Engaging Employees in Tough Times

April 25, 2012

During the past several years, millions of Americans working for private sector companies and state and local governments lost their jobs, while the federal government kept hiring. But the landscape has changed. Federal positions, traditionally regarded as the most stable, are now at risk under President Obama's plan to trim $24 billion from the federal budget in 2013.

The private sector is actually showing signs of economic recovery, with the Dow crossing the 13,000 mark this year for the first time since May 2008. Now, as government struggles to retain its value proposition, it risks losing critical talent resources at the hand of more attractive, viable and profitable private sector employment opportunities. As Ted Kaufman, former Delaware Senator, recently said, "At some point, instead of 10,000 [government employees] retiring in one year, you'll have 40,000 retiring in six months . . . if this economy comes back . . . and people have options." Agencies face a difficult challenge: retaining top talent in a time of uncertainty and fluctuation while also battling fierce competition from the private sector.

When budgets get tight, agencies must get creative about how to attract and keep the best and brightest professionals. Fortunately, most federal employees are more motivated by the opportunity to contribute to the greater good than by financial rewards, so engagement is an especially important factor in attracting and retaining these individuals. Engaged employees are more likely to persevere in times of difficulty, produce more and higher quality work, stay in their jobs longer, and be more satisfied with their work and organizations. 

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