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Evaluating and monitoring employee turnover using benchmarks: A study of South African National government departments based on organisational size
*Sagaren Pillay, Statistics South Africa 

Keywords: turnover,benchmark,subgroups

Abstract Purpose- The purpose of the research is to identify key factors influencing employee retention in the South African national government departments that will assist towards evaluating and managing employee turnover and improving employee retention.

Design/methodology/approach- The research was conducted in 3 phases. Phase 1 classified 33 national departments into homogenous subgroups with respect to their number of employees. Phase 2 established turnover rates (using data from administrative sources) and calculated average monthly turnover benchmark rates for each subgroup. Phase 3 was a multiple case study analysis. Four departments were selected from each subgroup for the case study where selection was based on a department’s turnover rate relative to the benchmark rate. The twelve selected national departments participated in a cross sectional survey using a questionnaire. The questionnaire consisted of two sections. For section A; answers to closed questions were sought, while all the questions in section B were open-ended.

The closed questions in section A were designed to collect data for quantitative analysis and contained free-standing, (not dependent on other questions), multiple choice questions with two possible answers, “yes” or “no”. Each of the thirty two questions were equally weighted and designed in such a way that a “yes” response reflected a favourable outcome. The open-ended questions in section B were primarily designed to provide a facility where respondents could expand on positive responses from section A. These responses were analysed qualitatively, using cross-case and within case analysis. Findings- The statistical (quantitative) analysis confirmed a significant relationship between turnover performance (relative to the benchmark) and the responses for the combined subgroups of small, medium and large departments. A significant relationship between turnover performance and responses was also observed for the subgroups of small and large departments. Absence of -workforce plans, counter-offer policy, monitoring mechanisms for turnover, alternate career paths, talent pools, succession planning, job re-designs, equitable job grading, performance evaluation systems and accessibility to senior managers were factors that were found to influence employee retention in the public service. The qualitative analysis confirmed most of these findings. Originality/value- The paper presents average monthly turnover rate benchmarks for small, medium and large South African national government departments(using administrative sources), factors influencing employee retention and a model for analysing employee turnover. No study to date has been conducted on turnover in national government departments from an organisational perspective.