Factors Affecting State Government Information Technology Employee Turnover Intentions

Published date01 June 2005
AuthorSoonhee Kim
Date01 June 2005
Subject MatterArticles
Syracuse University
Electronicgovernment expansion is creating the complex challenges of managing an effective information technol-
ogy (IT) workforce in the public sector. Survey questionnaires weresent to IT employees working in the central IT
departments of two state governments to analyze how job characteristics, work environment,and human resource
management practicesinfluence their turnover intentions. Results show that work exhaustion, an emphasis on par-
ticipatory management, and opportunities for advancement were statistically significant variables affectingstate
government IT employee turnover intentions, and that salary satisfaction was not a statistically significant factor.
Suggestions are offered for improving IT employee retention rates in government agencies.
Keywords: turnover intention; state government; work environment; human resource management
Government servicedelivery is undergoing rapid change because of innovations in infor-
mation technology (IT) tools (e.g., the Internet and geographic information systems) that are
being used by governments at all levels to improve externalcollaboration, civic engagement,
networking, customer service, and homeland security (Heiman, 2002; Modesitt, 2002;
Stowers, 2002). Electronic government (e-government) is viewed as having great potential
for enhancing public service delivery to individual citizens (Council for Excellence in Gov-
ernment, 2000; United Nations and American Society for Public Administration, 2001). The
speed at which e-government service expansion occurs will be limited by technical evolu-
tion, financial resources, and the establishment of organizational and managerial
E-government expansion is creating new challenges for human resource management in
the public sector. In the United States, the growing dependence on IT among federal, state,
and local government agencies is resulting in increased competition between private and
public organizations for well-trained and experienced employees (Agarwal & Ferratt, 1999;
Council of State Governments [CSG], 2000). Several studies have emphasized that success-
ful IT employee recruitment and retention is essential if e-government is to ever become a
reality (Chief Information OfficerCouncil, 2000; CSG, 2000; U.S. Office of Personnel Man-
agement, 1998). Competition for qualified IT employees is also becoming more intense in
AUTHOR’SNOTE: Support for this research by the University Research Councilat the University of Nevada, Las
Vegas,isgratefully acknowledged. The author thanks state information technology employeesfor their participation
inthis study, as well as anonymous reviewers for their comments. Specialthanks go to Gregory Roehm for his help on
the survey research.
Initial Submission: February 25, 2004
Accepted: November 8, 2004
DOI: 10.1177/0275074004273150
© 2005 Sage Publications
light of the current concern for homeland security at all levelsof government (Heiman, 2002;
U.S. General Accounting Office, 2002).
Given the budgetary constraints and expanded e-government services expected, state
governments face the complex challenges of managing an effective state IT workforce,
including recruitment, retention, and development strategies. The efforts to develop state IT
workforce management strategies can be especially hindered due to the constraints of civil
service systems and traditional public personnel management. Scholars find that the civil
service system emphasizing rules and regulations, control systems, political context, and
limited autonomy and flexibility can serve as a barrier to creating outcome-oriented human
resource management in the public sector (Benveniste,1987; Bozeman & Straussman, 1990;
Ospina, 1992). Despite increased research on e-government and IT workforces in the public
sector, limited attention has been paid to the identification of specific organizational context
and job-related variables that affect IT employee retention in state governments.
Individual state governments have been analyzing barriers to IT worker recruitment and
retention and trying to reform entrenched civil service systems since the 1990s (CSG, 2000).
State governments havemade important changes in job classification and compensation sys-
tems in an effort to retain IT employees (CSG, 2000). These include salary increases,
bonuses, enhanced benefits, employee development, alternative schedules and flextime,
telecommuting, and enhanced IT training. These changes are clearly having an effect, but
there is considerable room for improvement. According to a 1999 national survey of state
governments conducted by CSG (2000), 18 states were suffering from IT workforce turn-
over rates of 11% or higher, 17 states reported rates of between 6% and 10%, and 12 states
reported rates below 5%. In comparison, the average voluntary turnover rate for all state
employees was 8% in 1997 (Selden & Moynihan, 2000) and just less than 10% in 2001
(International Personnel Management Association, 2002).
Government agencies are making full use of their best assets to retain IT talent—for
instance, job stability and security, flexibility, and their social- and civic-service orienta-
tion—yet many feel that they are fallingshort of their optimal goals and are therefore turning
to alternative strategies for reducing IT employee turnover. Furthermore, government agen-
cies are investing some of their resources into efforts to identify job-related variables that
affect retention (Bruce & Blackburn, 1992; Rainey, 1997). That is the primary goal of this
study. To identify variables that have the greatest effect on IT employee turnover intentions,
survey questionnaires were sent to IT employees working in the central IT departments of
Nevada and Washington.1Specifically, I set out to analyze how job characteristics, work
environment, and human resource management practices influence the voluntary turnover
intentions of this particular segment of state employees. Understanding the factorsinfluenc -
ing the voluntary turnover intentions of state IT employees may provide insights for creating
effective strategies for IT workforce management in government agencies.
In the next section, I review the current literature on variables associated with turnover
intentions for both private and public sector IT employees and use the information to estab-
lish the research hypotheses. After presenting results from a multiple regression analysis of
the collected data, the major findings and their implications for IT workforce management
are discussed. In the final section, I offer several suggestions for improving IT employee
retention rates.
138 ARPA / June 2005

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT