Focus on Retention

The Focus series is a collection of reports that present the results of the 2014 Public Service Employee Survey (PSES), broken down by theme. Focus on Retention looks at results in the area of employee retention and examines how they relate to results for other aspects of the workforce and workplace. The information provided in this report is intended to help target efforts to recruit and retain employees in the public service.

Results and Comparisons Over Time

The 2014 PSES asked two questions See Footnote 1 relating to retention. Table 1 shows the results for these questions for the overall public service.

Table 1: Affirmative results for questions related to retention (2008, 2011 and 2014)
Question number Question 2008
(%)
2011
(%)
2014
(%)

Table 1 Notes

Table 1 – note 1

n/a – Question not asked in the survey for this year, or question modified in the subsequent survey(s)

Return to Table 1 – Footnote * referrer

Q61 Do you intend to leave your current position in the next two years? n/a See Table 1 – Note * 27 26
Q62 Please indicate your reason for leaving.
a To retire n/a 19 18
b To pursue another position within my department or agency n/a 32 32
c To pursue a position in another department or agency n/a 31 30
d To pursue a position outside the federal public service n/a 8 10
e Other n/a 10 11

In 2014, 26% of employees indicated that they intend to leave their current position in the next two years (Q61), similar to the proportion for 2011 (27%).

Employees who indicated that they intend to leave their current position in the next two years were asked to indicate their reason for leaving (Q62). Among those who indicated that they intend to leave, 18% indicated that they plan to retire (Q62a), similar to the proportion for 2011 (19%). Almost one-third of employees who intend to leave their current position indicated that they intend to pursue another position within their organization (Q62b) (32%), unchanged from 2011. Additionally, 30% of employees with an intent to leave their current position indicated that they plan to pursue a position in another organization (Q62c), similar to the proportion for 2011 (31%). Among those intending to leave their current position, 10% indicated that they intend to pursue a position outside of the federal public service (Q62d), slightly higher from 2011 (8%), and 11% indicated that they intend to leave for another, unspecified, reason (Q62e), similar to the proportion for 2011 (10%).

Demographic Findings

Age and years of service

Intentions to leave broken down by age groups and broken down by years of service reveal similar patterns. Generally, the largest proportions of employees who intend to leave their current position in the next two years (Q61) are among young employees and employees with less than five years of service in their current organization or the federal public service, as well as among employees nearing retirement age and those with 30 years of service or more.

Employees aged 24 years and under were the most likely (42%) to express an intent to leave their current position in the next two years (Q61). Employees aged 45 to 54 years were the least likely (20%) to express such an intent. Among employees aged 60 years and over, more than one third (34%) indicated that they intend to leave their current position in the next two years.

Among employees who indicated that they intend to leave their current position in the next two years, those aged 24 years and under were the most likely to cite "Other" (44%) as their reason for leaving (Q62) and to indicate that they intend to pursue a position outside the federal public service (20%). Among older employees, 64% of those aged 50 to 54 years and 82% of those aged 60 years and over cited retirement as their reason for leaving (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Results for Q61 (leave intentions See Footnote 2) and Q62 (reason for leaving See Footnote 3) by age group. Q62 asked only to employees who intend to leave
Bar charts of the results for Question 21c by size of organization. Text version below:
Figure 1 - Text version

Figure 1 illustrates the proportion of employees who responded "Yes" to Q61 (Do you intend to leave your current position in the next two years?) and the breakdown of reasons for leaving (Q62: Please indicate your reason for leaving.) by age group.

