Turnover’s Silver Lining

Turnover's silver liningTalk to any manager and the thing that brings them to their knees is the thought of employee turnover. Even the strongest manager begins to shake when the topic shifts to turnover. It conjures up thoughts of overtime costs, loss of productivity, fear in the team, thinking you are going to have to pick up the slack and more. All of those concerns are not without merit. Turnover does have a cost attached to it. And it also has a silver lining.

How can turnover be a good thing? What does it say about you, as a leader, that employees leave, whether they are asked to leave due to performance or they leave of their own free will? Actually, it might say something about you as a leader and it’s not all bad.

What causes turnover? Employees leave for any number of reasons…better commute, money, additional responsibilities, spouse or significant other relocating, family considerations, or any number of other reasons. Often, there is nothing you can do to change the outcome of an employee’s decision to leave your company. It happens. There are times, however, that employees leave due to poor management. In this case you might learn something about yourself and other leaders in the company.

Maybe one of your top performers leaves for another position. You probably didn’t even know they were looking — shame on you! Lesson #1 of turnover’s silver lining: you learn to look for the signs that someone is interviewing. There are plenty of them if you pay attention. What’s worse is when they are leaving for a reason, that, had you know, you might have been able to offer them at your company. If you didn’t know they were interested in new challenges or that they were possibly bored in their current role or that the new baby was causing challenges with their current schedule, whatever the situation then, again, shame on you! It tells me you weren’t paying attention to them and were not in any way focused on what’s important to them. Lesson #2 of turnover’s silver lining: you recognize you are missing a key leadership competency, knowing and caring about the people that work for you.

Turnover due to layoffs can actually be a good thing. When I was a recruiter, MCI was one of my clients. Often in November and December they had lay-offs. Not every year, but a lot of years. They would claim they were reducing headcount and what they really used it for was to clear away poor performers in the organization. How do I know this? Well, I was told this by several directors I worked with at MCI and it was obvious. Because in February of the following year they were rehiring for many of the positions where only a few months before they had indicated a reduction in staff. Lesson #3: layoffs can help you reduce headcount and the associated cost, and it can help you redefine the team and hopefully provide a vehicle to move low performers off your ‘bus’.

When the company has to terminate someone due to performance it can be a huge plus. This is different than layoffs where there are multiple people leaving the company. Termination in this sense is about removing someone from the team that isn’t performing at a level you need them to. It doesn’t matter if it’s technical competency concerns, poor cultural fit, or the interpersonal skills are a challenge, you are terminating them because they don’t fit. This can be good news. Lesson #4: terminating people because of fit says good things to the rest of the team. It tells them you recognize what they see and aren’t willing to settle. They get a message that might subliminally tell them to ‘step up their pace’, not making them fearful, but helping them understand your expectations. And let’s not forget now you have the opportunity to go find a star performer to replace a weak one.

Without employee turnover all companies get stuck in their own way of thinking. You keep doing the same things because you always have without considering if there is a better way of doing something or a new idea that makes sense to explore. The only way this new thinking can come into play is with new and fresh talent. The only way to eliminate group think is to break up the group.

Team dynamics change when someone leaves a team and/or someone new is added. Teams are a group of people and people get stale in their growth and development when there isn’t change going on around them. Adding new team members can shake things up. These changes might also add a different challenge to you as a leader. Lesson #5 of why turnover has a silver lining: it may have team members refocus their energies in a positive way. It might also challenge you, as the leader, to grow. Managing plodders is different than managing builders.

It’s common for companies to keep doing what they have been doing and not taking the time to really assess the company and the people. When there is employee turnover, it’s a great opportunity to focus on what the company needs, not just who is in the current seat. Do you want to consolidate some functions under one person that are now under three? Does the organization need someone as senior as was in the role? What skills and experience are critical for you now that may be different than before? Lesson $6: when there is turnover, it provides an opportunity for the company, not a loss. You have the opportunity to build a job description for a role that is based on the organization’s needs today.

Turnover can have a silver lining on so many levels. There is a cost to employee turnover for sure. Lost productivity, time spent interviewing instead of on the other dozen things on your plate, paying overtime, paying a recruiter fee…it can be costly at many levels. I want to suggest you rethink turnover and see it as the positive that it can be, and often is.

The adage ‘it’s lonely at the top’ is true. Wish you had someone to talk to and ask for advice? Arrange a complimentary thirty-minute call with Linda and find out what a trusted advisor can do for you.

© 2017 Incedo Group, LLC

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