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Worker Discontent Could Spell Trouble for Federal Employers

April 12, 2006
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Federal employers could be headed for turbulent waters this year. Up to 20 percent of government employees are dissatisfied with their current jobs and may be looking to jump ship, according to a recent survey by Chicago-based CareerBuilder.

The projected turnover rates are not dramatically higher than those of previous years, but ongoing demographic changes in the workforce are making these levels more troubling than usual, explains Michael Erwin, senior career adviser at CareerBuilder. "Managing the changes precipitated by an aging workforce will be one of the defining challenges for federal employers," he says.

Finding candidates with the appropriate skill sets to replace retiring workers is taking much longer than in past years, resulting in heftier workloads. About 50 percent of survey respondents said that their responsibilities have become unmanageable, up by 15 percent from the previous year.

To make matters more complicated, workloads have increased during a period of stagnant wages. About 25 percent of survey participants said they did not receive a raise, and 86 percent said they did not get a bonus in 2005. The confluence of stagnant compensation, higher workloads and an aging workforce make for a grim outlook.

However, there are important steps that federal employers can take to bolster retention rates and improve morale. For instance, they should look for ways to help employees find a better balance between work and personal life. Some 30 percent of survey respondents said they were dissatisfied with their work/life balance. Federal employers can introduce flexible working schedules or develop employee assistance programs to tackle this issue, Erwin says.

Furthermore, employers should look for ways to enhance career development and training programs, he says. Roughly 37 percent of survey participants said they are dissatisfied with their career advancement opportunities, and some 33 percent said they were unhappy with the training and development programs available to them.

Gina Ruiz

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