Army Civilian employees recite the oath

Army Civilian employees recite the oath of allegiance at a Pentagon ceremony in 2019.

WASHINGTON – The Army has clinched the title of top civilian employer within the DOD. It ranks seventh among large federal agencies in general.

That’s according to the 2019 Best Places to Work rankings gleaned from the latest Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. The assessment is conducted annually and is intended to empower federal employees with an outlet to candidly provide feedback on their experiences, organizations, workforce management and more. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management administers the study.

The Army can use the results to measure whether employees feel valued and believe they are making an impact on the mission. Leaders can use the satisfaction data as a measuring stick for meaningful work and the best use of talent.

In the “best place to work” category, the Army received its highest numbers in a decade – 68 percent of respondents said they would recommend the service to others, according to Dr. Casey Wardynski, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. It is a two-point bump from last year’s survey.

“Our biggest gain was in that key measure,” Wardynski said. “That’s kind of a litmus test. If you wouldn’t (recommend the Army to friends and family), that’s not a good sign. The share of our employees who would has gone up, and that’s a key driver of this best places to work index.

“This input is very important,” he further stated, “because we want the Army to be the employer of choice in the federal government, and frankly, we’d like to stack up well against other areas of industry.”

Within a year, the Army moved up four places among large government agencies and has moved up nine places since 2016. In other areas, Army ranked among the top five agencies for effective leadership, employee skills-mission match and innovation.

The 85-item survey gives unique, detailed insight to leaders about overall employee satisfaction at their agencies and offers an idea of what adjustments can be made to optimize their respective workplaces.

With more than 300,000 civilian employees, the Army is the largest workforce in the Defense Department.

“The Army has put a good bit of effort into developing its leaders and creating an environment in which they support the professional education of subordinates,” Wardynski said. “This has (resulted in) strong growth among employees and supervisors.”

Confidence that work contributions are of value to the organization also is important. A representation of this is found within the lines of the Army’s Civilian Creed – how those among the workforce will “provide leadership, stability and continuity during war and peace.”

“We’re after No. 1,” Wardynski said in regard to Army’s ranking among all federal agencies. “There’s more work needed to go from number seven-of-17 to number one-of-17."

A key step in the climb to the top spot is senior leaders communicating their goals and priorities clearly across the Army, Wardynski noted. An example of this occurred last year when Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James C. McConville and Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy signed The Army People Strategy.

The APS is a plan of action Army leaders will use to build a 21st century talent-based personnel management system, reform essential quality-of-life programs, and promote cohesive teams that are ready, professional, diverse and integrated into the joint force, according to a news release about the measure.

“Winning matters,” McConville said last year. “People are my No. 1 priority. People are our Soldiers – regular Army, National Guard and Reserve – their families, DA Civilians and our Soldiers for Life, the retirees and veterans. We win through our people, and people will drive success in our readiness, modernization and reform policies. We must take care of our people.”

Wardynski reiterated, “It’s not the Soldier strategy or the civilian strategy; it is The People Strategy because it’s for all of our people.”

The Army is in the process of outlining how The People Strategy will be used in its Program Objective Memorandum through 2026. In the plan, Wardynski said leaders have “clearly identified resources that will go into The People Strategy, which gets at things like leadership development, talent management and professional development of employees, career ladders and opportunities to move through the organization and grow.”

Managing resources has created an environment where civilians are “valued and very capable,” Wardynski pointed out. “We drove resources, now the resourcing is being driven by our approach to how we want to lead our people. We need to continue to communicate it.”

To fuel the upward trend, officials plan to distribute the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results to the lowest levels across Army organizations because “that’s where the engagement happens,” said Edward Emden, Employee Engagement Program Manager.

“The scores will allow leaders to make the most informed decisions about how they need to make adjustments to improve engagement with their own individual workforce,” he said. “They can take action based on what their own employees are telling them.”

The next employee survey will be conducted in May. Leaders across the Army enterprise underscore the importance of participation in such assessments because of their ability to shape workforce management, professional development and other programs.