Public Service Retention: Do Federal Employees’ Views of their Contribution to Mission Relate to Turnover Intention
The U.S. Federal Government is attempting reforms and recruitment strategies to combat a two-part demographic challenge, the aging federal workforce and a more competitive market for younger employees. While many of these efforts focus on mimicking strategies from the private sector, a growing field of evidence in public management studies highlights the value of uniquely public sector principles that could help recruitment, retention, and performance. In particular, there is evidence from studies of state and local government organizations that employees’ sense of mission is linked to greater satisfaction and organizational commitment. However, this relationship has not been tested for the Federal Government population that has a wide range of sectors of public work. This study tested the promising findings about mission and its relationship to organizational commitment within the Federal Government and, for a narrower focus, the subset of Department of Defense civilian employees. To achieve this, this study uses the 2019 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, which is a workplace survey administered annually to federal workers. The results of this study indicate that federal employees who do not perceive how their work contributes to mission are more likely to intend to leave the Federal Government. Beyond mission, the results support evidence from other studies that employee engagement and fairness in pay are relevant factors for employee commitment. This study makes a notable link of the importance of mission to the Federal Government population that could be a useful tool for federal managers to retain committed employees, the bedrock for administering many other federal policies and programs.
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