Personnel Issues in the Department of Human Resources

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Personnel issues have plagued this department for almost the entire duration of the last administration. For any department to thrive in the government, the most critical components are the employees who work towards a common goal of making policies that work for the people. When the department cannot retain employees long enough to build a decent management and senior officials are trying to outdo each other, the department morale and productivity suffers.

The report focuses on the specific issues faced by the HR team in the department which mostly has to do with discontented employees leading to high attrition rate and the fact that the senior tier is soon to retire without a plan of succession. There is very low morale amongst the employees because of the clear lack of leadership. There is disconnection of individual success for these employees with the common goal of the department. The staff not only has to deal with the fact that there are some positions only driven by political motives, they feel their voices are also being curtailed because of it.

The biggest change that needs to be made is the communication. Communication should increase from the process of recruitment to retirement. There should be personality test included at the time of recruitment to assess whether the person joining matches the needs of the department and is coming in with the right motivation. Throughout their tenure in the organization, there should be constant feedback about the work their doing especially when it is positive and the managers need to have an open-door attitude to receive feedback as well. There needs to be plan for every employee that details their growth trajectory and how the department sees them growing. Last, the retirement plans need to be made a little bit more flexible in order to ensure that fear of losing of senior officials does to push bad choices. 


With the advent of the new minister in the government department, there were concerns raised about the HR problems that have been prevalent in the department. The senior leadership in the said department was asked to report on these problems in this workplace along with the solution to improve the situation. The report should detail the nature of the issues, their causality, the reason for their occurrence and remedies to go along with the same.

The scope of the report was to explore the reason for the HR problems the department was having - aging employees and attrition of the young employees within five years of employment, the general dissatisfaction of the personnel and the overall decline in productivity. This is the limited sets of issues that are being addressed in this report. It is looking at these limited issues mainly focusing on employee morale and the attrition rate because they are closely related.

It should be noted that a lot of the problems that have been focused on are based on the exit interviews of dissatisfied junior staff and middle management, so there would be biases that would have crept in. Exit interviews, however, can be considered mostly honest because people leaving the job usually tend to be more forthright. There has been analysis of the similar problems in other workplaces for comparison and to help understand what can be done to deal with these issues. Sources like Harvard Business Review, Management papers, magazines and HR guides have been referenced.

The paper is divided into the various personnel issues that the department is facing followed by the recommendations that would help deal with these issues. The conclusion focuses on the running theme of the issues which is lack of leadership in the department.

Issues at hand

It has been noticed that the majority of the senior officials at the department are at the age of retirement. Many scholars including Gregory B. Lewis and Yoon Jik Cho have cautioned the needs for government to prepare for ‘a retirement tsunami’, especially in leadership[1]. In 2009, when the study was done, it showed that mean age for employees has been constantly increasing and it was around 45 years in 2007.

Mean Ages










Federal Government





State Government





Local Government





Private Companies





Table 1: Trends in Age Distribution by Sector

Source: Gregory B. Lewis and Yoon Jik Cho, Georgia State University

As a matter of fact, according to the HR director Tony most of the senior staff would be retiring in the next four years. The department is having a harder time at retaining the younger employees at the department. As a consequence, this can lead to loss of vital knowledge and experience fairly quickly.  

There are many causes for this attrition:

Deep rooted morale issues

The decrease in the staff causes remaining employees to work on the unfinished tasks left behind, which they are not the best suited or even trained to perform. This in turn leaves them underpaid and overworked.

The review of the exit interviews also revealed that once there was no scope for skill based promotion, there was little room for growth given that most of the senior officials had been filled by long standing employees.

According to the report Workforce 2020, there is lack of leadership and leadership development is also lacking in most of the organizations trying to build a dynamic workforce[2]. This is one of the major causes of dissatisfaction among the 2,700 executives surveyed by Oxford and SAP Consulting.

Nicole Fink from Roberts Wesleyan College writes about morale in the workplace and opines that ‘Leaders who fail to address morale issues in the workplace face the following:  decreased productivity,… increased conflicts in the work environment …. and costs associated with hiring and training replacement staff.’[3]

The work suffered

It was also clear that senior management did not appreciate the work done by the staff or at least failed to recognize the same. There were also troubles with a lack of coordination between various work groups. Any project would only garner inputs from specialist areas such as Research and Accounting after the draft reports were done.  This process of waiting for comment on draft reports from these specialists did not provide the inputs required for the project. Ideally, these specialists should be part of the team so that they could support the project throughout its life.

Senior management also went through a process of vetting the work usually referred to as “sanitization” as it meant elimination of content the minister didn’t like.  This also creates an issue since staff believes that their voice is being muddled which again create discontentment in the job. In the same vein, the survey Workforce 2020 revealed that employees believe that ‘leadership is lackluster.’[4]

The fact is that enough is not being done to cultivate leadership with the department and there is hardly any focus on training and development to ensure the senior management is planning for their retirement.

Political issues

There was also a problem with the senior management that took pride in showing off that they can handle “more with less” leading to decreased budgets and reduced employees. This also led to more unpaid overtime work for the existing employees with less or no appreciation.

Also, since the top positions in the department were political appointments and changed with the changing government, employees knew that career administrators would not be appointed for such positions.

