Daily Dose: Finders, Leapers – Govies Leaving Soon After Landing

It turns out that an average of one in four new Federal employees are jumping jobs within the first two years. At least that’s what Joe Davidson wrote in his Federal Diary on the Washington Post:

Attrition is high among new workers at many government agencies

Davidson reports:

As soon as Uncle Sam finds good employees, he loses a bunch of them.

Nearly a quarter of new federal government hires leave their jobs within two years, according to a report released Thursday.

The government is losing too many new hires – the same talent it is working so hard to recruit and bring on board,” says the report, “Beneath the Surface:Understanding Attrition at Your Agency and Why it Matters.”

Overall, 24.2 percent of new hires left government from fiscal year 2006 to 2008, but at some agencies the situation was worse. More than a third of the new hires at the Departments of Treasury, Commerce and Homeland Security weren’t there two years later, according to the report prepared by the consulting firm of Booz, Allen, Hamilton and the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, which has a content-sharing relationship with The Washington Post.


To be fair:

Generally speaking, Sam does a good job of keeping his people on the job. Job security is a well-known attraction of government employment. The report says overall federal attrition rates were 7.6 in fiscal 2008 and 5.85 in 2009, compared with a private-sector rate of 9.2 in 2008.

Still, I must ask:

Have you ever been a government job jumper?

“Daily Dose of the Washington Post” is a new blog series created by GovLoop in partnership with The Washington Post. If you see great stories in the Post and want to ask a question around it, please send to [email protected].

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Adriel Hampton

24.2 percent of new hires leaving, but an overall attrition rate well under 10 percent? That says a lot, especially with how hard it is to get in in the first place. It’s even worse than I thought.

Christopher Whitaker

I wonder how many of these jumpers are people who came in as refugees from the private sector and then jumped ship as soon as they found something in their old field.

Doris Tirone

Perhaps before answering “why”, it would be worthwhile to find out “what”…. what reasons were given by these new-govies who left the agencies reported in the article? Did the comparable agencies hire new govies at the same per capita rate as those named in the article and, if so, what is their comparable attrition rate? Attrition is based on many factors… one of the most critical components in addressing high attrition rates rests upon the exit interview and, I’ll bet there was little data collected from the agencies sporting the highest rates. I also noted that the Agencies with higher attrition rates seem to correlate with the agencies at the lower end of the recent survey of Best Places to Work in the Federal Government. Hmmm… perhaps it would be worth rereading the comments from that survey … maybe this isn’t about new govie attrition afterall? Maybe it’s really about the workplace culture in those agencies!

Peter Sperry

Also, how much of the attrition was to other govenment agencies? Many people take the first government job they can find and then move on to where they really want to be after completing thier probation year. Agencies with streamlined hiring systems could actually see higher 2 year attrition rates precisely because they are seen as launching pads.

Kevin Carter

As a new hire, I would guess the high rates of attrition among new hires and the very low rates among lifers are directly related. New employees come in with high expectations of themselves and what they can accomplish only to find their energies diminished by “the way we’ve always done it” and “pay your dues” mentalities.

Stronger on-boarding and mentoring programs could alleviate some of this turnover.


I like the point about jumping to other gov’t agencies – I know a number that have done that and I don’t think that’s jumping.

Martha Garvey

Yes to folks moving within the government, that is: to another agency. As far as on-boarding is concerned, yes to that. I think some of recent federal moves toward smarter faster hiring also embrace better orientation, better followthrough, better assessment. Be interesting to see what this picture looks like next year.

Jeffrey Levy

In other words, 76% of people stay beyond two years. Amazing how much better it sounds when you look at the other number, isn’t it?

Also, what’s the retention rate in the private sector?

None of which is to say there aren’t problems. I’m sure there are. But equating 1/4 with “high” attrition requires some benchmarking.

Carol Davison

As a performance and development expert, I’d like to point out that employees leave their supervisor, not their organization. However in the Federal government we focus on hiring, even though we only fill a position every three years. If we tranformed our managers into leaders who compell their employees to high performance we would get off the go nowhere hampster wheel of recruiting and be able to manage human capital strategically. But when was the last time you heard of an emphasis on increasing supervisors’ perforamnce management skills?

Carol Davison

Jumping to other agencies IS jumping. It costs about he same amount of time and money to recruit a internal candidate as a external one.