Feds Wants What Everyone Else Does: Purpose, Autonomy, and Ownership

Check out this report by the Merit Systems Board on job satisfaction among federal employees. It’s very high-level and a bit of a snooze but there is some good information in here. There’s good news like 71% of feds are motivated by their work and there’s plenty of room to improve. One of the major findings is that more pay isn’t what motivates people, it’s things like autonomy, owning something from beginning to end, a sense that what you are doing is meaningful and has impact, etc. Sounds a lot like Dan Pink’s book, Drive. The tragedy for me is that many of the employees surveyed did not feel fully engaged. Only 21% were fully engaged. If there’s a job you could love, it should be public service of this kind. Many of the reasons cited were a lack of the factors listed above. Although you might think helping to provide kids with school lunches is motivating, you could also be stuck at the bottom of a huge bureaucracy, with little authority or autonomy, and without a chance to ever see the good you’re doing.


Alan Pentz is co-founder of Corner Alliance, Inc, a Washington DC-based consulting firm specializing in program management, leadership development, and emerging technologies.