Employees: Your Term Is Up!

We all know about term limits for politicians, but on Wednesday, I learned about new term limits for workers. If you have not heard, Revel, Atlantic City’s Newest Casino is setting term limits for their front-line staff. When their term runs out (4-6 years), they will be required to go through the hiring process again. Yep, that means reapplying for one’s job and competing against other job candidates.


Is it a good thing?

  • By having such a policy an employer will “attract the most highly professional people who are inspired by a highly competitive work environment” – says Revel.
  • Since Managers aren’t required to reapply, this “requirement” will motivate people to move up in the organization

OR –

A dreadful employment practice?

  • Such a policy may be an excuse to take advantage of desperate job seekers
  • Simply a way to weed out older workers

From a Human Resources perspective, it is easy to see both sides of the coin here. My one exception however, is the argument that the policy does away with job security for these employees. I would like to ask these folks where is there job security on the job these days? Is one’s job really secure any longer? Many workers are employed At-will these days, not to mention all of the Reductions-in-force we have all seen in the past few years – and that’s in both the public and private sector. I think we are all aware of the economic climate as it relates to employment, which probably explains why such a policy that may be unpopular with some hasn’t stopped the hundreds of people who have already agreed to work under Revel’s term limits!

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Henry Brown

Generally speaking this can be a good thing; Would offer that Revel should NOT exclude managers from this role/routine as well…

To a certain extent it is already being done within the federal work-place. Where contractors have to “reapply/bid” on thier job.

Andy Lowenthal

This is an interesting post, Tricia. I think you are right in your assessment that no one is entitled to their job in today’s world, regardless of sector or occupation.

When it opens, Revel will be in a tier all its own in Atlantic City — the newest, tallest, and (dare I say?) swankiest casino in AC. Everything about their approach is bold, and so is their human capital strategy. Given the relatively limited talent pool at the NJ seashore, Revel will surely be looking to lure away the best employees from other casinos (i.e. Borgata). Will be interesting to see if they succeed. I also share Henry’s view that managers should set the example and be included as well.

Corey McCarren

On the other hand, as opposed to attracting the best talent, it could also do the opposite. A talented worker may not like the sound of having to fight for his/her job again every 4-6 years. Regardless of whether there is or isn’t actually job security, I think people would at least like to pretend that there is.

Stephen Peteritas

Oh man, I think it’s a bad practice. Don’t get me wrong I like it in principal but I just don’t think it can actually work well with out feelings of resentment and paranoia.


@ Henry – I agree about not excluding management. What struck me about the idea was that it was an additional step to what schools do. When I worked as an HR Director for a school district – all employees received annual contracts. There was no guarantee you would be coming back the next year. It was wait and see if you’re contract was renewed or not. The way I see it, is that Revel is giving employees a 3 to 4 year contract (much better than a 1 year), however you’ve got to interview again before returning to work.


@ Eric – Perhaps initially to screen and on-board folks, however in the long run, they’ll probably end up with a lot of star peformers. You cut the ones who don’t work out for whatever reason (attendance problems, not meeting performance standards, etc.) – which would be a cost savings. If the person completes their contract and reapplies, I would think they would keep them. Plenty of HR’s time-consuming problems are Employee Relations issues — with these problems at a minimum, the time spent dealing with employee issues can be focused on recruitment.

Victoria P. Friedensen

In the Revel scenario – if an employee is doing well, receiving raises and bonuses during their time, the implication is that they will be competing (with ahigher salary) against new hires (who will be coming in at much less). That leaves room for HR to imply that if the employee wants to stay on they take a pay cut – regardless of their performance. I wouldn’t apply. It will also weed out the older employees.

I think the idea of ‘contracts’ is a better idea. The implication is that your contract would be renewed, based on performance, at the same rate of pay. If there is a budget issue then you could negotiate with management on a reduced pay but you would still be able to negotiate for your job. “Contracts” might be a good mechanism for federal government: non-performers could be weeded out, billets could be transferred to needed competencies, and workers would have a better motivator than the yearly employee evaluation.

