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MSPB: 21% of federal jobs have high potential for employee motivation

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About one-fifth of federal employees have jobs with a high potential for motivation, the Merit Systems Protection Board says in a new report.

The report (.pdf), released Jan. 7, is based on results from the MSPB's 2010 survey of about 42,000 full-time, permanent federal employees. Responses were weighted to represent the federal government as a whole.

MSPB calculated motivation potential based on respondents' ratings of five job characteristics thought to drive motivation. The characteristics are skill variety, task significance, task identity (whether employees complete whole tasks, from beginning to end, or just small parts of larger tasks), autonomy and feedback.

About half of respondents had jobs with mid-level motivation potential, and 27 percent had jobs with low motivation potential.

There is a clear relationship between motivation-potential levels and actual job performance, the MSPB says. The board cross-referenced respondents' personnel files and found that federal employees with the top performance rating also were the most likely to have jobs with a high motivation-potential level.

Those with the second-highest performance rating were less likely to have high motivation-potential levels, and those with lower performance ratings were even less likely.

An employee with low motivation potential also is far less likely to perceive his or her agency as successful in its mission, the report says.

In general, the MSPB says, agencies can support employee motivation by expanding employees' responsibilities, assigning them tasks that others usually perform in order to broaden their skills, and giving them more independence and responsibility.

The report does note, though, that not all employees are good candidates for more responsibility and that organizational constraints may limit how much authority managers have to modify their employees' jobs.

Motivated, productive employees are particularly important in light of budget constraints, the MSPB says. Encouragingly, the report says, survey respondents rated eight non-monetary job rewards as more important than their awards and bonuses.

Those rewards include personal satisfaction, the ability to serve the public, and participating in important decisions.

For more:
- download the report, "Federal Employee Engagement: The Motivating Potential of Job Characteristics and Rewards" (.pdf)

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