Three Tips to Tackle Turnover

Dave Anderson

In over 20 years of speaking with organizations worldwide, one of the most common concerns I see among leaders wishing to measurably grow their organization is employee turnover. Without question, people are the most important component of an organization’s culture, and while some turnover is good (for example, the removal of cultural misfits like non-performers and toxic achievers), the costs incurred when your top talent voluntarily walks out the door are staggering. Many leaders are quick to look out the window and blame the competition’s better benefits, increased pay, and more. The hard truth is, you can’t control the competition or afford to get involved in wage wars with them – frankly I’ve never known a person that became more loyal through an increase in pay. When looking at the countless business studies and reports on retention, it’s clear that the place we should really be looking as leaders when it comes to retaining our human capital is within the mirror and on the things we can control. Let’s address three of the most cited causes of employee turnover, in no particular order.

1. No advancement opportunities or room to grow. Let’s face it, high performers want to grow, to be empowered, and to gain new responsibilities. In some organizations this becomes a challenge because there are limited slots to advance into. Let me stop you before you even start using this as an excuse. If this describes your organization, you can still show an employee how to grow in their current position and make an outstanding income by doing the following:

Setting stretch goals. If they don’t make the individual do something other than “business as usual” it won’t stretch or inspire them. This is all about helping them discover their potential, and they’ll never find out how far they can go when you enable them to play it safe.

Forming special rewards for top performers. Great rewards should be reserved for those that bring immense value to the team. Give your best to the best, and less to the rest. That being said, what rewards are you currently giving away that you need to tie performance and achievement into? Cultures of merit attract and retain A-players; cultures of entitlement attract moochers.

Training continually to show there is still room to grow. The best organizational cultures understand that talent doesn’t arrive fully developed, and that it must be resourced through continual coaching, mentoring, and training. If you have great people and you don’t consistently commit to growing them to their full potential, you don’t deserve them.

2. Hiring the wrong person. The sooner you stop winging it and get a real hiring process, the sooner you’ll stop onboarding people that leave (whether voluntarily or not) because you’ll do a better job of weeding out people that never belonged in the first place. One mis-hire alone is enough to damage your brand image, organizational culture, team member experience, momentum, and more – and that doesn’t even begin to include the financial costs that accompanies. Evaluate your process for the following:

Be proactive. The worst time to hire is out of desperation. Just as in sales we build a pipeline of prospects, the same applies in recruiting. Build your recruiting database of top talent before you need to rely on it.

Have a rigorous hiring process. The easier you make it for someone to get a job on your team, the less they’ll appreciate it. Top performers are looking for a challenge, not just a paycheck.

Build an environment that attracts candidates from competitors. Similar to the principles in the first point of this article, you’ll need to identify what specifically differentiates you: unmatched opportunities to grow, exciting or challenging work, special rewards for top performers, etc.

Use predictive testing to make certain you are hiring people wired for the work you need them to do. Some things like attitude, character, drive, etc. you simply cannot teach to someone. You need to determine whether that candidate has what it takes internally, and is bringing these “unteachables” to the table before you begin investing your limited time, energies, and resources.

3. Disengagement or lack of meaningful work. There’s no question about it, without meaningful work, life stinks. Do the following to lend meaning to your workplace:

Create a vision as outlined in the first point and show people where they fit into the big picture. Good people look for the opportunity to make a difference and be a part of something larger than themselves, and want more than just a job.

Motivate people as unique individuals and not like another head in a herd of cattle. If you don’t know your people on an individual level, and what makes them tick, you can’t move them or your team to greatness.

Give plenty of positive reinforcement when people hit it to let them know they are valued and not taken for granted. People like to know when they’re doing well, and where they need to improve. When you’re inconsistent, slow, or absent in feedback, it’s hard for your people to know where they stand.

There are many more things that can drive employee turnover, but this sampling alone demonstrates that one of the first places a leader should turn to when people leave his or her team, is within. Fortunately, all of this is in your power to fix and control, but knowing is only the first step in the journey – doing comes next. Close the gap between knowing and doing, and resolve to minimize your turnover today.