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The Upside of Turnover

Turnover is in the HR news headlines a lot lately. In particular, the focus is on what businesses should do to engage and retain their key employees to prevent turnover. The talent shortage and retirement cliff are frequently mentioned in an apocalyptic, end-of-the-business-world way. Regardless of whether you believe the doom and gloom, turnover happens in the best of companies when an employee voluntarily resigns, retires, or is involuntarily terminated or laid off.

Let’s consider this from a glass half-full perspective. Turnover is not always bad even though it is certainly a disruption. It is a reasonable time for the organization to be introspective about the specifics of the situation. Turnover provides an opportunity to examine the current position structure and determine whether it makes sense to continue with the status quo or make some changes.

Is it a hard position to fill? Is there frequent turnover in the position? Is there an opportunity to spread out the key responsibilities and duties to give other employees an opportunity to learn new skills and take on new roles? If yes, this may allow you to recruit for a lower level position or a different skill set altogether. Maybe the position is responsible for duties which are no longer really necessary. Got a process that has been in place forever? Take it apart with the manager and team and consider whether it is still relevant. If it is necessary, can it be improved to be more efficient and effective?

Take the time to investigate the specifics of the situation. If it was a voluntary resignation, did you conduct an exit interview? Do you have an exit interview process? What did the employee share about their perception of the organization’s culture, their work, and their personal circumstances leading to their departure? There is always opportunity for improvement, but what specific information can you glean from the soon to be former employee? Did they provide useful feedback about the supervisor? Is there a pattern or trend of feedback that suggests a development opportunity for the supervisor or team members? Had the employee stagnated in their role – were they looking for more of a challenge to grow and learn new things? Did that go unnoticed? Did they leave for better pay and benefits? All of these data points are useful, especially when consistently collected and considered.

Ideally, you are collecting this kind of feedback from your employees before they decide to leave. There is strong evidence that “stay interviews” conducted during employment instead of on exit, can help engage employees and can provide you with key insights about how an employee is faring in their position and in the workplace. But back to turnover, if you haven’t yet built a “stay interview” process, make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to collect feedback as the employee prepares to exit.

One recent example is from a small company management team who learned of the resignation of their only customer service employee after only months in the position. The employee was invited to reconsider leaving but declined, citing