Would it encourage young people? Dunno. I think competitive pay and a faster hiring process would be key to bringing in newbies.

Rebecca Mann

I don’t understand how this could possibly encourage people to want to work for the Federal Government. If you have to re-apply for your job every 4-6 years? If I had to do this, I’d likely be applying for a better job instead.

Erica Bakota

As part of the initial response to the question of why only 2.3% of college grads plan to work for the government, one of the main things discussed was the cumbersome hiring process. If the hiring process is already cumbersome and we are already bogged down with administrative garbage, why add more by imposing term limits? We would spend a disproportionate amount of time and money on the hiring process and relatively little on the work that matters.

Also, while people have suggested better pay and less bureaucracy as methods of recruiting new talent, these may be unlikely to happen (especially if we are spending all of our time on the hiring process), so job security may be one of the few perks that a government job can offer these days. However, I do agree with a point made in the post in that even government jobs are not as secure as they once were. In fact, my own position is a “permanent” position with a caveat that one must publish two scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals every year. If you don’t meet your publication requirement, well, good luck.

Dan Mered

I don’t think the problem of attracting competent staff can be solved by term limits. What we need is improved work competencies that changes with the times and everyone gets held accountable to those standards but also gets rewarded when people excel those competencies. It works for the private sector and should work for the public sector as well. I think term limit is a demotivator for both the public or the private sector.

Terry Brill

To assess this idea one need look no further than the “industry” from which it came. For a different perspective, see the piece on how Germany trains and retains it manufactoring workforce that ran last night on the PBS Newshour. It shows how Germany, with only one percent of the world’s workforce, accounts for ten percent of global exports. Treating workers with respect and dignity is a big part of that equation. Germany has 5.5 percent unemployment, has a great many family firms and very little investment banking. And yes, they also have freedom of speech, religion, and great health care.

Michael Slachta

Wow I knew HR was getting lazy but this tops it all. This concept eliminates the supervisors role of evaluating their employees. Gee…you didn’t qualify for a job you have been doing for the last 4 to 6 years. Come on, it is nothing more than another step to make the supervisor one of the guys/gals.

Victoria P. Friedensen

I absolutely love my work and expect that I would want to renew a contract every 4-6 years. People who work on contract – like my husband, an aerospace contractor – say that having to renegotiate a contract means you have to keep your skill set sharp, stay motivated, and stay positive with management. This thread is about encouraging young people to work for the government: maybe extended contracts are a good way to encourage the best and brightest to apply. The average government contractor is working off a 2 year contract (if they are lucky) so a 4-6 year contract’s not a bad deal, even if the salaries are somewhat lower at the higher levels.

eric Wolff

It wouldn’t work without deeper changes in the hiring process. The best people look for the best jobs with the best security (however they see it). Unless the hiring process is fixed so that good people can be chosen, it won’t be the best who are chosen. Good people who get in will be looking for a way out and at each hiring phase the work force will get worse. If the fixes are made to create a way to get a good percentage of good people, then this whole thing would be unnecessary. It’s a catch 22. Let’s work on the bigger problem. Find ways to attract the good people out there. Secondarily, this scenario assumes that workers are nothing more than resources. I think the government stands for more than that and I don’t think that should change.

Deena Larsen

Excluding management would lead to paranoia and resentment, I agree.

Moreover, this could easily be seen as favoritism–I did not “win” my job back because the bosses’ niece applied and got it. This sets people up to fail.

A better idea would be for EVERYONE in the organization (including the SESers, political appointees, etc.) to have a review that actually meant something. And make it easier to fire people if you can show they are not performing satisfactorally.

Corey McCarren

Does anyone think that this model may work for one sector but not the other? I saw someone mention that it may drive people away from the public sector if only applied there. Since government employees are serving the public interest, wouldn’t this create a situation in which the best employees manage government?

K. E. Windle

Interesting. How do you propose to take the “patronage” aspect out of the proposed employement terms? When the employment term renewal comes due, irrespective of job performance (good or bad), will the employee need to pass the “party” test — that is the “party in power ” test in order to maintian employment??

