The chicken or egg question of employee turnover

The question of which came first the chicken or the egg has been around for a long time. There is a variation of this question in the area of employee turnover. Which comes first, do you focus on hiring better candidates? Or do you work on the organization by identifying and fixing the root causes of your turnover? In my experience, I see most organizations with high employee turnover trying to recruit their way out of the problem.

You cannot recruit your way out of employee turnover

Simply, the root causes of your employee turnover will create a problem with the new employees. You will have a much greater chance of losing the new employees even if they are better people. The root causes will continue to operate unabated and will inflict the usual number of casualties. I have never met an organization which has successfully reduced their employee turnover in this way. The most regrettable part is the vast majority of organizations try and fail using this option.

The goal of hiring “better people” is definitely part of the solution. However, it is the second step of the solution. The organizations who are attempting to push the employee standard up must make some changes. Those changes start with a re-evaluation of what makes up a successful employee in your organization. The other changes are in recruiting, selecting and on-boarding which will be a future topic.

Before working on this second step, the organization needs to change the environment. We must do everything possible to eliminate the root causes which are creating the employee turnover. I see too many organizations throwing good employees into a toxic environment.

Toxic environments eat up employees and organizational cultures

Once when I was a VP of Human Resources, the organization has severe operational issues. These operational issues spanned numerous areas and had a major impact on every employee in operations. The organization was working on the issues; but, was also running into obstacles. The obstacles could be distilled down to “that is how we have always done it”. Or some variation of that thought. Our organization was not keeping up with the technological changes in the industry. Employees were expecting us to do this and when we didn’t, our competitors used our failure to recruit our employees. The employees who left would then talk to our other employees and tell them how great it was.

It did not matter how many employees we recruited. We could not hire them as fast as they were leaving. We had to make the changes in how we did things.

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