Find the silver lining. Make lemonade from lemons. Look on the bright side. All those idioms about turning the negative into a positive can feel like little more than pretty words when you’re dealing with employee turnover.
Why? Well, employee turnover has major implications on the health of your business. According to Gallup, at any given time, 51 percent of employed adults in the United States are at risk of leaving their current jobs.
Studies show that finding and training a replacement hire can cost as much as nine months of the departed employee’s salary and that new hires can take up to two years to reach the same level of productivity as their predecessor.
These are intimidating stats, but the worst thing you can do to address employee turnover is nothing at all. If you just chalk it up to business as usual or a universal problem, you’re failing your business and your employees. You can make the most out of employee turnover, and it all starts with arming yourself with stats of your own.
First, Study Your Turnover
The first step to making the most of employee turnover is learning more about what is causing it in your company. Every single exiting employee should undergo an exit interview. These should be open, honest conversations led by someone who the exiting employee can see as impartial (i.e. not the person’s manager, but an HR team member instead).
The data gathered from these interviews can’t just be stored in a file and forgotten — it needs to be carefully evaluated individually and in aggregate with other exiting employees. This way, you can start to see patterns of causes. Employee exit data should be as carefully considered as any other data — revenue, growth, etc. — that you use to evaluate your bottom line.
Once you have that data in hand, you can start to create a plan of action. Here are three areas of your business that stand to improve from analyzing your employee turnover data.
1. Succession Planning
The best employees want growth opportunities. According to a poll conducted by LinkedIn, more than half of employees left their previous roles to seek stronger career paths. It’s natural for strong performers to want to progress and if your company isn’t providing those opportunities, somewhere else will. That’s why succession planning should be a priority for all teams.
Succession planning involves taking a hard look at what talent is currently available in your pool to cover a vacancy should any member of the team leave. While it’s not fun to think that you’ll lose employees, it’s even worse to be stuck without vital coverage in the event of a sudden change.
Take the time to map out succession plans beginning with the management team and working down. Look at which employees could most competently fill all or part of an existing management role, and then document the types of training that would be necessary to bring the substitute up to speed. Documentation of the current talent landscape will help your teams understand the cross training and skills augmentation to invest in.
Gather information from employees who head for the door, too. If any of your exiting employees report a lack of development as a reason for leaving, you may need to look at people-based succession planning as a way to improve retention. Further, you may find in the data that certain roles turn over more frequently than others. This way you can plan for how employees in different positions can take steps to achieve the qualities necessary to take-on those higher turnover roles.
2. Leadership and Culture
You’ve probably heard this before — employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Gallup research shows that not only is bad management one of the top five reasons employees quit, but nearly all the other top reasons cited — salary/benefits, growth opportunities, flexibility, and job fit — can be influenced by a manager.
Exit survey data can provide big insights into your organizations' shortcomings. Issues that are pervasive across the company culture, or even specific to a department or leader can be identified and addressed. They key, again, is impartiality. You have to look at the data with an open mind to critical feedback. Once you gather all that data, think about how to improve the management team’s effectiveness according to the feedback.
A bad manager can cost thousands of dollars in turnover every year, but firing the manager isn’t your only option. Leaders aren’t born so much as made in business. Use the information you’ve gathered from exiting and existing employees to train your managers. Perhaps they need coaching in setting realistic expectations or providing appropriate critical feedback. Through focused ongoing coaching and data gathering from employees, you can turn a bad manager around and save precious capital otherwise spent on turnover. And implementing a leadership course could help all managers improve in their roles, not just the bad ones.
As much as 80 percent of employee turnover is due to bad hiring decisions. When the fit isn’t right, an employee may have to be let go, which can be a damaging experience on both sides of the table. Or, in some cases, the employee may choose to leave after realizing that the job duties or company culture aren’t aligned with their ideals.
Either way, the loss could have been prevented by making a smarter hiring decision from the outset. There are two sides to this — marketing better to recruits and selecting better from candidates.
With better recruitment marketing, you can provide more insights into what your company is all about, what it’s like to work there, and what the specific role looks like. That way, prospects who aren’t a fit will be more apt to self-identify and not apply in the first place.
Then, it comes down to the hiring process. It’s essential to have systemized hiring so that all candidates receive a fair evaluation. You’ll want to include the right steps and checks, which could include HR screens, tests, and project evaluations, to ensure you see candidates from a 360-degree view. Put those steps into automated workflows in your recruiting software or make a template in your project management software to ensure that all the steps are followed for every candidate. Find recommendations on the best project management tools for HR teams at TechnologyAdvice.com.
Every manager dreads hearing, “I have some bittersweet news to share” from one of their best people. Employee turnover has real implications for your productivity and success. However, with the right checks in place, it truly can be bittersweet as it can help you constantly improve and eventually reduce turnover.
Taylor Burke is a writer for TechnologyAdvice specializing in discussing company culture.