Gregory Butera

The idea of creating an artificial term limit of any kind, on anyone, anywhere, is a terrible one.

It seems whenever people embrace the idea of putting a limit on human experience, it is because they are coming from a negative place. If your perspective is focused on weeding out bad apples, unmotivated employees, bad managers, politicians who have their hand in the cookie jar, then this always seems like a good idea. But the law of unintended consequences looms large on this issue.

Term limits mean that you can weed out the bad, but you also weed out good. Term limits make it near to impossible for people to develop the specialization, networks, clout and expertise needed to solve real problems. Term limits select for behaviors that are moderate and compliant, but companies and governments also need people with edge and sharpness for innovation and success. Term limits allow for “justifiable” discrimination toward any number of groups.

If there exists an “Einstein” or a “Steve Jobs” in a company, government agency, or Congressional committee, heck, I want that man or woman in the position as long as their faculties permit it. I want them training other people with their ideas and creating value, and generally working to make the world a better place.

There are so many better management tools that can be used to get good results from employees/managers and even politicians, to make sure that stars rise to the top and the bad apples get nudged into other roles. Even on the issue of term limits for elected officials, I’d rather we focused on fixing the system that creates voting districts and fixing the system around financing elections to permit more competition, rather than telling both the talented leader and the unscrupulous slouch that you have 6 years and then you’re out.

Gregory Butera

I meant to add a point about how it also increases the cost of hiring and developing employees which others have already noted, probably better than I could…

Keena Cauthen

@ Dan Mered… My government organization has a set performance standard and quality standard (so many widgets a day, with only so many errors allowed per year), like you’re talking about. All of it based upon competentcies necessary for the job. Theoretically, our performance notices are based upon these… if you meet the minimum, you are Satisfactory… if you exceed by a certain %, then you Exceptional… and end of year bonuses are given out based upon these numbers, which are standardized nation wide for everyone doing that same job with the same level of experience. When I came on board, I thought it was great… a reliable way of determining performance notices, a fair way of giving out bonuses, and a simplified way of removing those folks not doing their job. After 6+ years here, I can say that none of that is true. Performance notices are still altered due to manipulation of the numbers so favorites still excel and those supervisors don’t like as well get Sats. Bonuses are still given out based on who you know. And after 6 years here, I can show you a number of employees who are NOT meeting any of their standards and haven’t for several years and are not showing any signs of moving on. The organization just continues to move them and find ways around the system until it meets their desires to move them on. So having set standards, updated competencies, and (on paper) a way of determining accountablity sounds like a solution, but it doesn’t solve anything.

I do think that have term limits on your employment would be detrimental for hiring purposes. What happens if you’re hired in a position as a single person, during your 4-6 years you have a child, and your availability changes (less OT hours worked, less “free” hours given by working late, more time off for sick child, etc) and now you’re having to compete for your job… gives the employer an opportunity to let you go and hire someone who doesn’t have those issues. And that is only one example, there are others and some have been mentioned already. When you start looking at costs (savings or not), consider the additional costs of fighting potential suits against complaints of unfair hiring practices (not hired because a single parent, age, etc). Even if they can’t take these to court, just raising the issue and having to answer to them will put more work on the HR office. I don’t see where it saves them work. Additionally, how would benefits be looked at? Most jobs require you to be on board for a set amount of time before full benefits take affect. How will the company handle the benefits for those who compete and get their job back vs the new hire. Can benefits be carried over from one term to the next or does it start anew?

I do think that if you want to go this route, in any way, shape or form, the way to do it would be contracts instead of terms. That way when your contract is coming to an end, you negotiate to resign it and not so much completely recompete for the job. This would still allow the company to not renew the contract for those who are not cutting it, but gives those who want more of the veil of security to feel they have it and more desire to hire on to begin with.

