4 Strategies to Combat Turnover

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Turnover is a reality for every business. It can be a warning sign that something is wrong with our workplace, managers, or teams that needs to be fixed. It can also signal that we might be hiring poor fits into the organization.

The problem of turnover demands that we understand why we are not able to retain some of our employees and fix it before the situation spirals and we lose many talented employees. Here are 4 strategies to combat turnover.

Step 1: Track it.

The first step to deal with turnover is to track and benchmark it. You must understand how your numbers compare to normal turnover for your industry and size and if the turnover you are experiencing is healthy or unhealthy for your business. For example, are your best employees leaving or are your new-hires leaving, and is turnover primarily voluntary or involuntary? At a minimum, track the following types of turnover:

  • Voluntary and involuntary turnover
  • All employee and top performer turnover
  • New-hire turnover at intervals (90 days, 180 days, and 1 year)

Step 2: Research the context.

The second step in combating turnover is to research the context of the termination, including the work area affected and characteristics of the employee. You'll also want to explore the former employee's reason for leaving as well as their supervisor's and coworkers' feedback on the termination. Turnover issues tend to follow a pattern so look for trends in the following:

  • Work area (location, division, department, team, and supervisor)
  • Individual characteristics (length of service, performance, type of job)
  • Reason for leaving (per exit interview/survey)
  • Supervisor and team feedback

Step 3: Identify critical incidences.

Turnover is generally not caused by a single workplace event. Research shows that turnover results from a process of progressive disengagement, which can take weeks, months, and sometimes even years to escalate to a final decision. Eventually, however, a critical incident causes an employee to decide to quit.

To understand the cause of turnover and fix it, you need to identify these critical turning points and causes of disengagement so that repeat scenarios with other employees are prevented. Examine what went wrong, what you could have done differently, and how you will approach a similar situation in the future.

Step 4: Implement interventions.

After determining the causes and context of turnover and putting together the pieces of each former employee's story, there are several major interventions that you can use to solve turnover problems. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Job design: changing a job's design, reducing workload, providing more training, or enhancing employees' skills
  • Management: training or developing a manager's skills, removing a manager from their position, improving performance management or feedback
  • Hiring and selection: making a change in the hiring or selection procedure, enhancing on-boarding
  • Communication: communicating changes and reasons for changes, being sensitive to and dealing with employee reactions, managing and mediating coworker conflict
  • Total rewards: making changes to pay and benefits, enhancing advancement opportunities, enhancing work/life benefits

Turnover is as critical to monitor and address as expenses in your organization. It is a lost investment in your business that can take significant time and money to recover, especially when you lose a high performer. While there’s no magic bullet solution to prevent it, your organization can better manage turnover by tracking it, better understanding why it happens, and implementing interventions that deal with it.

Additional Resources

2012 ERC Turnover & HR Department Practices Survey
This survey collected information from Northeast Ohio employers on voluntary and involuntary turnover of employees and new-hires as well as HR department practices including the role of HR, common HR metrics and benchmarks, and the use of technology and information systems within the HR department.

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