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Tips on Employee Retention

Employee retention starts with the application process. The applicant's first look at the agency, followed by the employee's initial impressions during orientation, as well as subsequent assignments, performance ratings, awards, promotions and overall working conditions, all influence whether an employee stays or leaves. An essential element of successful retention is for agencies to inform employees and applicants -- as well as the public -- that the agency places high value on EEO and diversity. Following are tips intended to assist agencies in creating a rewarding and diverse work environment in which it can hire and retain employees who strive for excellence.

  1. Demonstrate leadership commitment and accountability. Agency leadership should create a work environment in which employees want to establish careers rather than merely have jobs. A significant part of developing employee satisfaction and loyalty begins at the top, with senior officials who: (a) clearly communicate that EEO is an integral part of the agency's mission; (b) ensure that employees from all backgrounds feel accepted, respected, and fairly treated; (b) provide on a fair and equal basis the support and opportunities its employees need to reach maximum potential; and (c) hold managers accountable when employees leave the agency due to lack of EEO compliance or the lack of effective EEO management.
  2. Hire and train the right people. Agencies regularly should review their recruitment policies and practices and collect and analyze applicant flow data to ensure that they are attracting and fairly considering the widest and most diverse possible applicant pool. It also is vital for agencies to recognize the value of having supervisors and managers with sufficient knowledge, skills and attitude to establish a model EEO workplace. As such, EEO and personnel law modules should be included in supervisor and manager training sessions.
  3. Establish Special Emphasis Programs and collaborate with affinity groups. By establishing and utilizing Special Emphasis Programs and partnering and/or consulting with the affinity groups, agencies can raise employee awareness of the importance of diversity and demonstrate the agency's commitment to a model EEO workplace.
  4. Include the EEO director in strategic planning. The EEO director can provide senior leaders with important workforce data and analyses of diversity and retention in the total workforce, mission-critical occupations and senior grade levels. Moreover, the EEO director's input on employee advancement opportunities can improve the effectiveness of training, career development and succession plans.
  5. Review agency EEO and personnel data. MD-715 workforce data tables and EEOC's Annual Report on the Federal Work Force are valuable resources and should be used to examine retention-related issues. For example, agencies should examine hiring and separation data by EEO group. If an agency sees more employees of a particular EEO group are leaving than being hired, the agency can further investigate whether there is a pattern of discontent among those employees by reviewing exit interviews, its EEO complaint inventory, its anti-harassment program, and its grievance process. In addition, agencies can look for indicators of stress among employees by noting increases in the use of leave or accidents.
  6. Improve advancement opportunities. Agencies can ensure that all employees have equal opportunities for advancement by creating and funding Individual Development Plans and Career Development Programs. Agencies can include these programs in their succession plans to ensure that they identify and develop well-qualified candidate pools (feeder pools) for their senior grade levels.
  7. Conduct employee opinion (climate) surveys and 360 degree evaluations. Climate surveys and 360 degree evaluations can help agencies assess the pulse of their workforce and make changes before employees decide to leave. Agencies can use these tools to hold supervisors and managers accountable for low ratings and reward them for high ratings.