24 years and under 25–29 years 30–34 years 35–39 years 40–44 years 45–49 years 50–54 years 55–59 years 60 years or more
Intend to leave their current position in next two years 42% 35% 31% 27% 24% 20% 20% 26% 34%
To retire 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 1% 33% 64% 82%
To pursue another position within their organization 18% 39% 43% 42% 42% 41% 25% 11% 3%
To pursue a position in another organization 17% 34% 37% 39% 40% 39% 25% 11% 3%
To pursue a position outside the federal public service 20% 12% 10% 10% 10% 9% 9% 7% 5%
Other 44% 14% 10% 9% 8% 10% 8% 8% 7%

Among employees with less than 5 years of service in their current organization, 30% indicated that they intend to leave their current position in the next two years (Q61); among those with less than 5 years of service in the federal public service, 28% expressed an intent to leave. The least likely of the tenure groups to express an intent to leave were mid- to late-career employees with 15 to 24 years of service in their current organization (19%) or with 20 to 24 years of service in the federal public service years (20%). Employees with 30 years or more of service in their current organization or in the federal public service were the most likely (40% and 41%, respectively) to indicate that they intend to leave their current position in the next two years.

Among employees who indicated that they intend to leave their current position in the next two years, 46% of new recruits (those with less than 1 year of service in the federal public service) indicated "Other" as their reason for leaving (Q62). Among those intending to leave, early- to mid-career employees were the most likely of the tenure groups to indicate that they intend to pursue another position within their organization (41% of those with 5 to 9 years of service in the federal public service) and a position in another organization (38% of those with 5 to 14 years of service in the federal public service). Among those intending to leave in the next two years, 48% of those with 25 to 29 years of service in the federal public service and 82% of those with 30 years or more service in the federal public service gave "to retire" as their reason for leaving.

Organization size

When the results are examined by organization size, there is little difference in the proportions of employees who intend to leave their current position in the next two years; however, there are differences in the reasons they give for leaving. The larger the organization, the more likely these employees were to indicate that they plan to leave to pursue another position within their organization; 34% in very large organizations (those with 10,000 employees or more) compared with 9% in micro organizations (those with fewer than 150 employees). The smaller the organization, the more likely they were to indicate that they plan to leave to pursue a position in another organization; 55% in micro organizations, compared with 26% in very large organizations (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Results for Q62 (reason for leavingSee Footnote 3) by size of organization. Question asked only to employees who intend to leave their current position in the next two years (Q61)
Bar charts of the results for Question 21c by size of organization. Text version below:
Figure 2 - Text version

Figure 2 illustrates the proportion of employees who responded that they were leaving either 1) to pursue another position within their organization or 2) to pursue a position in another organization for Q62

Micro (fewer than 150 employees) Very Small (150–499 employees) Small (500–999 employees) Medium (1,000–4,999 employees) Large (5,000–9,999 employees) Very Large (10,000 employees or more)
To pursue another position within their organization 9% 19% 19% 29% 33% 34%
To pursue a position in another organization 55% 43% 48% 34% 29% 26%

Occupational category

The proportion of employees who indicated they intend to leave their current position varies among occupational categoriesSee Footnote 4. Employees in the Executive category were the most likely to indicate that they intend to leave their current position in the next two years (41%). In the other occupational categories, the proportion was smaller, ranging from 29% for employees in the Administration and Foreign Services category to 18% for those in the Technical category. Among employees intending to leave, those in the Technical category were the most likely to be leaving to retire (35%) and the least likely to be leaving to pursue another position within their organization (24%) or in another organization (16%).

Community

The 2014 PSES asked employees to indicate the community with which they most closely identify. Among community groups, employees who identified with the human resources, communications or public affairs, or financial management communities were the most likely to indicate that they intend to leave their current position in the next two years (33% to 39%). Employees in these communities were also among the most likely to indicate they intended to leave to pursue a position in another organization (37% to 41%).

Employees who identified with the science and technology, security, or health care practitioners communities were less likely than employees in other communities to indicate that they intend to leave their current position in the next two years (18% to 19%). Among health care practitioners who indicated an intent to leave, 33% responded that they are doing so to retire, which is the largest proportion of employees planning to retire in the next two years among community groups.

Key Observations

Retention rates tended to be higher among highly engaged employees. For example, employees who indicated high levels of engagement and positive views about factors that drive engagement (e.g., leadership, performance management, job fit and development, empowerment and respect in the workplace) were less inclined to intend to leave their current position in the next two years than were employees who indicated lower levels of engagement and held less positive views.

Among employees who indicated an intent to leave their current position, those planning to retire or to pursue another position within their organization expressed much more positive views about engagement and about their leadership, workforce and workplace than did those planning to pursue a position in another organization. Employees who indicated an intent to leave the federal public service expressed the least positive views.

Factors linked to intentions to leave

Job satisfaction and satisfaction with the organization

Employees who were satisfied with their job and with their organization were less likely than those who were not satisfied to indicate that they intend to leave in the next two years. For example, 21% of employees who agreed that, overall, they like their job (Q19) indicated that they intend to leave their current position (Q61), compared with 54% of employees who disagreed that they like their job. Similarly, 21% of employees who expressed satisfaction with their organization (Q59) indicated that they intend to leave their current position, compared with 40% for those who disagreed that they were satisfied with their organization.

Among employees who indicated an intent to leave their current position, those planning to pursue another position within their organization (Q62) were more inclined to report that, overall, they like their job (Q19) (75%) than were employees planning to leave for another organization (51%) or those intending to pursue a position outside the federal public service (40%). Similarly, 70% of employees planning to pursue another position within their organization reported that they were satisfied with their organization (Q59), compared with 33% of those intending to pursue a position in another organization and 25% of those intending to pursue a position outside the federal public service.

Quality of supervision

Employees who held positive opinions about their immediate supervisor were less likely than those who did not to report that they intend to leave their current position in the next two years. For example, 23% of employees who agreed that they are satisfied with the quality of supervision they receive (Q36) also indicated that they intend to leave (Q61), compared with 40% of employees who disagreed that they are satisfied with the quality of supervision.

Among employees who intend to leave their current position, 75% of those planning to leave to pursue another position within their organization agreed that they are satisfied with the quality of supervision they receive (Q36); employees intending to pursue a position in another organization or outside the federal public service were less likely to agree that they are satisfied with the quality of supervision (59% and 56%, respectively).

Effective leadership

Employees who expressed positive views about their senior management were less likely than those who did not to indicate that they intend to leave their current position in the next two years. For example, 23% of employees who agreed that they have confidence in the senior management of their organization (Q40) indicated that they intend to leave (Q61), compared with 33% of employees who disagreed that they have confidence in senior management.

Among employees who intend to leave their current position, 59% of employees who intend to pursue another position within their organization (Q62) expressed confidence in their senior management (Q40); that proportion was 35% for employees who intend to pursue a position in another organization and 29% for those who intend to pursue a position outside the federal public service. Similarly, 67% of employees who intend to pursue another position within their own organization (Q62) agreed that their senior managers lead by example in ethical behaviour (Q39), higher than for employees who intend to pursue a position in another organization (44%) or outside the federal public service (40%).

Performance management

Employees who expressed more positive views about different aspects of performance management were less likely than those who expressed less positive views to indicate that they intend to leave their current position in the next two years. For example, 24% of employees who agreed that their immediate supervisor assesses their work against identified goals and objectives (Q34) indicated that they intend to leave their current position, compared with 41% of employees who disagreed.

Among employees who intend to leave, those planning to pursue another position within their organization expressed more positive views about performance management than did those intending to pursue positions elsewhere. For example, 57% of employees who intend to pursue another position within their organization (Q62) felt that they receive meaningful recognition for work well done (Q12); higher than for those who intend to pursue a position in another organization (38%) or outside the federal public service (30%).

Sense of empowerment

Employees who feel empowered at work were less likely to indicate an intent to leave than were those who do not feel empowered. For example, 23% of employees who agreed that they are encouraged to be innovative or to take initiative in their work (Q17) indicated that they intend to leave their current position (Q61), compared with 35% of those who disagreed.

Among those who intend to leave, 65% of employees who plan to pursue another position within their organization (Q62) believed that they are encouraged to be innovative or to take initiative (Q17), compared with 47% of employees planning to pursue a position in another organization and 36% for those intending to leave the federal public service. Similarly, 68% of employees who intend to pursue another position within their organization reported that they have support at work to provide a high level of service (Q18); employees intending to pursue a position in another organization or outside the federal public service were less likely to agree that they have support to provide a high level of service (48% and 39%, respectively).

