Congressional Staff Appears More Engaged with Jobs Compared to General U.S. Workforce

Sep 9, 2013
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80 percent of staff members report overall satisfaction in their jobs on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON — U.S. House and Senate staff members appear highly motivated to perform well at their jobs and are more engaged as employees than the general U.S. workforce, according to a new study released today by the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

When asked whether they were determined to accomplish their work goals, 63 percent of congressional staff strongly agreed compared with 34 percent of the broader U.S. workforce.

The new report, Life in Congress: Job Satisfaction and Engagement of House and Senate Staff, also found that 80 percent of congressional staff members reported overall satisfaction with their current job, including 40 percent who are very satisfied.

The research is based on a survey of more than 1,400 congressional staff members and compares the data to annual studies of the U.S. workforce by SHRM.

View a video on the report: http://www.congressfoundation.org/news/blog/1031-life-in-congress-staff-job-satisfaction-engagement-video

“While Americans consistently report that they are unhappy with the work product of Congress, it appears that the work ethic in Congress is very strong,” said Bradford Fitch, president and CEO of the CMF. “This is exactly what the taxpayer would want to see in a public service workforce. They appear motivated to serve constituents, their member of Congress and their country to the best of their ability.”

Survey respondents included both Democrats (55 percent) and Republicans (43 percent). Seventy-two percent of the respondents worked in the House of Representatives, and 28 percent worked in the Senate.

The survey of congressional staff members also shows:

  • 86 percent said that they are highly motivated by their work goals.
  • 83 percent reported that they enjoy taking on or seeking out new projects or work assignments beyond their job requirements.
  • 81 percent agreed that their work gives them a sense of personal accomplishment.

With regards to employee benefits, 66 percent of congressional staff members ranked healthcare/medical benefits as very important, followed by 61 percent noting retirement and savings plans as very important. A greater number of managers (73 percent) and baby boomer generation (77 percent) cited these benefits as very important than non-managers and younger employees.

The survey also showed the challenge for Congress in retaining talented staff. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of Washington, D.C.-based staff members indicated that they would look for new jobs within the next 12 months, compared with 37 percent of the U.S. workforce. The main reason for leaving their office, cited by 51 percent of congressional staff, was the desire to earn more money.

“As HR professionals know well, an organization’s culture plays an important role in ensuring that employees not only contribute but thrive. This important research gives insight into how best to engage and retain a unique — and valuable — workforce,” said Mike Aitken, SHRM’s vice president of government affairs.

The report also included dozens of quotes from congressional staff members answering open-ended questions about their perspective of working in Congress. While some staff reported complaints with their office environment and challenges in dealing with a disgruntled public, most offered a positive picture of their job.

In a statement representative of many of the comments, one respondent said, “Working for Congress is a way for me to serve my country. Congress needs smart and principled individuals who are willing to sacrifice some part of their lives … to make the country work better, and I’m proud to be a part of that.”

This is the last in a series of three SHRM-CMF research reports about Life in Congress. The first report, released in October 2012, showed that U.S. House and Senate staff members value flexibility in managing life and work issues, but most were not satisfied with the flexibility afforded them. The second report, released in March 2013, focused on the perspective of members of Congress about their job, including hours worked and how they spent their time.

Media: For more information, contact Kate Kennedy of SHRM Media Affairs at 703-535-6260 and Kate.kennedy@shrm.org or Susie Gorden of CMF at 202-546-0100 and SGorden@CongressFoundation.org.

About the Society for Human Resource Management
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Representing about 260,000 members in more than 140 countries, the Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China, India and the United Arab Emirates. Visit SHRM Online at www.shrm.org
and follow us on Twitter @SHRMPress.

About the Congressional Management Foundation
Founded in 1977, the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) is a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to helping Congress and its members meet the evolving needs and expectations of an engaged and informed 21st century citizenry. Its work focuses on improving congressional operations and enhancing citizen engagement through research, publications, training and management services. Visit www.CongressFoundation.org
and follow us on Twitter @CongressFdn.

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