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Employee turnover – getting past “that is the way it is”

“40% employee turnover is average for our industry - that is the way it is.”

Resigned defeat has always been the number one symptom I encounter regarding employee turnover. I have heard variations of the above quote from numerous industries, states, and sizes of organizations. The organization will recount their past failed attempts. The past efforts have been focused on the symptoms - not the root causes. Treating symptoms not only does not fix the problem it creates additional problems.

The solution is found in the quote above. “Average” – therefore there are organizations doing better. I have never found an organization which somehow just got lucky and had low employee turnover. They all had to work at it and manage it.

The organizations with low turnover always understand:

  1. The goal must always be ZERO – within the context of your organization
  2. The REAL root causes of their turnover – they work past the symptoms
  3. Substantive changes must be made – cosmetics will not work
  4. There are no silver bullets and even when it is better – it can come back

Some of you might be having trouble with ZERO being the goal. Let’s insert some context.

I was the VP of HR of a business which is very cyclical. They ramp up by hiring hundreds of people at one time of the year. These employees are all gone six months later. This organizations turnover is obviously quite high due to the cyclical nature of their business. But is it?

We instituted a program where the goal was to treat these employees as if they were still considered to be part of the organization even when they were not working. However, they were technically not employees during that period.

The majority of the workers were simply rehired the next year based on their work history. In our minds and in the minds of the employees - they were still members of our organization even when they were not working. The ramp up hiring time became a time of reunion and “catching up”.

The point is that we managed the peak period in such a way to reduce turnover as much as possible. Please advise if you would like to know more about this program.

Each organization is different, the root causes vary and the solutions can only be determined after much review and thought. It does not have to be “the way it is”. It is all very fixable and the improvement can be maintained.