We've all heard of companies with excessive employee turnover. Sometimes the churn seems terminal. In response, we yearn for leadership to be caring, transparent and open-minded, saying something like: "Our turnover is atrocious and indefensible, and we must all work together to do something about it."
Unfortunately, leaders often avoid the deeper problem, explaining away each employee defection as if external factors, personal issues, and unavoidably better job offers were to blame.
A good-riddance attitude solves nothing. Nor does bringing in replacement employees. Leaders cannot afford to be anti-7-habits of highly effective people, pronouncing, "Our opinions about this persistent shake-up first needs to be understood before we seek to understand those of our staff."
50% to 150% - and there's more.
The high cost of individual turnover is documented in hundreds of studies, with ranges estimated from 50% to 150% of a departing employee's salary. But there are many things those studies don't quantify so well. For example:
Momentum. When someone leaves, what's the cost to when initiatives need to slow down - if only a little bit - for replacement staff to catch up? Worse - what if the projects or ideas are abandoned because replacement skills are inadequate?
Morale. When good people leave, the good people left behind not only mourn the loss of their A-player compatriots, but also can suffer the consequences. For instance, some remaining staff might get "promoted" and assigned the left-behind work. Contrary to popular belief, it's not always best to reward loyalty and good work with more work.
Chemistry. The great teams we patiently and deliberately build over time have important blends of diverse norms, attitudes, and behaviors. When team members leave, adjustments aren't automatic. But they must be made to regain the awesome chemistry, assuming it was there to begin with. Constant chipping away at chemistry prevents us from building team excellence.
Are you listening? A self-test.
Any solution but listening to, understanding and responding to staff will serve only to kick the problematic turnover can down the road. Leaders know employee turnover costs money and you'd think that would be enough to get us to understand and subsequently do something about the issue.
Companies with low turnover are experts at listening to their employees and emphasizing a well-designed, engagement-centric culture over profits. They know the former begets the latter.
You'll know it when you see it. Just ask yourself a few questions:
Which is more important at your company: job titles or discussion and shared decision making?
Is there a constant need for your leadership team to craft a "company line" or create a positive spin about the ongoing turnover situation story? Or is there an intense desire by all to understand and care for your precious teams and people?
Are people always quiet, constantly working with their heads down when you stroll through the corridors? Or do you hear persistent laughing, creative discussion and lively debate in your hallways, conference rooms, and informal work meeting-spaces?
'Goodbye' means something
When we leaders hear employees say "goodbye," we probably care that we are letting money simply walk out the door.
But, 'Goodbye" is a much more profound, evocative word.
It means employees are not engaged and not productive. It means they dislike the culture leaders are keeping in place. It means a most crtical and valuable resource is not being heard. It's a last-ditch, fierce effort of someone trying to tell us to listen, understand, and change.
Have low turnover at your organization? Tell us how you're listening and what you do to keep your employees engaged.