Summer Workforce Series: Retention

This summer, as the PPMC continues to grow, we, like many employers are concerned about retention. We have, found, or developed the talent, but how do we keep it?

This is the first blog in a series discussing retention strategies in an environment where talent is hard to find and retaining high performer is harder than ever. But, here’s the question, everyone is talking about retaining talent – but what are we actively doing about it?

With a whole generation of Baby Boomers retiring, industries are left to pivot, especially public service. Before the pandemic, almost 1 million Boomers were retiring annually. That number jumped to 3.5 million annually during 2020 and 2021 (Fry, 2021). Hiring a slew of new employees is no longer an option. Having a job available is not enough to create opportunity or interest – competition with the private sector is hard to match (Semuels, 2022).

Plus, training a new employee is costly. The PPMC has the privilege of working with the Sedgwick County Fire Department and Chief Bradley Crisp recently shared that in order to train one new employee, the Sedgwick County Fire Department spends $30k in the first three months of hiring – and this number is from a few years ago. They’re doing everything right, it’s just the reality of the situation. Hiring new employees is expensive. Even beyond public safety, the impact of losing a high performer is costly to an organization in knowledge, dependability, and capacity. Research from SHRM and others indicates that replacing a staff member usually costs 150% of their annual salary (Carter, 2017) and another study found that replacing a top employee costs four times their annual salary (Boddy, 2021).

Moreover, public sector employees are becoming dissatisfied by the sector’s inability to keep up with the demands of the modern workforce. A March 2022 study of public sector workers by MissionSquare Research Institute found:

  • 52% were thinking about changing jobs because of pay and/or benefits
  • 36% need better work-life balance
  • 32% want work that allows remote capacity

Government systems are often not agile enough to properly address rewarding and retaining top performers AND creating accountability for low performers. We blame the systems, but we also make the systems.

We have to pivot to retaining talent. And we have to mean it. We can talk about it all we want, but now we need to do something about it. Something very different. In the next few months, we are going to dive into this topic more. But here’s the challenge for this month: Can you identify your top performers? What would the impact be if they left your organization? What have you done in the last month to keep them wanting to stay in their position? Do you spend as much effort on retention (beyond salary/fringes) as you do on recruitment? Let’s talk more – we want to know how your team is addressing these issues. What is your innovation in this area?


Boddy, N. (2021, April 15) The real cost of losing a star performer. Financial Review. Retrieved from

Carter, J. (2017, Oct. 27) The Impact of Lose Top Performers (And How To Retain Them). LinkedIn. Retrieved from

Fry, R. (2021, Nov. 4). Amid the pandemic, a rising share of older U.S. adults are now retired. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from

MissionSquare Research Institute (2022, March) Continued Impact of COVID-19 on Public Sector Employee Job and Financial Outlook, Satisfaction, and Retention. Retrieved from

Semuels, A. (2022, April 8) No Clean Water, Unplowed Streets: What the Public Sector's Hiring Problem Means For All of Us. Time. Retrieved from