This is not a option what would work well in all companies, either private or public… I can definitely attest to the fact that it would not be beneficial in the company I work for, where it takes 2-3 years just to get you up to “journey level” standards, where we can get the most work with the fewest errors out of the employee with less manhours per year towards training for them. And I’m not sure that hiring nurses and doctors for a term would be the best for our veterans either. But there may be some jobs that it would lend itself to. It will be interesting to see how it works for Revel.

Jason Richmond

I’m in basic agreement with both Cauthen and Butera.

I due believe that in order to attract and promote top talent you need “great” managers, an exciting & rewarding job, and an ability to weed out non-performers whether they are management or not.

A great manager can keep their staff engaged in the work and excited about coming to work every day. From my experience many people leave positions due to personal conflict with their manager. Bad managers can demotivate staff and destroy a department. A cohesive team can be very productive and accomplish an enormous amount of work. A bad apple within a team can destroy morale and kill productivity. Managers need the ability to remove the distraction even if that employee is good at their job.

Once you have a great management team that is accountable for results they can focus on creating the best product possible.

The problem as I see it is that it is very difficult to weed out non-performers in the public sector. In the private sector, where I have spent most of my career, it was generally much easier to remove the non-performer so long as the manager did his job by documenting performance issues and consistently tried to correct the performance issues.

Once you have great management, clear and exciting work objectives, and a great work environment you will find it is easier to attract great talent. Word of mouth is an excellent recruiting tool! My last firm was able to attract great talent due to our image that was created over years of hard work. We had many staff members that quit on their own accord to test the employment waters elsewhere but many came back due to the great people and the quality of work being generated. It made it much easier for our recruiters to do there job.

I think the root issue is that government jobs have a perception issue and many young talented people are looking for more exciting jobs that are available in the private sector.

Robbin Terrell

Great! Thanks for opening Pandora’s Box! As I’m sure you are aware that at least one Congressional staffer is reading this and saying to him or herself, “Wow what a great idea this is, Hey BOSS!” and I bet in less than six months there will be bill after bill on the House floor. However, as a Collage Graduate I can attest to the fact that I would not pursue a job with term limits. Upon graduating I was looking for a career that offered a good retirement. I cannot see where any job with term limits would be of interest to a collage grad. This is truly a bad idea for both the employee and the establishment as costs of hiring, training background checks and the likes would be much greater than retaining a good employee.

Janina Rey Echols Harrison

It’s a horrible idea. Term limits on politicians is meant to limit bad politicians from continuing to drain the public coffers or impose laws that support the beliefs of a specific sector of society as opposed to those that support all members. Unfortunately, it also limits the good politicians who have good hearts and a will to serve the people (not that I see too many of those lately.)

It is just like all laws, rules, regulations. There are those who will figure out how to abuse the system and do. Criminal minds will always find a way.

It is easy to agree with Cauthen and Butera about the shortcomings of any type of process. Somehow the rotten egg floats to the top and still fouls the whole pot if you don’t recognize and remove it.

There have been so many posts recently about how positive management can really bring the best out of people (reposting many of those to help buoy people up). Many studies show this. I am more creative and productive in an environment where I am valued. With so much news touting the public sector worker as a burden on society, do any of us really feel valued unless our management is supporting us? I love the Despair, Inc video.

There is a lot of training going on in our management team, but there are a lot of bad apples who will walk away from it with the attitude that things are working fine for them using their style. Upper management is still supporting those people. Sociopath behavior where they spew all the lessons from training when they are engaged with upper management but in ‘real’ life they are continuing the destructive behavior patterns. Management believes things are changing when they are not.

Let’s focus on positivie approaches. This doesn’t sound like one.

Janina Rey Echols Harrison

Oh, and one other item. That, management doesn’t have to reapply, motivating people to move into management, statement. I would love to move into management but those positions seem to be going to relatives of management in many many cases, and also many positions being filled that I never saw the position flown. If you have someone move into management who turns out not to be well suited, they get to keep their jobs and not have to compete? Bad idea. Not everyone who moves into management positions are suited to managing other people.

