Turnover Wears Two Faces

Two Faces WEB SMLOrganizations often lament high turnover and its costs. Indeed, it can be costly and there is a plethora of information on the internet, in books, white papers, and studies to assure you of this fact. But is all turnover bad? The truth is that turnover wears two faces as there is both good and bad turnover. OK, before you have me put in a straight jacket, hear me out.

Here’s a question for you, if a poor performer, toxic employee, or a bad fit for your culture quits, is that good or bad? It will no doubt be good. Now it may be that the toxic employee, just as an example, was there a long time and had become a sacred cow, that employee may take a lot of knowledge out of the organization. Losing the knowledge is bad, but you only have yourself to blame for allowing the toxic employee to remain as long as they did. In fact, the toxic employee may have been the cause of good, highly productive, and other knowledgeable employees leaving in the past and that’s bad. Thus, the two faces of turnover. What do these two faces look like?

While there are times turnover can be an asset and there are times when it can be expensive and detrimental. One way to help everyone keep turnover in perspective is for everyone to have a clear definition and understanding of the different types of turnover and their cause and effect. According to a book by Allen and Bryant, these definitions are:

  • voluntary
  • involuntary
  • functional
  • dysfunctional
  • avoidable
  • unavoidable

People in different positions in the organization may see any type of turnover differently. For example, the Director of HR may view an employee loss as detrimental and the CFO may see it as an asset. There is yet another view and that is the one of a teammate. The teammate may view it as a loss regardless of who defines it how as the teammate is the one absorbing the work of the now absent co-worker. This can lead to low employee morale that can quickly spread throughout a department. This is certainly an effect you don’t want. Let’s look at some ways to reduce having to face that two-faced monster – turnover.

  • Hire Right, Right From the Start: This one has been beat to death. Yet, organizations fail to take advantage of innovative tools and proven processes that can help reduce unwanted turnover.
  • Benchmarking: Jobs change almost annually. Yet organizations continue to hire people that don’t match the job description, with a job description that doesn’t match the strategic goals of the organization.
  • Competitive Salaries: While pay is not usually the number one reason people leave organizations, you will not be able to attract top talent using salary numbers based on decade old data.
  • Training and Development: Consider tying these two to tenure. Sometimes special projects, training/development, and other non-monetary perks can aid retention.
  • Work Life Balance: Millennials, in particular, have this as a priority. Ensure your culture embraces this philosophy.

While you may often feel that turnover is out of your control, and sometimes it may be, most of the time, it can be at the very least reduced. The idea is get turnover to show more of its good face than its bad face.

Thank you for reading this blog. For more information on how you can reduce turnover, Let's get started

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Allen, D. G., & Bryant, P. C. (2012). Managing Employee Turnover: Dispelling Myths and Fostering Evidence-based Retention Strategies. [New York, N.Y.] [222 East 46th Street, New York, NY 10017]: Business Expert Press.
Heatherfield, S.M. (2017, June). 18 Tips to Reduce Employee Turnover. The Balance Careers

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