A new Federal Employee Defection and Fallout PulsePoll found pay freezes, the current political environment and the prospect of a better salary in the private sector are driving 50% of federal employees to consider employment outside of government. 50%. One in two government employees is considering leaving, what can the government do to buck the trend?
Lisa Dezzutti is the founder and president of Market Connections. She told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that she was initially shocked by the 50% number.
“I thought it would perhaps more around the 30% range, but we have done a little digging since the survey results came in and we really started to see this trend last fall after the impact of sequestration, the shutdown and I think people have become sick and tired of being sick and tired. There is a big difference between considering leaving and actually leaving, but folks that never thought about leaving their government job before are thinking about it now, because of what they have been through,” said Dezzutti.
Top three reasons for considering leaving government:
- 44% said the federal employee pay freeze. It has been three years since they have had a pay raise and 1% is what was implemented this year.
- 41% said the frustrating political environment.
- 34% said the belief there were better salaries in the private sector.
“76% said they believe that the loss of institutional knowledge from retirement, employees leaving and not being replaced would ultimately erode mission effectiveness. Currently, about 40% said they are having difficulty now meeting their mission, because they are not being given sufficient staff and are not being able to replace staff as they leave. But when survey respondents looked ahead that number jumped up to 76%. Our mission effectiveness is going to be hurt because we are losing institutional knowledge and losing talent. Your A players will stick around for awhile and try to solve the problem, but when they get frustrated and don’t see change, your A players will leave. The A players are the ones that are leaving government first and the agencies are feeling the impact,” said Dezzutti.
What is the impact of losing the A players on recruitment?
“It becomes much harder to recruit talent. I don’t think government has ever had a particularly easy job of recruiting talent. We have done a number of research studies to try to figure out what they need to do to attract people, and now that job has become infinitely more difficult,” said Dezzutti.
Is stability gone in government?
“The events of last year not only undermined overall public confidence in our government, but federal employees themselves have lost that confidence. Feds also feel the pressure of lost public trust. All of these things are weighing heavily on morale. Low morale is going to affect productivity and peoples commitment to their work, that is when you start to see that loss of talent. Managing morale is going to be job number one for many federal managers this year,” said Dezzutti.
Any bright spots in the polling?
“The bright spot here, particularly for the contracting community, is that there might be more opportunity to help federal agencies do more with less. If the government doesn’t have the in-house talent, contractors can supplement that,” said Dezzutti.
Two year budget deal, some stability?
“I do think we are moving in the right direction with the new budget agreement. I don’t believe we are going to see another shutdown. 2014 is going to be a year of transitioning to higher ground and we will see the real positive impacts in 2015,” said Dezzutti.
While this is great data and trend analysis, the budget cuts affect contractors as well. Those employees looking to find employment in the government contracting world are not going to find the grass any greener.
The 50% # does NOT shock me – as I do my BEST to evaluate my competitiveness and keep pace with the A players. The real # to evaluate is of the 50% of Feds who look to Employment Outside of Gov – what % actually leaves and what % is retained. Since my transition from the Private Sector over 5 years ago – I’ve seen folks come & go, and watching junior level co-workers develop, learn, and move onto new endeavors is very special.
One thing they could do is work a LOT harder on creating and offering entry level opportunities to recent grads – knowing that they will need some training (just like the private sector does). Pathways is a good start, but there simply aren’t enough of them and the competitive service opps are a joke for someone without a “native guide” to help them navigate the process. Gov’t also needs to recruit a LOT more in the Midwest where there is still a strong desire by most to have a job that serves the “greater good.”
I think the idea of career federal employees is slowly going away. The best thing for government is to have federal employees move in and out of government and experience private and NGO experience. I expect to see more of this from future generations of federal employees who value impact over time in service.
1) The received HRM wisdom is that the employees at greatest risk of jumping ship are those with the shallowest roots – i.e., recent hires. I will see that and raise it by noting that hires who view themselves as highly marketable are also likely to consider jumping ship. The more we raise qualification/education standards for new hires, the more likely we are to be bringing in people who constitute a volatile workforce. I don’t mean that in a pejorative way. Rather, you can’t be raising the marketability of the people you hire, and then wondering why they’ve gone elsewhere.
2) Often, there is no finer preparation for being marketable than the initial training provided by federal jobs. I recall well an airport shuttlebus conversation with one manager who told me that they found themselves having to plan around retaining new hires for only two years. By the end of that two years, the training they had provided such recruits made them tasty treats for the private energy sector, who could afford to pay much more. Obviously, the solution here is not to avoid training people, but the federal public sector can’t be operating a high-cost training regimen that puts recent hires on a conveyor belt to the private sector without some means to avoid or reduce that outcome.
3) Many people enter the public sector with an eye solely towards getting a decent paycheck and benefits from an employer who won’t up and leave town. And that’s okay. Others enter with some instrumental objectives in mind, but are happy to get their foot in the door with some entry-level job, in the hopes of eventually getting to what they trained for, especially something that justifies, in their own mind, the time and money they spent on that training. We would do well to get them in the sorts of work that provides that sense of vindication to them ASAP. Let me put it in cruder terms. How long would we expect the average marriage to last if one spouse said to the other “I will eventually consent to sleep with you once you have proven yourself to me”? My sense is that eyes and loyalties would wander. The sooner the thrill arrives, the easier it is to earn loyalty.
Sometimes I think that the other 50% are thinking about retirement.