Posts Tagged attrition

Generational Transitions in the Federal Government: 4 Ways to Stop the Millennial Brain Drain

Brain Drain With approximately half the federal workforce nearing retirement age, government agencies are faced with the challenge of determining how to transition knowledge and determine the next generation of leaders. This exercise in organization transition presents a particularly acute problem given a recent Washington Post report that the number of employees under the age of 30 working for the federal government is at the lowest level since 2005. This means that the future leadership of our federal government workforce is just 6.6 percent of the total federal workforce, which is down from 9.1 percent in 2010. In raw numbers, this equals a drop of 45,000 individuals over five years. If even a portion of those lost to public service represent high potential leaders, this is an impactful brain drain. So, what is causing this exodus and what can be done about it?

Recognition. Leaders sometimes fall into the trap of managing projects at the expense of people. I was reminded about this recently while talking to a young woman. In short, she told me she never receives management recognition for the good work she performs—teaching computer skills to people who are resistant to technological change. She sees her job as a daily challenge and said a little appreciation would go a long way. While recognition from a leader would seem to be common sense, agency leadership needs to make it common practice in order to attract, retain, and motivate future generations.

Empowerment. The broad use of computers and mobile devices has created a generation whose work habits are far less tethered to a desk than any generation in the past—just take note of how many people are using laptops at your local coffee shop! Agency leaders need to support millennial tendencies to work remotely and independently.

Targeted Investment. With only so much time and money, any investment of dollars needs to be focused on specific outcomes. A terrific example is the DoD DIUX (Defense Innovation Unit Experimental). DIUX is a full-time outreach office in Silicon Valley that will serve to broaden the Pentagon’s access to new technologies. This innovative approach provides a model for other agencies to follow in promoting public service work that is appealing to the millennial generation.

Knowledge Transfer. Don’t wait—the best and brightest are working on an accelerated schedule when it comes to expected growth and leadership opportunities. Encourage senior leaders to pass along to promising younger workers their views and insights. This knowledge transfer should be targeted to those identified for leadership roles.

Meet the challenge of a looming generational transition head-on by developing actionable solutions that identify future leaders, enable knowledge transfer, and increase leadership capacity. A little bit of extra attention now can greatly improve the position of an agency in the future.

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How High Can Attrition Go?

A report published this month by the Partnership for Public Service (PPS) highlights a significant concern about attrition in the federal government.  Although attrition has decreased to 5.85 percent in fiscal year 2009 from 7.6 percent in fiscal year 2008, the report focuses on who is leaving and their significance to individual agencies.  The study states that the three main groups that are walking away from their jobs include new hires, employees eligible for retirement, and those in mission-critical roles.  The report also uncovered that from fiscal 2006 to fiscal 2008, 24.2 percent of newly hired employees in the government left their jobs within two years.

Attrition in the Federal Government can have an increased negative effect on both the cost to the agency as well as the loss of knowledge that the individual takes with them when they leave.  By 2015, over 48 percent of federal employees will be eligible to retire.  This includes more than 67 percent of federal supervisors.  When this group exits the workforce, they will be taking valuable and crucial knowledge along with them.  Agencies must begin now to start recruiting top talent, training them, and allowing them to work side by side with those that can pass on important skills and know-how to the next leaders.  In addition, agencies must ensure that new talent they are bringing on-board are satisfied with their work environment.

Authors and leadership experts, Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles wrote the book, Gung Ho! to generate importance on how to create committed and motivated people.  They found that there are three requirements for turning on the people in any organization.  First, people need to have worthwhile work.  People need a higher purpose and shared values that guide all plans, decision, and actions. Second, they need to be in control of achieving the goal.  When people know why they are working and where they are going, they want to bring their brains to work.  Being responsible demands people’s best!  Finally, to continue to generate energy, people need to cheer each other on, catch each other doing things right, and accentuate the positive. 

Learn 8 more ways you can create a positive and motivating work environment that can lead to long-term commitment and low turnover.

If you would like to read more on the study conducted by PPS, you can access the report here.

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