How many new employees does it take to get a job done? To know that, an agency needs to know how many new employees will quit and why they quit.
The question is becoming more important as a number of agencies are facing a large number of employees who may choose to retire in the next several years. In other words, workforce planning is essential for an agency to accomplish its mission.
The Veterans Administration is no exception. GAO was asked to examine the attrition rate at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).
The Veterans Benefits Administration estimates that 21 percent of its employees who examine veterans’ claims and are eligible to retire will do so by 2006. To prevent a disruption in getting the job done, the organization hired over 2,000 new examiners between fiscal years 1998 and 2002. While VBA obviously knows it has to keep most of these new employees to meet its mission requirements, until 2001 it was not regularly calculating an attrition rate for its newly hired employees.
GAO looked into the question of how accurate the estimated attrition was for new claims examiners. Using OPM data for fiscal year 2001, GAO calculated the attrition rate for new examiners to be about 16 percent within 12 months of being hired. This is more than double the 6 percent rate for all VBA employees but about the same for new federal employee hires in most other agencies.
The rate these new employees left was much higher in some offices than in others. In Wichita, Kansas, for example, none of the new employees quit. In Newark, New Jersey, about 40 percent of the new employees quit.
Obviously there were reasons behind this large discrepancy but the agency doesn’t know what those reasons were concludes the GAO. It recommends that the VA begin conducting exit interviews, analyze the cost of the attrition rate to decide if the rate is excessive and how it compares with other agencies.