Success Stories

Congressional support agencies lead the way on employee engagement

Congress faced a once-in-a-generation battle against a pandemic in 2020 that threatened the nation. In a moment of national pride, the nation’s legislature acted to answer the needs of the American people, and they did this with the critical support of two legislative branch agencies that work behind the scenes – the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Budget Office.

Even as questions about the effectiveness of Congress persist, those who support lawmakers and their staff take pride in their work and the value it delivers for the American public. In the most recent 2020 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® rankings, released by the Partnership for Public Service and the Boston Consulting Group, GAO and CBO topped the lists of the highest-ranked mid-sized and small agencies, respectively.

These rankings reflect employee views on their satisfaction with their jobs and workplaces, and whether they would recommend their organizations as a good place to work. While the GAO has been highly ranked each year, this year marks the first time two legislative agencies topped the Best Places to Work lists.

This achievement recognizes the leaders of the two congressional agencies and the quiet professionals who remain committed to public service despite the challenges facing the institution.

As the congressional watchdog, the GAO is a key part of legislative oversight. When the GAO is working well, the American people benefit from more informed legislation and better run federal agencies. To earn its spot at the top, the GAO has invested in a culture of leadership engagement where top management listens to employees and takes steps to improve.

In fact, managers are required to develop performance plans that includes steps to engage employees and meet their needs. This idea carried forward as employees grappled with uncertainty when the agency moved to remote work during the pandemic. In response, “senior leaders addressed these questions during monthly town halls and through constant communication.”

Underscoring this focus on leadership engagement is a strong sense of leadership accountability. As Jenny Grover, GAO’s managing director for the professional development program noted, “it’s in our name. It’s in our culture.”

Whether in the private or public sectors, leaders taking the steps necessary to actively listen, change processes to overcome challenges and communicate effectively has a positive impact on mission delivery.

Like the GAO, the Congressional Budget Office is a crucial actor in the legislative process. As the chief budget office of the legislative branch,  the agency’s analysts work tirelessly to deliver reports and cost estimates for proposed legislation. Without CBO, members of Congress would lack the budgetary and economic insight they need to legislate effectively.

The organization prides itself on conducting objective, impartial and nonpartisan analysis, and this commitment to its mission is reflected in the CBO’s strong workplace and job satisfaction score – the highest of any agency in the government. In a post to the agency, CBO Director Phillip Swagel noted that despite the challenging year faced by all, “Our strong culture of dedication and cooperation has helped us meet the rapidly evolving needs of the Congress.”

By reaching the top of the Best Places to Work rankings, these agencies prove that a well-defined mission, dedicated employees and engaged leaders can overcome disruptions and difficulties, and perform at a high level. Congress can be proud of their achievements and look to their examples for ideas on how to support, develop, and communicate to its  diverse workforce.