The State of Nevada has seen large numbers of workers retire or leave for other jobs during the recession.
And according to figures from the head of the Division of Human Resources Management, a disproportionate number of those leaving are middle managers.
Many are baby boomers and their departure open up a significant number of upper management positions including administrators and directors.
A total of 723 employees left state service in 2013, about 5 percent of the workforce. A review of that list puts 268 of them — nearly 37 percent — in those mid-level positions.
They are workers who, depending on their length of service, are in classified Grade 35 or above and making at least $30 an hour.
“A lot of them are middle managers,” said Lee Ann Easton, division administrator.
From 2006 through 2013, retirement was the most common reason for leaving state service.
Easton said retirement will continue to be the prime reason for leaving in the near future because 24 percent of state workers are eligible to retire in the next four years or so and fully 44 percent will be able to retire in 10 years.
“That’s almost half of state service,” she said. “A lot of them have their time in with the state and I’m one of them. I have four years left before I’m eligible to retire.”
The higher the classified grade level, the higher the percentage of those eligible to retire. From Grade 37 up, more than half of all workers are eligible to retire in 10 years or less. Beyond Grade 40 its more like two-thirds of current employees.
The pay issue is also a concern because the state is losing some workers with the potential to become leaders.
Easton said the combination is a drain on the experience and talent the state needs to manage its agencies and programs.
But, she said, Human Resources is doing something about the situation.
In February, a select group of those potential future administrators began the first mid-level manager’s academy, a six-month program designed to give them the management skills they’ll need to move up the ladder.
The hope is the prospect for advancement also will provide some incentive for those people to stay in state service.
That first academy will wrap up in July. She said it’s aimed at “people who have the potential.”
“It’s people they (their current bosses) see as future managers,” she said.
This first class, she said, is a pilot program and her staff is looking for feedback from the students to make the next class better.
“We need to know that this is what we need to be teaching,” she said.
The curriculum includes a range of goals for those attending, including teaching not only hands-on skills for day-to-day management but the proper attitude and philosophy to run an agency.
An example of the curriculum: “You are entrusted with others’ careers and work life experience. Treat them with respect and dignity and create environments for their success.”
Easton said the test of how well the academy works will be whether the person develops a difference in their leadership style.
The program goes along with the state’s long-standing Certified Public Manager program, a 17-month program designed to develop the skills needed to become an effective boss.
“We’re really trying to push both of them,” Easton said.
Between the two, she said the goal is to prepare those mid-level managers to become the administrators and directors of tomorrow.