Amidst the barrage of sequestration-related negativity confronting the federal sector, there are bright spots that deserve not just notice, but celebration. Take, for example, the Federal Aviation Administration which, as the largest sub-component of the Department of Transportation, helped propel DOT to the top of the list of Most Improved Large Agencies in the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® rankings. Of particular note is the fact that the agency made significant progress at a time when a majority saw their employee satisfaction levels decline. As noted on the Best Places website, “Employee satisfaction decreased in 66 percent of agencies. A few agencies, however, defied the government-wide convention, including the Department of Transportation, a large agency which raised its score a full 4.1 points.”
In fact, when Overland began working with the Federal Aviation Administration in 2009, its index score on the Best Places survey was 49.4, placing it at a near-bottom ranking of 214 out of 216 of the agencies included that year. Similarly, the agency at that time had what was arguably among the worst labor-management relations in the federal sector. Today, the FAA has made an impressive gain achieving a score of 64.5 and securing a ranking at 114 of 292 agencies. That places it among the top 40 percent of agencies in the survey this year—a far cry from its nearly rock-bottom rating a few short years ago. We think it is no coincidence that today, the “joint” process in place between the FAA, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists union is routinely heralded as best practice in labor-management collaboration.
And, the FAA made that progress in light of disappointing results across the federal sector as a whole. The Best Places website notes, “The 2012 results tell a troubling story about a workforce whose satisfaction and commitment levels have dropped to the lowest point since 2003, when the rankings first launched. The government-wide index score fell 5 percent, from 64 out of 100 in 2011 to 60.8 this year. The 3.2-point drop is the largest change in the history of the rankings.”
Perhaps more agencies could buck this trend and see similar progress to that of the FAA if they were to follow suit with the agency’s approach, which was to:
- Articulate and demonstrate senior leadership’s commitment to fostering a more collaborative labor-management environment
- Establish joint structures of union and management leaders to address critical, strategic issues
- Equip union leaders and managers at all levels with collaborative skills
- Evolve adversarial, antiquated labor relations practices into more progressive ones
- Implement structured processes for improving operational performance and quality of work life.
As Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controller Association, stated in a recent Profiles in Collaboration interview, “When we fight all we are doing is spending our time and energy fighting and not improving the lives of the membership or the safety or the efficiency of the National Airspace System. When we collaborate…what we're doing is actually improving the work environment for our members... And at the same time we have a much better product of enhancing the safety of the system.”
And that, sir, is an accomplishment worth celebrating—not only for FAA employees, but for the flying public!
Join the conversation. We know there are more bright spots of positivity and little-known tales of collaborative success out there. Please comment and share your thoughts on what else it takes to help create better places to work.