10 Strategies to Reduce Employee Turnover in State and Local Governments

  • Employer strategies
  • 10/3/2023
Four People Walk Down Courthouse Steps

Key insights

  • Government organizations should consider proactive steps to reduce turnover, especially considering retirements and leadership loss.
  • Leaders should look to increase communication, work-life balance, employee engagement, well-being, and growth opportunities.
  • Succession planning especially should be prioritized — considering the loss of senior leaders can cost a lot of time, effort, and money.

Employee burnout is a challenge and the public sector is no exception. In many government entities, workloads are growing and employees are increasingly overtaxed — especially the core teams entrusted with the most mission-critical responsibilities.

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Working in government has always been attractive thanks to competitive benefits packages, job stability, and the chance to make a difference in the community. But some have lagged in adopting new technology and professional development practices.

If government organizations don’t properly plan for turnover, it can create a cascading effect across the organization. Here are 10 steps to consider to reduce disruptions.

1. Succession planning

This is an area organizational leaders sometimes overlook but it’s one of the most important steps to limit the impact of leadership turnover. Not planning for retirements of senior leaders can lead to spending more time, effort, and money than expected.

Succession planning is the process of identifying and developing employees with the potential to fill key leadership and other roles within an organization. Planning provides a map for filling key roles in the event of unexpected departures or retirements. This can help strengthen continuity and reduce disruptions.

Employers who prioritize succession planning are more likely to be viewed positively by employees, customers, and the public. Don’t forget about succession planning with non-senior employees, as well. Identify employees with the skills, aptitudes, and interest in being promoted, including those in other departments. Develop those employees’ knowledge and competencies through mentoring, job shadowing, and increasing responsibilities within their team. Outsourced staffing also can be an option during transitions.

2. Identify root causes of turnover

Start by understanding why people are leaving. Conduct exit interviews to gather information and insight. The interviews can help identify any commonalities and issues management should address. Data analytics also can help discover patterns and causes.

3. Enhance employee engagement

Focus on creating a positive work environment that promotes engagement and satisfaction. Recognize and reward achievements and foster a supportive culture. Consider allocating a portion of funding for workforce stabilization efforts. These funds can come from fees, taxes, or grants and be used for bringing salaries to current market levels or expanding professional development opportunities.

4. Prioritize well-being

Support employees by promoting work-life balance, providing mental health resources and a safe and inclusive environment. If you haven’t already, consider implementing an employee assistance program or wellness initiative to support your people.

5. Communication

Transparent and open communication is crucial to retention. Communicate goals, changes, and updates. Employees want to feel informed and involved. Encourage two-way communication and allow people to voice concerns or ideas.

6. Provide growth opportunities

People are more likely to stay with an organization that offers learning, advancement, and skill growth. Training programs, mentorship, and development plans are vital to helping people grow.

7. Work-life balance

Organizations prioritizing work-life balance can impact employees in positive ways, including less stress and burnout, being more focused and productive, improving personal and professional relationships, and increased loyalty. Consider remote work options and promote well-being through programs and initiatives.

8. Conduct stay interviews

In addition to exit interviews, consider holding meetings with current employees. Stay interviews allow you to gather feedback on satisfaction, identify areas for improvement, and address issues before they lead to turnover.

9. Build positive culture

Create a culture that aligns with organizational values and gives people a sense of belonging and purpose. This will increase teamwork, collaboration, and support. Celebrate achievements and make sure people feel valued and appreciated.

10. Address issues promptly

Keeping a pulse on employee satisfaction and morale can make a huge difference in retention. Regular surveys, reviews, and one-on-one discussion can provide data in real time that can inform what changes can and should be made.

How we can help

As government entities continue to experience changes, it’s critical to prioritize bolstering their workforces to continue to deliver quality service to residents. Given the leadership losses from retirements, greater investment in planning for the public sector is vital.

While cities are investing in their workforce in a variety of ways, they may need to do more in the near-term to prevent further loss of organizational knowledge and delayed service delivery for their residents. Reach out to our state and local government and talent solutions teams for more ideas and assistance.

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