What to do when the 'Best Places to Work' rankings come out

01/03/2014 10:41 am ET Updated Mar 05, 2014

The 2013 "Best Places to Work in the Federal Government" rankings, released on December 18, provide managers with important insights into the satisfaction and commitment levels of their employees, two ingredients that are essential for a high performing workforce.

These are tough times for federal employees - from the three-year pay freeze and increased pension costs to the across-the-board budget cuts and the 16-day government shutdown - and as a result morale is low throughout government.

The current climate makes it doubly important for managers to commit to improving the workplace environment and, as much as humanly possible, to compensate for all of the uncontrollable outside factors. This is where the "Best Places to Work" data fits in, painting a picture of agency strengths and weaknesses, identifying signs of trouble and discontentment, and highlighting where additional effort is needed to better connect with and engage the workforce.

The rankings are produced by my organization, the Partnership for Public Service, and by Deloitte. They're based on a government-wide survey conducted by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and additional survey data from eight other agencies, plus the intelligence community. Besides the government-wide and individual agency satisfaction scores, the latest "Best Places to Work" report offers agency-level data on employee opinions for 10 workplace issues ranging from their perceptions of senior leaders and supervisors to work-life balance.