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GAO: DHS can do more to address low morale

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Despite some positive steps, the Homeland Security Department still misses opportunities to address its low morale, the Government Accountability Office says.

In a report (.pdf) released Oct. 31, the GAO says the department could do more to compare morale across demographic groups, set benchmarks based on similar agencies, and link the causes of low morale to action plans.

The 2011 governmentwide Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey found that DHS employees had lower job satisfaction and lower engagement in their work than the average federal worker by 4.5 and 7 percentage points, respectively. Components that existed before DHS's creation tended to have higher morale than those created with the department or shortly thereafter, auditors note.

While certain DHS components did analyze the survey results on a demographic basis, the department's office of the chief human capital officer didn't do such an analysis throughout DHS, auditors say.

The Transportation Security Administration was one component that looked at demographics, and it found that its screeners had lower morale than other groups of TSA workers.

TSA also benchmarked results for its employees against those of Customs and Border Protection employees. CBP, meanwhile, plans to begin in fiscal 2013 to benchmark its morale against similar agencies as well as foreign counterparts in Canada and Australia.

As for efforts to link the causes of low morale to action plans, the department's OCHCO told auditors that limited resources and changes in leadership have interfered.

The OCHCO has, though, conducted departmentwide focus groups about morale since 2007, and it administered the first DHS-wide exit survey in 2011.

CBP launched a quarterly employee survey in 2009, focusing on one morale-related issue each time. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, meanwhile, has held focus groups about whether its culture promotes diversity.

For more:
- download the report, GAO-12-940 (.pdf)

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