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How Can I Convince My Colleagues to NOT Leave Their Jobs?

That question – “How can I convince my colleagues to stick around?” – -was posed by an audience member at an event that I attended this morning which launched a new report called “Keeping Talent: Strategies for Retaining Valued Federal Employees.” The report was produced by the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton, and reveals challenges and strategies for agencies who are facing significant attrition rates right now and for the foreseeable future.

Here are some of my notes from the event:

– There is a disconnect between line managers and human resources staff members in terms of how they think about retention…and this gap leads to discontent among employees.

– The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey is being used as a helpful use it as an environmental assessment

– One of the main reasons employees are leaving: “My skills are not being used effectively in the workplace”

– Here are five key points that agencies need to consider with regard to retention:

1. Who is at risk? Which employees are prone to bolt?
2. What are you doing now?
3. What more do you need to be doing?
4. How are you developing, implementing, and marketing what you are doing?
5. How are measuring and evolving?

The moderator for the event was Dr. Ron Sanders of Booz Allen Hamilton. Panelists were:

– Larry Mack, Deputy for Strategic Management of Human Capital, Commodity Futures Trading Commission

– Jerry W. Simpson, Associate Director, Workforce Development, National Park Service

– David Tumblin, Workforce Analysis, Research Metrics, Office of Human Capital, TSA

Q: Why worry about attrition?


– TSA: as economy picks up, attrition will coincide

– CFTC: Dodd-Frank legislation helped Commodity Futures Trading Commission, dropped attrition from 15-20% to 6%; How did they do it? Full performance and pay scale review (competing against Wall Street, big banks, and other regulatory firms), report shared agency-wide (transparency), a lifecycle program (what would you like for this life cycle to cover?) and focus groups: what can we do to keep you?

– NPS: Haven’t had to worry about retention lately, “retirement tsunami” cresting now whereas many people stayed for 50 years in the past
– “Many outside DC don’t understand how thin/depleted we are in government…”; CFTC: press and legislation helped- TSA: hiring processes remain healthy

Q from crowd: we’ve been here a long time, many 50 years old, Repubs threatening to cut, freezes on the horizon, what can we do to keep our friends to stay?

A: TSA not having a problem b/c 65K hire in 2003, CFTC bringing back folks as contractors, NPS graying…no quick fixes, a lot of data crunching and real demonstrations of a desire to retain…one of top complaints: supervisors not very goodEmployee Viewpoint Survey really important…starts from top (Exec Level Committee), focus groups…just hired a Chief Learning Officer (CLO)

Q to Crowd: What’s working?

– CBO moved to phased retirement…then move to part-time. NASA has an example, too…
There has been legislation introduced for phased retirement…but always stalled.

Q: “Do rotations work?”

A – NPS is creating a national clearinghouse for detail opportunities…people felt they just didn’t know.

Q: Is there a way to capture knowledge and processes…not just people? Cloud solutions?
A: Missed this one…what’s your answer?

This is a problem that we’re all going to grapple with over the next 5-10 years…eager to get your ideas regarding how we keep great talent!

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Allen Sheaprd

@Andrew, I like your post and will answer the question but I have to ask – why keep them?

Shouldn’t people be promoted? Find new skills? A few stay because its from the heart. They love the work they do, hoping no one finds out they would do it for free – time permitting.

As for cooperate knowledge and the damage look back to the dark ages and before – apprentice and cross training. Like a Roman legion there was cross training so when one man fell, another stepped up allowing the line to move forward.

@Andrew the economy picking up is but one reason. Retirement is another big drain. That said, what helps keep people? Ask why they would leave and then address the issues.

Why do people stay?

They feel they are making a difference – not just a cog. Specifically they can fix thins, they are feel in control, they can try/use new things.

They like their work, really like their work. Take an EMT who loves helping people. Guess what – she gets pay, free supplies and free training and medical benefits. She is one of those “would do this for free if she was independently wealthy” folks.

They are learning what they want to. They are growing.

They feel connected and the lack of pay and opportunity is not that big a deal.

A small percentage are at a point in their life of “Just tell what to do, when to be here and when to leave”

Lastly an ethical question – should we keep an employee for our benefit or theirs? Who’s life is it?


Tough (and certainly not a new) question that’s tougher to address these days with so much uncertainty as far as the economy/unemployment/healthcare issues.

– Budgets are a problem so counter-offers are probably out of the question.

– Perks are great – telecommute/alternative work schedules, tuition assistance, etc.

