Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations (Online)

Research Note: Retention Factors for New Zealand Graduate Customs Officers

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations (Online)

Research Note: Retention Factors for New Zealand Graduate Customs Officers

Article excerpt

Abstract

This case study explored what employment value proposition attributes could contribute to the retention of Customs officers who graduated from the New Zealand Customs Service Trainee Induction Programme between July 2005 and July 2008. The findings suggest six attributes of remuneration, nature of work, career development, leadership quality, people and organisation as employment value proposition attributes could contribute to the retention of this employee group. In an organisation that has to make considerable investment in recruitment and induction an understanding of the core employment value proposition attributes that could contribute to the retention of Customs officers is a business imperative.

[Key words: Retention factors, employment value proposition]

Introduction

One of the major people challenges, for many organisations, is employee retention. This is especially so for organisations such as Customs, Police and Fire Services where because of the specialist nature of the work carried out by frontline employees, significant investment in recruitment and specialised training has to be made before these employees can be deployed into the frontline workforce. To achieve a return on this investment, employee retention is critical. Within this context an understanding of the specific employment related attributes that could motivate and encourage employee commitment and retention becomes a business imperative. The concept of employment or employee value proposition has emerged from different aspects of the attributes of employee motivation and satisfaction theories (Herzberg, Mausner & Snyderman, 1959; Herzberg, 1966; Maslow; 1943), which Heger (2007) described as "the value or benefit an employee perceives by serving as a member of the organisation" (p . 121).

Context

The New Zealand Customs Service offers a career structure that commences with frontline Customs officer roles and moves through the ranks of Senior Customs officer, Assistant Chief Customs' officer to Chief Customs' officer. Specialist roles in areas such Intelligence and Risk and Response are recruited almost exclusively from the ranks of frontline Customs officers. In July 2005, to address the issue of inconsistent recruitment practices, high turnover generally and variable training of new recruits Customs significantly changed the way in which they recruit and train new Customs officers. The new methodology centralised all aspects of Customs officer recruitment, introduced an assessment based selection process which is run three to four times a year, and established a rigorous residential based induction training programme. To July 2008 a total of 232 new Customs officers have been recruitment and inducted through this process. Each recruitment round brings in between 20 to 25 new recruits.

Analysis of turnover generally for frontline officers show that turnover is highest in the 2-5 year service band (57%) and in the up to 40 years of age band (49%). The majority of officers recruited through the new process fall into these categories in terms of age group and just over or approaching two years of service. Turnover for new officers was initially very low however in the past year it has increased to 16.8% and continues to increase. Anecdotal evidence from exit interview forms identified that the two main reasons given for leaving were the low level of remuneration and the lack of career progression opportunities. The issue of dissatisfaction, relating to the low level of remuneration for frontline staff, also emerged in the 2007 and the 2008 staff engagement surveys. The New Zealand Customs Service has a predominantly ageing workforce with 52% of staff in the 40 years and above age band and an increasing number of long serving officers retiring or reducing to part-time hours. For Customs to continue to build operational capability retention of frontline officers, especially those in the younger age bands, is critical. …

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