As the Hill adjusts to the results of midterm elections and prepares for 2023, conversations regarding staff motivation and overall workplace culture on the Hill are more relevant than ever. Staff retention has been an ongoing challenge in many congressional offices. To help public sector leaders understand how to best motivate and retain staff we surveyed federal policymakers – including junior and senior staff – to identify key drivers of retention and satisfaction. While 73 percent of policy staff report satisfaction with their current position, a full 54 percent of these individuals are actively searching for jobs elsewhere. A lack of visibility into career progression is a significant issue and some are concerned that compensation is not competitive, leaving many staff members open to other potential job opportunities.
“I would say salaries for special congressional staff have not kept up with the executive branch and definitely have not kept up with the outside world in the private sector. And because of that, you have a workforce that works on Capitol Hill that is mainly under the age of 30 because they come in, they get a couple of years under their belt, and then they cash out…Because there’s no centralized HR department, there’s very little protection for staff. And that has led to where we are right now with so many staff feeling just underappreciated and clearly underpaid.” – Chief of Staff, Legislative, R
While our research examines a variety of factors related to retention, we found that identifying with the mission of one’s office is the leading driver of both retention and job satisfaction. For leaders of offices, one of the most impactful steps they can take is to connect the work of their teams to the mission of their offices. Staffers are also more likely to stay when they are able to collaborate with competent peers and work in a supportive environment. As the landscape of the political arena shifts, addressing these concerns and embracing a mission-driven office can help to retain valuable staff members and provide a positive work experience.