Lots of reaction from readers to the plan to base federal pay raises on the job turnover rate. The Office of Personnel Management says only 3.8 percent of all federal workers voluntarily quit the U.S. government each year, compared to a 13 percent job turnover level in industry.
OPM says the low federal "quit rate" proves that government pay and fringe benefits are better than those offered by industry. OPM believes that civil service salaries should be cut 5 percent and that future raises should be linked to the turnover rate. All this talk of quit rates produced a lot of Monday Morning Quarterback mail. Here are some comments from your neighbors and coworkers:
"As an economist I am attracted to the idea of using 'quit rates' to judge the adequacy of federal pay . . . . However bureaucrats have managed to oversimplify a sound idea and apply it incorrectly. Taxpayers would not necessarily benefit from comparable quit rates in government and industry any more than they would benefit from comparable pay. Personnel turnover costs are an important factor. If it costs 5 times more to hire someone in government than the private sector, then the lower government turnover rate may actually be too high. Costs to taxpayers would be reduced if the government quit rate were even lower." S.E. Arlington.
" . . . The federal quit rate seems very low to me. Many of my contemporaries have gone to better-paying private sector jobs. As for bringing 'fresh' talent to government, OPM might want to apply a little logic to that statement: Who would want to start a career in government knowing the pay constraints and freezes OPM plans to levy on workers?" S.A.W. Arlington.
" . . . The low turnover rate is not an indicator of the pay/benefits but rather an indicator of the federal manager's inability to hire and fire in a manner which promotes productivity and morale." J.G.O., Gaithersburg.
"After 20 years in government I am somewhat perplexed with the term 'quit rate.' Simple as it seems, it appears that dedicated citizens come to Washington to offer their diverse skills to their country. They continue to serve believing they are helping their nation, not because they get a few dollars more or less than in industry." Pennsylvanian in D.C.
" . . . OPM should explain why it thinks a 3.8 percent turnover rate is low for government; it could be too high, and it might be that a 1 percent turnover rate is desirable. Considering that career military sign up with the intent of staying 20 years and thousands of young people come to Washington each year with the intent of working for the government for a long time, an explanation of the 'problem' of a low turnover rate is in order." A.F.E., Washington.
"How do 'quit rates' take into account the value to government of retaining experienced people? OPM's formula would penalize those who stay in government rather than recognize the value of preserving essential institutional memory. 'New' ideas are a dime a dozen. What's rare is the memory of which 'new' ideas are really revivals of largely forgotten, old mistakes." C.J.H., Fairfax.
"I am a 19-year federal employe. Ronald Reagan has made me dislike the thought of getting out of bed, fighting to get on the bus and stand all the way to work and be an excellent secretary, which I am . . . . I wonder if in his younger days he tried to get a federal position and was turned down, and is now getting his revenge?" J.M., Alexandria.