David K Martin

The most important thing that this will eliminate is employee loyality. Why would employees feel loyal to their agency or their other workers if they knew that in 4 years they would be in cutthroat competition for their jobs. As for whether it will work, it hasn’t worked for Congress, why would it work for the rest of the workforce? I can see many employees figuring that they are only going to be there for 4 years, and spending most of that time sharpening their resumes instead of doing the gut work that actually keeps the gears turning. That or kissing up to the supervisor who is going to make the decision to rehire.

Joshua Foster

Wow…. rewarding good workers by allowing them to keep thioer jobs…. how generous of management…..

How about some other scheme to encourage excellence…. like preformance based pay, opportunities to work in lateral positions to keep the learning process going and the work varied….

Thing is, even highly qualified, experienced, hard working encumbents can have bad days. And if that bad day comes on the day of thier interview then thats a disaster for the company and the worker. Ibnterviews and recruitment processes are very stressful. In toher cases encumbents can be overly confidnet in retaining thier position and may not put in the required effort in the recruitment process again leading to problems.

Also these rules dont apply to management??? If anything the impact of a poorly performing manager is far greater than a poorly performing grunt. If anything these contract rules should apply to management as it would be far harder to pry a poorly performing manager out of a well paying management role then a grunt position.

Not a good idea at all.

Jim Bunch

This is a crazy stupid idea.

First, there is already an experience and brain drain that is taking place in many government agencies ue to the impending retirement of the baby boomers. I believe that experience and knowledge gained of what works and doesn’t work DOES make a difference in helping to manage programs and research effectively.

Second, this would simply be an excuse to get rid of older (more expensive) employees, especially in areas where experience and organizational memory may not matter as much.


Thanks everyone for your responses! So interesting to see GovLoopers are divided on whether this is a useful tool or not when it comes to hiring/rehiring employees. Guess it’s wait and see how it pans out!


@Jim – Actually 1/2 of the responses offered up alternative methods to attract/retain workers, modification of the policy such as including Managers in the process, other problems in the workplace, etc. They didn’t indicate they were opposed. Rather they brought up other workplace issues that we all face.

James E Lytle

All managers within the federal government should be required to re-compete for their jobs on a cycle of no longer than three years. Where I work, a smaller, supposedly self-supporting, government corporation, the benefit to the agency’s mission would be enormous. Recently, the corporation has been under fire from Congress and its IG for some serious mistakes and horrendous business practices, yet not a single manager has been held accountable for the mess. We have a CFO and General Counsel who have no earthly idea how the core mission of the corporation is accomplished. They both recently proved that assertion, when they were surprised by our horrendous (and as of yet, unpublished) error rate for improper payements. If those two women had to recompete for their jobs, based on their past performance and on their understanding of the agencies business processes, they would not get the jobs they now enjoy.

I am not sure how useful recompetition for lower level jobs would be though, I do think everyone at GS-14 or above should be required to re-compete. Having worked at two federal agencies now, I can state that my experience is that there are very, very, very many people working in the federal government who have been promoted far beyond their abilities; and if those people actually had to compete for their jobs, with competent candidates, they would never win the positions. I have also identified large numbers of competent people in management positions in the government who are simply phoning it in. As a friend of mine, who is also a federal employee often says, “The first thing I think of when I hear the term ‘federal employee’ is LAZY!!!!” It’s time we changed that reality.

Jim Bunch

Jim: That is a pretty strong comment. I certainly haven’t experienced the lazy and incompetent government worker in my interactions with Federal staff (mostly with the DOT), and in fact the higher up you go the more they seem to be overloaded and the more time and effort they seem to need to commit to, just to stay up with the job. If anything, many folks in key positions are being asked to do way more than anyone can competently handle or juggle. The result is triage and many projects being managed or overseen poorly.

Also, its been my experience that lower level staff often only see part of what the SES and senior staff must juggle and deal with in their daily activities.

What criteria would you suggest for assessing the competency of the GS-14 and above staff that you are talking about? Are these qualitative or quantitative?