Good job fit and support for development

Employees who agreed that their job is a good fit with their interests or skills were less likely than those who disagreed to indicate that they intend to leave. For example, 22% of employees who agreed that their job is good fit with their interests (Q6) indicated that they intend to leave their current position (Q61), compared with 52% of those who disagreed that their job is good fit with their interests. Similarly, 23% of those who felt their job is a good fit with their skills (Q7) indicated that they intend to leave their position, compared with 50% of those who disagreed.

Among employees who intend to leave, 70% of those planning to pursue another position within their own organization agreed that their job is a good fit with their interests (Q6); that proportion was 55% for employees planning to pursue a position in another organization and 50% for those planning to pursue a position outside the federal public service.

Among employees who intend to leave their current position, 53% of those intending to pursue another position within their organization (Q62) agreed that their organization does a good job supporting employee career development (Q53), compared with 33% for those who intend to pursue a position in another organization and 27% for those who intend to leave the federal public service. Similarly, employees planning to pursue another position within their organization (Q62) were much more likely to believe that they have opportunities for promotion within their organization, given their education, skills and experience (49%) (Q54) than were employees intending to pursue a position with another organization (21%) or outside the federal public service (20%).

Perceived respect from organization

Employees who felt that their organization treats them and others with respect were less likely than those who did not feel this way to indicate that they intend to leave. For example, 24% of employees who agreed that their organization treats them with respect (Q57) indicated that they intend to leave their current position (Q61), compared with 38% of employees who disagreed that their organization treats them with respect. Also, 24% of employees who agreed that their organization respects individual differences (Q56) indicated that they intend to leave their position, compared with 38% of employees who disagreed.

Among employees intending to leave their current position (Q62), 84% of those intending to pursue another position within their organization agreed that their organization treats them with respect (Q57), higher than for those intending to pursue a position in another organization (63%) or outside the federal public service (55%). Similarly, 81% of employees intending to pursue another position within their organization (Q62) agreed that their organization respects individual differences (Q56), compared with 64% for those intending to pursue a position in another organization and 57% for those planning to pursue a position outside the federal public service.

Methodological Notes

For the purposes of this report, results for the two most positive responses on the scale (e.g., "Strongly agree" and "Somewhat agree") were added together to create a single percentage total for positive responses. Similarly, results for the two most negative responses on the scale (e.g., "Strongly disagree" and "Somewhat disagree") were added together to create a single percentage total for negative responses. The totals used to calculate the percentages do not include the responses "Don't know" and "Not applicable."

The observations in this report do not necessarily indicate relationships of cause and effect, but they can provide insight into connections between different aspects of the workplace.

For additional results and for the distribution of respondents by demographic characteristics, consult the 2014 PSES website.

Appendix

Occupational Category Occupational Group
Executive CI-EXC, DM, EC(CRA), EX, EXPCX, GR-EX, LC, MGT, PL, RLE
Scientific and Professional AC, AG, AR, AP-AA, AP-PA, ASG-ITS-LA, AU, BI, CH, CI-SPC, DE, DS, EC, ED, EN, ES, FO, HR, LA, LP, LS, MA, MD, MT, ND, NU, OP, PC, PH, PM-MCO, PS, SE, SG, SI, SW, UT, VM
Administration and Foreign Services AS, CO, CS, FI, FS, HR(CRA), IS, OM, PE, PG, PM, TR, WP
Technical AI, AO, CIPTC, DD, EG, EL, EU, GT, PI, PY, RO, SO, TI
Administrative Support CIASC, CM, CR, DA, OE, ST
Operational CX, FB, FR, GA, GL, GS, HP, HS, IN, LI, PO-IMA, PO-TCO, PR, SC, SR
Other AB, CIVIL, FT, Governor in Council, GR, IM, MDMDG, MG, NB, RE, REG, RM, SP(CRA), Student, UNI, Other
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