Innovation in government is on the decline, for the third year in a row.

The Partnership for Public Service, Deloitte and Hay Group, as part of their analysis of the 2013 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government data, took a look at how innovative the government is and found that in the three years the survey has been done, innovation scored the lowest in 2013.

The government-wide innovation score, a number determined by answers to three questions on the Office of Personnel Management’s federal employee viewpoint survey, dropped by 2.1 points to 59.4 out of 100 from 2012 to 2013.

Despite 90 percent of surveyed employees reporting they are always looking for better ways to do their jobs, only 54.7 feel they are encouraged to do so. Just a little more than one third of employees believe their agency rewards innovation and creativity.


“The bottom line is that federal workers are motivated to improve the way they do their work, but they do not feel supported by their organizations,” the report said. “The downward government-wide trend and the negative employee views on some key workplace indicators are troubling signs for sustaining a government that is able to innovate to meet new challenges.”

In 2013, NASA was the agency leading in most categories; it is the top-ranked agency for innovation, and in the subcomponents category, all five subcomponents are from NASA. The John C. Stennis Space Center topped the subcomponent list by nearly six percentage points ahead of the second-ranked Goddard Space Flight Center, both of NASA.

Among other large agencies to get top innovation scores were the State Department, Commerce Department and Department of Health and Human Services, respectively. Although, despite being at the top of the list, the innovation scores for all four agencies decreased from 2012.

For mid-size agencies, the Federal Trade Commission, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and National Science Foundation took home top innovation scores.

According to the report, there is a recipe for innovation in the government and key factors that can drive it. Based off of questions in the survey, six factors were identified; employees feeling rewarded for doing high-quality work, having a chance to expand their skills, having an opportunity to demonstrate leadership, having respect for senior leaders, feeling satisfied with involvement in decisions that impact their work and having a feeling of personal empowerment.


The Partnership recommended in light of these scores that government make innovation a priority; create actionable goals, a forum for employees and a process for implementation.

“Government continues to slip on innovation at a time when its ability to be creative is paramount, given the increasing need for its services and the reduction in available resources. Innovation depends on the total environment that leaders and managers shape for employees,” the report said. “Creating that environment can be challenging for managers because they are dealing with day-to-day demands, and it is difficult to take the time to step back and examine new ways of doing business.”

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