How many job seekers say, “I want to work for an organization with a poor reputation?” Or, “I want to work at a place where employees don’t get any personal or professional satisfaction?”

Whether looking for a government job or a position in the private sector, the answer is the same. Not many!

This week, my organization, the Partnership for Public Service, released its 2011 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings that measure federal employee satisfaction and commitment, and provide a roadmap for agency leaders to build a more committed workforce and, ultimately, more effective agencies.

The rankings can be a springboard for improving the workplace culture. For those agencies getting high marks, it also can be a great recruitment tool. For job seekers, low ratings can be a “proceed with caution” signal.

We know from our research and extensive work on college and university campuses that students are interested in federal jobs for a number of reasons, including the opportunity to make a difference, pay and benefits, and the prospects for training and development. Not surprisingly, some of the same issues that motivate job seekers to consider federal employment also drive employee satisfaction.

Whether it’s support for diversity, work/life balance or teamwork, Best Places to Work allows job seekers to look at and compare agencies through the lens that matters most to them-the views of employees.

We also know that the best messengers for federal service are those who actually work in government. But if employees aren’t satisfied with their work or the work environment, what kind of ambassadors are they going to be for federal agencies?

It’s easy for agency leaders to shrug this off by saying that we’re “very selective” about those who conduct campus visits or talk to potential new hires, but let’s not kid ourselves. Federal employees may not have “recruitment” in their title or job description, but essentially everyone is a recruiter. What we say to our friends, family, neighbors or others can influence decision to look at an agency as a potential employer.

As is usually the case, there is much to be learned from how other agencies have leveraged their Best Places to Work rankings to enhance their recruitment efforts.

The intelligence community, which includes 17 member agencies, for the third consecutive year was honored as one of the top 10 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government in 2011, and will undoubtedly cite that this fact it is recruitment materials as it did in 2010.

Paula M. Chandler, director of human resources at the Surface Transportation Board, stated that being named the top small agency on the Best Places to Work rankings has helped in recruitment, noting that the agency doesn’t hire as many people as most agencies and places a premium on attracting the very best talent.

Similarly, the careers section of the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Public Debt-a high ranking subcomponent for the past few years-proclaims that “when you work for BPD, you’re a part of one of the federal government’s most dynamic agencies.”

In addition to postings on agency websites, there are a number of federal organizations that have included recognition of their Best Place to Work rankings in job announcements on

The General Services Administration states in the job summary section of current openings that, “GSA has been repeatedly named as one of the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government.” That’s a lot more compelling than a posting for another agency, which said, “As a valued employee, you will contribute to the agency’s mission in an important, satisfying, and rewarding job.”

Now that the rankings are out, it’s indeed time to focus on improving employee job satisfaction. It’s not only critical for agency productivity and retention of high quality staff, but it may just be the difference in attracting the best possible talent.

The Best Places to Work rankings and analysis are available at

Tim McManus is Vice President for Education and Outreach at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service.