Municipal roles need a make-over to fix rising attrition rates


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The Editorial Board

Mayor Eric Adams’ administration announced on March 13 that it will approve an up to 15% salary increase for municipal workers and respond faster to hiring requests in an effort to address a staffing crisis fueled by high turnover rates.

But raising wages is not enough to mend low retention rates in the government sector. This change should be coupled with an overhaul of municipal workspaces, which have retained traditional office practices while other sectors have evolved to suit contemporary needs.

“This isn’t just normal attrition,” Robert Callahan, an International Budget Office budget analyst who studies municipal employment trends, told The Gothamist. “The city’s struggling to keep up with the rate of attrition with corresponding new hires.”

Following the pandemic, Mayor Adams demanded that all municipal workers return to the office full-time in June 2022. Meanwhile, 38% of Manhattan office employees were working on a hybrid schedule.

“It was kind of a slap in the face to say we have to support the economy without regard to people’s health concerns,” Daniel Irizarry told The New York Times. Irizarry left his role as a staff attorney with the city’s Human Rights Commission in May of last year for a better-paying job.

This inflexibility, coupled with low wages, is making municipal roles unappealing. This is putting the city in peril: Nine of the 15 city agencies with the highest vacancy rates missed a majority of their performance targets, according to the city’s comptroller’s report.

Additionally, a career in booming industries, such as tech, are more attractive to Millennials and Gen Zers entering the workforce because these groups are known to prioritize work-life balance when evaluating a job prospect.

As long as private-sector jobs offer more flexibility, opportunity and bigger paychecks than municipal worker roles, attrition rates will only continue to skyrocket. The Adams’ administration needs to do more than raising salaries — it must revitalize the nature of the job.