Last week, my organisation and
Deloitte released a snapshot of the Best Places to Launch a Career in the Federal Government.
The good news for government is that a majority of new federal employees under the age of 30 report high levels of overall satisfaction when it comes to their specific jobs and agencies.
The bad news is that satisfaction levels begin to drop off after three years on the job.
For me, the importance of this analysis of federal worker survey data is the impact that job satisfaction has on these new employees’ decisions about whether they should stay or whether they should go.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, our report reveals those emerging professionals with higher levels of satisfaction say more often than their less satisfied counterparts that they plan to remain in their current positions.
Similarly, individual agencies with high satisfaction scores among all employees have lower percentages of new employees planning to leave. For example, slightly less than one-fifth of new emerging professionals at the top ranked agencies – the Department of Veterans Affairs and NASA – indicate they plan to leave. On the other hand, more than a third of these young newbies are contemplating leaving agencies like the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Education that have low overall employee satisfaction scores.
So, what’s the biggest difference? A sense of empowerment! A whopping 26-point gap exists between those who plan to stay on the job and those looking for other opportunities.
Other large gaps exist with respect to pay, training and development, and rewards and advancement. Large gaps also exist in the extent employees feel that their skills and talents are used effectively, and the understanding of how their jobs contribute to the agency mission.
Nothing dealing with people is easy. Fortunately, many of the ways to boost satisfaction and, in turn, long-term retention, don’t require financial resources. They may, however, require new or different behaviours from agency managers and leaders. Here are some tips.
• Start with realistic job previews. When applicants understand what a job entails – the skills needed and what the work and work environment are like – they have a better chance of deciding whether the job will be a good fit for them and the agency. For instance, if you need to recruit engineers to oversee and manage a team of contract engineers, but not do the engineering work themselves, be clear about it with potential candidates.
• Reinforce the line of sight between agency mission and employees’ work. Look for ways to connect employees directly with the mission of your agency. When assigning tasks, be sure to explain why the work is important. Also, look for opportunities for employees to interact with beneficiaries of the agency’s work.
• Establish mentoring programs. Pair experienced with less experience employees so they can share what they’ve learned, offer career advice and potentially increase employee engagement and effectiveness. Similar but less formal programs, such as “buddies” and peer mentors, can also be important to developing younger talent and building a supportive work environment.
• Offer flexible work schedules as part of improving work-life balance. Flexible work arrangements offer freedom to adjust both work hours and work location. Among the flexibilities provided to federal agencies by Office of Personnel Management are telework, flextime and the compressed work week.
• Take a moment to say “thank you.” In general, agencies currently aren’t in a position to provide financial rewards or incentives. Remember though, it’s not just about the money. Employees want to know they’re valued and appreciated. Send a hand written note of thanks for a job well done.
• Give employees’ opportunities to be part of the solution. Guide by asking questions, not directing employees what to do. When an employee brings you a problem, seek their input. Ask, “What do you think you should do to solve this problem?” Similarly, delegate authority and opportunities to make an impact, not just more work.
In the immortal words of the British punk rock band, The Clash, we may not be able to retain this talent “til the end of time,” but there are things that we can – and should – be doing to increase new employees’ satisfaction and retain them well beyond the initial honeymoon period.
What is your agency doing to boost employee satisfaction and retention? Please share your ideas and stories by posting a comment below, or email me at [email protected].
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