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Turnover Behavior Among US Government Employees

Journal Title Review of Administrative Sciences
Published Date May 08, 2019
Research Type
Authors Joshua Hawley


High employee turnover is a critical policy issue for public managers to solve. The US government is concerned about slowing turnover rates, which have accelerated from 14–15% to more than 18% since the Great Recession. Explanations for increases in employee departure are more difficult to pin down. The expected wave of baby-boomer retirements did not materialize and cannot explain turnover. The impact of the Great Recession on employment makes it more difficult to theorize about the relationship between employee–organizational fit and turnover. This study analyzes US government employees’ turnover using data from the 2003, 2006, 2010, and 2013 editions of the National Survey of College Graduates. The data provide a unique opportunity to study cohorts of US government workers before and after the recession. Statistical models of employee turnover focus on comparing the factors that lead to employee departure. The exodus of workers from government offices can be explained more by the fit between the individual and organizational needs than by a mismatch between the skills required in the job and the needs of the organization. The results show that when there is a mismatch between individual skill level and the skills in their job, individuals are more likely to move within government. Workers that made job changes after the recession (2010–2013) had a greater gap in organizational fit than those that made job changes prior to the recession (2003–2006).