People & Human Resources

High staff turnover — good or bad?

Eve Ash /

Highly engaged employees are usually loyal to their teams and management and great for company deliverables, right? They are, but paradoxically, there’s something to be said for companies where there’s high staff turnover. Maybe some companies are such great places to work that employees feel ready to move on, and indeed do so. 

What? How is this good? Surely high turnover is actually an indicator that things aren’t great in a workplace? Not to mention, replacing workers is expensive to boot. Maybe high turnover is the quickest way to learn what needs fixing and what changes need to be made, a way to streamline processes, or a fast track injection of fresh talent and skills.

A high turnover rate can be turned around with the following in mind. 

1. Exit interviews can be used to your (mutual) advantage

If exit interviews are handled correctly, a departing employee feels free to highlight the positives and negatives of working at your organisation and in turn, based on their feedback, you can improve the workplace’s internal dynamics and practices. Exit interviews thus become a chance for both parties to be refreshingly honest, instead of lying through their teeth to be free of each other.

2. High turnover may mean fresh talent

You won’t get it right with every person you hire. Sometimes they’re lacking in qualities that were needed or your work environment was the wrong fit for that personality. Sometimes they no longer enjoy what they’re doing and are seek release in order to find a workplace more compatible with their objectives and skills. That person’s departure can create an opportunity, or several. Just be sure that there isn’t some toxic type buried in your workplace who’s causing the attrition rate.

3. Effective performance management is a powerful two-way tool

Your performance management strategy should include:

• performance goal-setting — encouraging individuals to set their own goals;
• 
establishing agreed timelines and expected outcomes;
• day-to-day feedback amongst team members and managers;
• structured induction;
• targeted skills training;
• ongoing professional development;
• just-in-time coaching; and
• periodic career conversations.

It is not enough to simply attract good talent — they must remain engaged, challenged and given opportunities to develop. A two-way culture of giving and receiving feedback must be encouraged so staff feel confident to be able to give their managers feedback and be heard.

4. Turnover creates fresh impetus to stay competitive

Poaching goes on all the time, particularly when a company has committed to a certain path. Conversely, some staff will be made redundant. This is the less palatable aspect of running a company. This is less the case when someone is displaying little motivation and less engagement with their role. A candid but caring talk might assist that person to find a job more congenial to their temperament and abilities. Your “loss” therefore can be another’s “gain”.

When it comes to employee turnover, don’t be like a great many companies that throw proverbial babies out with the bathwater. Develop a vision that takes into account the market’s realities and individual needs of both the company and its people. 

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Eve Ash

Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.

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