As the economy has continued to heat up, the topics of both employee turnover and contractor turnover have made for many conversations with frustrated clients who are seeking answers. The themes are common. I hear about sexier competitors, bored millennials, too few experienced applicants, trouble finding leaders who can share a compelling vision to instill loyalty, how it seems easier to look outside for a leg up (vs. waiting for a promotion or internal pay raise) and the gig economy which has made nearly every professional role outsourceable. While these laments are all real, as leaders you don’t have to feel like employee turnover is always bad for your organization.
Instead, think of staff turnover as managing talent risk in two ways. There is good turnover that includes selecting individuals and moving them out because they can’t help you execute your strategy. You’re managing talent risk by pruning low performers from the roster. On the other side, a bad high employee turnover rate includes losing good people who could have helped you execute your strategy but couldn’t figure out how to be successful. They give up somewhere along the way and are more prone to outside opportunities.
You can solve for both using the same thinking: Even if you can’t fix everything, you can get the basics right!
How to Avoid Negative Employee Turnover
Reduce employee turnover rate and motivate people to join you on the winning team by being clear about why yours is the winning way. At the end of the day, changing jobs and companies is hard and most people aren’t eager to go through the process. Make it easier for the best players to stay in your workplace by ensuring that your strategy for success is clear and their role in helping you succeed is unmistakable. For those who are not strong contributors, getting the basics right will help both you and them to see that they’re not a long-term fit.
- Provide a clear strategy and answers to the big picture questions. Write answers to your big picture questions and test to makes sure you’ve been clear all the way up and down your food chain. This will ensure your people can make sound decisions and prioritize well. It will also motivate your top talent and improve retention because you’ll confirm that they know how to be part of the winning team. Folks who need to go will prove they can’t “get the big picture” even when it is measurably clear.
- Give every current team member a chance to be part of staffing your strategy by playing a clear and measurable role in the critical knowledge silos. Clarify which silos of knowledge are required to execute your strategy. What does your team need to know how to DO in order to win? Ensure every employee can see their role in executing these silos. Are they setting the standard, bringing their existing skills and experience or learning something new to help the team? Any of these roles can be motivating and reduce turnover of top talent. NOT being clear that you fit into one of these slots is demoralizing, and a reason that good people will use to look elsewhere for a job. Supporting the roles that are going to directly execute the strategy is also critical and valuable. Many will find their place here. If the silos and roles are clear and your folks can’t find their place, it is time for them to find another job. The employees you want to keep will gravitate toward clarity and being part of a larger, winning team.
- Crosstrain and provide development opportunities for everyone to add as much value as they can. Creating opportunities for a combination of specialists and utility players who are nimble and can take advantage of growth opportunities is critical to retaining your best people. No one wants to feel stuck in a role because there is no place for them to grow and learn. Knowledge transfer can be driven by the current experts who want to replicate their abilities to free themselves up for new roles, and by their “apprentices” who want to prepare to take over new challenges. This active engagement reduces turnover of top talent and is good for business productivity at the same time.
- Track and reward those who are growing and contributing either through directly working in critical knowledge silos or supporting those who do. (reducing bad turnover). Pay attention to what the individual contributors in your organization who are doing to help you execute your strategy and reward them for doing so. This is rarely about money. It can be as simple as saying, “I see your role in leading and/or delivering consistently in this knowledge silo and it is helping us meet our goals in these ways…” Then say thank you.
- Prune out team members who, given all of these opportunities to contribute, are still unable to add sufficient value to the team. (driving good turnover.) If your team members are given clear answers to the big picture questions, clear knowledge silos in which to contribute, clear skill development plans and standards for executing, and they’re still not contributing consistently, this will be very clear to you and their teammates. It also becomes clear to them.
Managing turnover and fighting the war for talent starts with setting a clear strategy and ensuring your people can see how they fit into the big picture as well as what they can do to be successful and help everyone contribute. Many of the reasons you’re frustrated with turnover can be solved or at least mitigated by getting the basics right.