Conferences, Proceedings of the 3rd National Local Government Research Forum

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Motivating and retaining local government workers: what does it take?
Robyn Morris

Last modified: 2016-06-20


The capacity of local government to recruit appropriately qualified staff, motivate employees to give their best effort, and keep voluntary staff turnover low directly affects council operational performance. In addition, high staff turnover increases staffing costs and results in a loss of skill and know-how to the organisation. Yet for many years now local government managers have expressed concerns about their capacity to find, motivate and retain suitably qualified staff. This ability is critical to public service success and reform, thus needs to be a high priority if local government is to meet the challenges of the 21st century. This paper presents the findings of a rigorous empirical study that formed part of a larger research program. Data was collected from 500 employees in 12 metropolitan, regional/ rural Western Australian local governments. It examines what factors affect three critical workplace outcomes – job satisfaction, worker willingness to exert discretionary effort, and turnover intentions – all of which have important implications for workforce planning and development. The findings provide useful and usable knowledge for improving our understanding of employee motivation and retention in the public service. From a practical perspective it can enhance public sector manager capacity to maximise the potential of human resources recruited by offering a framework of mechanisms through which managers can influence employee discretionary work effort and retention. By creating an attractive place of employment local governments can better retain staff and build a greater pool of talent from which to choose.

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