Government turnover elevated in mission-critical arenas

Report finds agencies need to do a better job of monitoring attrition

A new report from the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton says overall attrition rates for government employees are lower than those in the private sector but are alarmingly high among mission-critical employees and new hires.

For example, attrition rates for transportation workers approached 30 percent in 2008, nearly 18 percent in the nursing field, and 13 to 15 percent in fields that included border patrol agents and airport baggage screeners, according to the report, "Beneath the Surface: Understanding Attrition at Your Agency and Why It Matters."

Despite having a healthy overall attrition rate of just 5.8 percent in 2009, the government must take the higher individual attrition rates of essential employees seriously, said Ron Sanders, a senior executive adviser at Booz Allen who helped write the report.

"Low attrition may mask issues that agencies need to pay attention to," Sanders said this week in an interview on FederalTimes.com. "It's worrisome that we're losing young folks."

Although not all turnover is bad, the report advises agencies to spend more time examining individual attrition trends and monitoring who is leaving and why, said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service.

"Taking the average of attrition rates doesn't tell you a lot," he said. "You've got to look at whether you're keeping the people you want."

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