Report: Agencies must head off brain drain

Federal agencies must aggressively recruit a new generation of talented employees at all levels to head off the so-called brain drain during the next five years, according to a report released today.

In an issue brief titled “Brain Drain 2008,” the Partnership for Public Service (PPS) said that during the next five years, about a third of the federal government’s full-time permanent workforce will leave, mostly through retirement. Also, researchers expect a concentration of turnover at high-level and supervisory positions, which will compound the problem, the report said.

For example, based on the latest Office of Personnel Management projections, 36 percent of Senior Executive Service members will retire by 2012, and 76 percent will be eligible retire by that time, which means that the actual percentage of SES departures could be higher. In addition, 27 percent of supervisors who direct day-to-day work in government will retire by 2012, according to the report.

Agencies with the highest percentage of expected retirements by 2012 are the Federal Aviation Administration (26 percent); Housing and Urban Development Department (26 percent); Social Security Administration (23 percent); and the Education and Energy departments, National Science Foundation, and General Services Administration (22 percent each).

PPS said agencies are doing better at mapping their skill requirements and hiring new talent, but they must do more to offset the impending brain drain. They recommended that agencies take these steps:



  • Develop workforce plans that identify and meet future talent needs, with OPM maintaining its leadership role.



  • Modify recruiting strategies to attract new talent, including at the middle and and senior levels.



  • Streamline hiring processes and make greater use of recruitment, retention and relocation incentives, including student loan repayments.



  • Focus on retaining top-notch employees and use workforce flexibilities strategically to keep experienced workers.

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