Panel Paper: Military Veterans Working in the Federal Government: Why Do They Want to Leave?

Friday, November 7, 2014 : 1:50 PM
Enchantment Ballroom B (Hyatt)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Matthew Vanderschuere, American University
The Federal government’s preference for hiring military veterans extends back to the U.S. Civil War. The practice is still prevalent today as the military reduces personnel following the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A 2009 Presidential Executive Order established the Veteran Employment Initiative to increase veteran hiring in the Federal government and veteran hiring reached its highest levels in 20 years in 2012 (OPM, 2013). According to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, there are approximately 22 million military veterans alive today representing about seven percent of the total U.S. population (NCVAS, 2013). However, 28.7 percent of all new Federal hires in 2012 were military veterans accounting for 29.7 percent of the total Federal workforce (OPM, 2013). While the Federal government successfully increased veteran hiring, very little research has focused on the motivation and retention of veteran employees. This study provides an analysis of veteran turnover intention within Federal organizations and finds that veterans are significantly more likely to express turnover intention than non-veterans. Job satisfaction, job growth potential, and organizational satisfaction are all linked to employee turnover, and this study constructs a turnover model and explores why veterans are generally less satisfied than non-veterans resulting in turnover intention. Low veteran retention is a problem for public managers as high turnover results in numerous organizational challenges and directly contradicts the president's intent of providing long term employment for the nation's veterans.

     Prompted by the Veteran Hiring Initiative, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) started tracking veteran status among survey respondents in 2012. FEVS is an analytical tool providing federal employees an opportunity to respond to survey questions about their work motivation, organization, management, and leadership. Of the 687,687 survey respondents, there were 206,903 veterans (OPM, 2012). This study analyzes the 2012 FEVS data and demonstrates statistically significant differences between veteran and non-veteran responses for questions regarding motivation, turnover intention, job satisfaction, benefits, and promotion opportunity.  The FEVS data shows that 36 percent of veterans reported a turnover intention over the next year compared to 29 percent of non-veterans. Interestingly, 43 percent of veterans under 40 years old reported a turnover intention within the next year compared to 32 percent of non-veterans. This study finds that veterans under 40 also reported significantly lower levels of job satisfaction, perceived job growth potential, pay satisfaction, and organizational satisfaction than non-veterans which may account for the large difference in turnover intention between the two demographics.

     This paper possesses both theoretical and practical significance. From a theoretical perspective, this paper expands research on Federal employee turnover to include a demographic accounting for almost 30 percent of the Federal workforce. Practically, this paper assists public managers in their quest to motivate, retain, and maximize the performance of their employees by providing new insight on veteran employees and analyzes the policy implications of the 2009 Presidential Executive Order on Federal agencies.