Recommendations: Resolving these morale and productivity issues

Aging workforce poses a threat for any organization let alone a department that is finding it difficult to retain young employees.

Retain older employees at the senior position

The first step in really solving the issues of personnel in the department is to ask the right questions – does the department want to replace the senior management or hiring the same professionals as a contracted employee and continue in their position makes more sense. In the mean time, there can be other options for hiring and recruitment that can be looked at without the fear of department losing all the knowledge and expertise in the next four years.  Some organizations have experimented with phased retirement plans – making the senior officials work part-time while simultaneously drawing their retirement funds, so that they can earn a full salary[5]. This would aid the transition process for the department.

Better recruitment

Globally as well, employee retention is one of the major concerns for many organizations. Given the dynamic nature of any work and the opportunities for employees to showcase their talent and skills in other environments, these frequent changes in jobs have become a common phenomenon. The best way to actually avoid a high retention rate begins before the individual becomes an employee. In the recruitment process itself, apart from testing an individual’s knowledge, there should be a personality test that judges how much the individual values opportunity versus loyalty and stability in work environment. Many job and psychiatric portals offer free personality test that can help gauge various aspects - what is the motivation behind joining the department? Is the mining sector something that interests them? Is money the only reason why that individual is interested in working?

The biggest task – improving morale

According to a study conducted by interviewing more than 200 employees of 7 different organization in United Kingdom for CIPD Applied Research Conference 2016, morale bring energy to the work and increases productivity[6]. It affects the quality of work, communication and creativity.

Some of the steps that can be taken to improve morale are simple – praise a job well done or at least recognize a good job publicly. It is important to feel appreciated and feel that their work actually adds value to the bigger picture or the department goals. Recognition does not necessarily means monetary benefits, even small things like having ‘employee of the month’ or taking a team out for drinks and dinner for a project completed helps boost morale. Monthly or quarterly newsletter can also be a good way of communication of achievements.

Another important morale booster is to have a growth plans for the employees. It is not only important to know that the department values a staff member, but it is important that they are seen a valuable member that would help grow the department and develop policies that make the country better. Plan a career graph along with the employee which helps complement their idea of growth and the department’s idea of growth for the said employee. A good way of doing this is having a mentorship programme, it would be better if it is across teams. It is to showcase that individual success is also important for the department[7].

These intangible rewards need to be incorporated in the culture of the department since the HR has already noted that pay increases failed to curtail the resignations.


Also, there needs to be a feedback sessions apart from annual appraisal meetings that would help the HR team understand the morale issues in the department. Also, having an open door policy never hurt any department. These feedback sessions should not be mistaken for censures, improve transparency.

For instance, the idea that every project team should have specialists and experts that can help in the development of the project instead of just commenting at the draft prepared is a very good idea. This should be incorporated immediately and if there was an open-door policy, the department would have heard the team and included it much before. 

Conclusion: Cultivating leaders

The running theme of the recommendations is that the senior officials need to do better in the department. There needs to be a mentorship programme where these seniors can actually train and develop their successors. There would be no one better that understands that the knowledge and skills that is required to do their job.

Leadership as a quality should be recognized and rewarded in the department, especially if the junior understand that they are being groomed to fill a senior position in the department, they would be more loyal and appreciate the efforts and opportunities better.

Since the minister intends to increase efficiency and transform this department to leave it in better condition, HR would be the best place to start with it.


Administrator - Access Hub, 9 amazing employee retention strategies to reduce attrition rate, Mumbai, India: Development, 2015,

Anon, Workforce 2020, Oxford, UK: Success Factors, 2018, Oxford Economics - The Looming Talent Crisis

Fink, Nicole, The High Cost of Low Morale, Rochester, NY: Roberts Wesleyan College, 2015, Organizational Leadership Class Paper,

Hardy, Ben, T. Alcock and J. Malpass, The impact of changing management practices on the morale of contact centre workers,

London: CIPD Applied Research Conference, 2016, The shifting landscape of work and working lives – Conference Paper

Lewis, Gregory and Y. Cho, The Aging of the State Government Workforce: Trends and Implications, Atlanta: Georgia State University, 2009,


North, Michael and H. Hershfield, Four Ways to Adapt to an Aging Workforce, Harvard: Harvard Business Review, 2014,

[1] Gregory Lewis and Yoon Cho, The Aging of the State Government Workforce: Trends and Implications (Atlanta: Georgia State University, 2009)

[2] Oxford Economics, Workforce 2020, (Oxford, UK: Success Factors, 2018), The Looming Talent Crisis

[3] Nicole Fink, The High Cost of Low Morale, (Rochester, NY: Roberts Wesleyan College, 2015), Organizational Leadership Class Paper,


Oxford Economics, Workforce 2020, (Oxford, UK: Success Factors, 2018), The Looming Talent Crisis

[5] Michael NorthHal Hershfield, Four Ways to Adapt to an Aging Workforce (Harvard, USA: Harvard Business Review, 2014),

[6] Ben Hardy, Tanya Alcock and Jon Malpass, The impact of changing management practices on the morale of contact centre workers (London: CIPD Applied Research Conference, 2016), The shifting landscape of work and working lives – Conference Paper


Access Hub, 9 amazing employee retention strategies to reduce attrition rate (Mumbai, India: Development, 2015),

October 30, 2023
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