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Talent Management: When the Question Is, Should I Stay or Should I Go?

With the freeze of pay in the air, there are sure to be federal employees – particularly soon to be retirees- asking the question (or humming The Clash,) Should I stay or should I go?

Managers should not give up hope. Today in their joint “Keeping Talent” report, the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton offer some strategies because: “Keeping the right talent, those who are motivated and have the skills that match job requirements, is potentially more critical than ever for federal agencies to perform at a high level and to meet the needs of the American public.”

In an interview about the report on Federal News Radio, today Ron Sanders, the Former Chief Human Capital Officer at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and, of course, a member of ASTD’s board of directors, said public managers can not only compete with the private sector on the intangibles. Sanders, who’s currently Senior Executive Advisor for Booz Allen Hamilton, says public managers can trump the private sector. Managers must remember to:

  • Connect with employees and tie their individual work to the larger agency mission
  • Reward employees who perform well
  • Invest in supervisors so that they develop leadership skills
  • Make accountable employees who underperform

Be armed against attrition. Managers should utilize social media and other tools to share organizational values, empower and engage their best leaders and enhance communication. That way people will “stay, just a little bit longer” or, perhaps, make a career of public service.

“Keeping Talent” notes that there are significant consequences to attrition:

“[T]he loss of significant and specialized knowledge and experience which can be difficult or impossible to replace. Consider, for example, the cost and feasibility of replacing a senior cancer researcher at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), or a cybersecurity expert at the National Security Agency (NSA), or a retiring chief meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center. Good employees [also] may leave behind demoralized co-workers—a deterioration of employee commitment and organizational loyalty.”

Also, you can forget being able to fill their jobs if a hiring freeze is enacted.

Tell us what’s keeping you in your job today. Join our GovLearning Group on GovLoop.

More on all of this in The Public Manager, in ASTD’s Employee Engagement Report and also from our friends in North Carolina at the Center for Creative Leadership.

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Andrew Krzmarzick

Great summary, Ilyse. I happened to be at the launch event over at the Partnership and shared a few of my live blogging notes here: “How Can I Convince My Colleagues to NOT Leave Their Jobs?” It’s still a little rough, but posted pretty quickly after the event before rushing off to a bunch of meetings!

What struck me from the Q & A is that agencies in the audience were pretty frustrated, generally speaking. I think they’d like to be more innovative in retention efforts, but feel as if their hands are tied. There are bright spots in TSA, CFTC and NPS (the panelists), but other agencies seem to be floundering as the reality of even greater retention issues loom on the horizon.

Allen Sheaprd


Connect with employees and help them grow.

Demming wrote “The only thing worse than training your employees and some leave is to not train them and have them all stay” (IMO this is where ideas start and managers follow through ends )

If I may add – stars and buttons. Yea little things. Childish? Perhaps. Look at the “Hard Rock Cafe” where only employees can earn the buttons. “Cracker Barrell” where they add a star to your uniform as you progress. Volunteer organizations giving out patches.

I would mention the military and police but having used the word “Childish” it may not be wise.

While pay is important for life, retirement and SocSec calculations its not the end all for I’ve tweeted “Never trade irriplaceable days for a handfull of transitory dollars”