While many government leaders might give lip service to the merits of creativity and innovation in the public sector, few actually put the idea into practice, according to a recent survey and ranking of innovation in federal workplaces.
Beyond that, the survey might actually offer some motivation.
As part of its research into the best places to work in government, the Partnership for Public Service has found federal workers are motivated to drive change through creativity, but need stronger support from their organizations and leaders to do so. Specifically, the vast majority look for ways to perform their jobs better, but few are encouraged to initiate new ways of doing things or rewarded for creativity and innovation.
Overall, results suggest government agencies have considerable opportunity to improve. But a few score high in a ranking of federal agencies’ innovation and are among the best workplaces for federal employees.
Not surprisingly, the most innovative agencies drive creativity through leadership. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration topped the list, followed closely by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The analysis also underscored that innovation depends on the total environment leaders create for employees and identified the following workplace conditions that have a disproportionately high impact on the overall innovation score:
- Employees are recognized for providing high-quality products and services
- Employees are given real opportunities to improve their skills
- Employees are involved in decisions that affect their work
- Employees are given a sense of personal empowerment with respect to work processes
- Employees are provided with opportunities to demonstrate their leadership skills
- Leaders work to gain employees’ respect
Interestingly, factors that were not as important in driving innovation included salary, workload and resources.
According to the PPS, understanding how to leverage leadership and employee satisfaction to drive innovation is especially important, because it suggests that the negative impact of today’s pay freezes and shrinking budgets on employee satisfaction can be mitigated as long as employees feel they are being listened to, engaged in decisions and are recognized in other ways for their hard work. In addition, leaders who are most successful in engaging their employees rarely rely on their own technical expertise or positional power, but instead understand that creating an environment where employees are empowered and engaged will generate the most innovative results.
Making the necessary investments in employees will result in more satisfied and committed employees, a more innovative team, and ultimately, in better results for the American people, the PPS survey concluded.