– Great supervisors! Sups/Mgrs now more than ever need to be attentive to their subordinates – recognition, new projects they may be interested in (some companies allow employees 10% of their workweek to work in another area of the co. they have an interest in)

-(I know monie$ are tight for most) – discounts on gym memberships/Weight Watchers, even local lunch spots may be worked out with restaurants

– Incentives – hiring incentives. When I was a school district HR Director, we had difficulty hiring Special Education teachers. One thing that helped was providing a signing bonus, and if they remained in the district for a few years, they received another bonus.

– Benefits – organizations are cutting these, but these are important to those over 30 and/or with children/family. I wish organizations would think harder about this before raising the cost for employees, and cutting certain programs.

Allen Sheaprd

What is working – in part acknoledging four things

Pay raise and COLA have not been good – hey why lie?

We appreciate our new and long tenure employees. – let us feel the love

We are trying other benifits and want your input – This is actually risk free as most people stare back blankly.

We are working on pay increase – not actually under our control but its not being ignored.

Andrew Krzmarzick

@Allen Agreed. I think we need to establish clear performance targets, then measure against those clear expectations. Also, if we have those expectations of people, then we also need to give them the resources and training they need to get up to speed. Too often, we expect better performance but don’t invest in people. Your reasons why people stay are spot on…especially making a difference. I’d add “feeling challenged.” Our life or theirs? It’s got to be a both/and scenario. Too many employers treat employees like cogs…and really don’t care about burning them out.

@Tricia People often quit a supervisor, not a job, eh? That was one of the main points that came up in yesterday’s launch event. We need to develop our supervisors in government (not just our leaders – and there’s a difference!). A lot of what you mentioned was tied to money…how can you improve things without incentives or if you’re operating in a cash-strapped environment?

Allen Sheaprd


Great point about @Tricia “People quit a supervisor” or in my case Company. I’ve liked most of my supervisors but left the company. One, Metro Inc, was very difficult. As a consultant the supervisor, called a lead, met with the customer and then took me out to lunch to discuss how things where going. Lunch was what made it hard to leave the company.

Clear perfomance goals and then recognition for meeting them or doing something else great. Without knowing it I just made the Fab 5 and am still have a grin on my face. The little button, T-shirts, etc make a difference. Lets be specific about T-shirts. The ones saying “Enterprise refuling project ’97” with Worf, from Star Trek – TNG, holiding a fuel rod is one. Few people got them. Also “Day Camp – 2004 – STAFF” is another. Date, position, logo all make a difference. The less “run of the mill” or “Dollar Store/Wal*Mart” special it is the better.

@Tricia you are right. People are going to leave for reasons we can not prevent: retirement, money, spouse getting a new job, having to go back home to take care of parents, new career, better pay, no room for advancement, etc.

@Tricia IMO, people should not leave for reasons under their & our control. To leave a company because TeleWork was not used to combat commuting. Two fisted management by the Stick, not the carrot commited by male or femalesupervisors.

Their leaving a company because of avoidable poor performance. What motivates them? New challenges? Set work schedual and tasks? Recognition? Love of what they do?

Poor pay. Fine, we will not change that. Same low depressing pay but the company will give you free Health membership. Donate up to 4K dollars worth of stuff to your volunteer/scouting organization. We will send you to not less than two conventions in your field per year. We will teach you leadership so you can get a better job somewhere else.

IMO the best one – “the company will buy you lunch to teach someone else your job”. Why is this the best? storkes their moral, creates connections between workers, transfer of skills. Think COOP, promotions and DR (disaster recovery). Now two people have to leave to create the same hole as that one person. Plus you get to see if the new person learning the job can do the work *before* promoting them.

IMO its unethical to keep a person down for the companies benifit.

Allen Sheaprd


“Phased Retirement” – sounds great but guess what “There is no single, recognized definition of phased retirement.” Source:http://www.nasra.org/resources/Phased%20Retirement%20Overview.pdf This is good reading! New term “Phased Overload” Def – adverb – doing more than one job while being project manager where people gone are replaced by projects added.

@Andrew – Your questin was floated around some folks with interesting observations. People are leaving. Yes there are ’99’ers – folks out of work for 99 weeks or more. However those in local and federal government with jobs are not having problems finding jobs. We joked its because “Parttime private sector pay is a huge pay raise for us” Silence replaced laughter as we thought “I think its true”

Allen Sheaprd


How can I convince my supervisor to keep my colleagues around?

Federal, military, state and local governments are looking to reduce staff. How can we convince them to keep or even grow the staff ranks to get more great people?

On the good side, we are told months in advance of a RIF unlike private sector.