Employee Turnover: The Good, The Bad, and the Unknown

Businesses spend a lot of time lamenting the effects of employee turnover. But not ALL turnover is bad. Some of it is natural. And some can actually be good.

The problem is that we often don’t do the research necessary to discover which kind of turnover we are experiencing, and whether or not it’s something to worry about.

Solving the Mystery

  • Are you losing highly coveted employees or letting go of dead weight?
  • Is your turnover due to factors that are within your control or outside of your control?
  • Do you have a disproportionately high attrition rate or is it in line with your industry and area?

Well-designed employee surveys and exit interviews can help you find the answers. These useful HR tools allow you to determine whether you have serious problems with your organization or if your turnover is just part of the normal business cycle.

But it’s not enough to just ask the right people the right questions. Conducting exit interviews is a meaningless exercise if you don’t analyze the results and make changes as needed.

Evaluating the data

Things to consider:

Don’t get hung up on any one comment. Look for themes and trends.

Are there teams, departments, or locations that are losing employees at a much faster rate? Are multiple employees citing lack of career development, insufficient wages, or poor leadership as reasons for their departure?

Although these things may be difficult to hear, responses like this are the golden nuggets of exit interviews. They allow you to take a closer look at identified areas and processes within your business that have prompted good people to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Examine the “why”

Employees leave for many reasons, some of which have nothing to do with your organization. This is important to consider when evaluating your turnover.

What percentage left for reasons you could do nothing about (health, retirement, relocation)?

Don’t knock yourself out over these departures. A certain amount of turnover is a natural part of the business/employee cycle.

What percentage of your employees left for reasons you may have been able to address (compensation, culture, workload)?

This is where you can make the biggest impact on your numbers. If you’ve set up your exit interviews well, it’s worth trusting data they provide. Use this feedback to reassess your organization through the eyes of your current and future employees. If you’re having trouble doing this, consider surveying those who are still with you to find out what changes they would like to see.

Are a significant number of employees leaving soon after being hired?

This could indicate a problem with your recruitment, hiring, onboarding, or culture. Are you finding the right people? Are you looking for cultural fit? Maybe the experience you’re selling doesn’t match up with the reality of the experience you’re offering. Nothing will send a new employee packing faster than disillusionment or a good old bait and switch.

Did a bunch of employees leave at once?

Look at the separation dates. What was happening in the organization? Was it right after a beloved CEO retired? Or a change-management initiative began? Were the departures concentrated in a particular team or area? What was going on in that department? Were they feeling isolated or ignored? Was there a change in expectations or performance metrics? Do you have a toxic supervisor or employee on your hands?

Any time you make big changes, you’ll have some employees who choose to leave. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, it helps get everyone aligned and on the same page. But if you’ve made a change that sends a significant number of your best people running, you’ll want to think about why. It could be something as simple as lack of communication. Or it could be that your new direction isn’t properly aligned with your core values and culture.

Making adjustments

This might just be the most difficult part of all. You love your company, and you want it to be the best it can be. So it can be hard to admit this might not be the case.

But in this challenge lies the potential for true growth. If you’ve got turnover issues, the big question to ask is: What is the company’s role in employee turnover and what improvements can we make to keep our best people?

If you do that regularly and honestly, you’ll soon be on your way toward filling your organization with employees who are as happy to be there as you are to have them.


Photo by Lemon Tree Images

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