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Guest Blog: The Frustration of Turnover

A Guest Post from our Board Member David Creelman –

 I remember that I used to make a point of learning the names of new interns, but after a few years it seemed that they came and went so quickly that it was hardly worth the effort.  I imagine that managers of high turnover hourly workers may feel the same way.  People come, people go and it all seems a bit beyond one’s control.  If we feel this way, how can we do a good job of people management?

 The first thing is to remind yourself of the numbers.  It doesn’t take a math genius to figure out that if you reduce the annual turnover from 100% to 80% then that will save a substantial amount on hiring and training costs.  The tough thing is that 80% still feels high even if it is a great result for your industry.  So my advice is to not just go by feel, but to judge your success by looking at turnover or retention numbers versus industry or company norms.  You don’t need highly accurate data, just something to keep yourself motivated.  Your company may not give rewards for retention but you can certainly take yourself out to a nice lunch if you hit your own retention targets.

 Another thing is to remind yourself that while it may not always feel like this, your success is being driven by your staff.  It really has to be something of a mantra: “if my staff succeeds, I succeed.”  This will lead you to spend time directing and motivating staff, even if it feels like you are spending time motivating people who are gone three or four months later.

 It’s just a matter of finding that head space where unavoidably rapid turnover doesn’t feel like a downer.  It’s having that personal goal of keeping retention substantially better in your unit than it is in the industry.  It’s a matter of that generosity of spending time getting the best out of your staff even if they won’t be repaying the favour with long service.  If you think “I want every employee who passes under my care to leave a little bit better than when they walked in the door” then that can keep you upbeat about the time you are investing.

 Of course, it’s not just about generosity.  The manager who can find that optimistic head space even in a high turnover industry will have a more productive team-not to mention a happier life for themselves.

 For more thoughts on this topic, check out the paper that David and Steve Hunt wrote earlier this year on the role of the frontline manager in managing hourly retention.

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  1. David made some great suggestions in his blog about focusing on reducing turnover. The only place I disagree with him is that you should even consider industry averages or what the numbers are for other organization. What if you are already 10% better then industry average or have the lowest figure in your industry. Is that a reason to be satisfied. I do not think so.

    My suggestion is to look at your number and if you feel or know that they could be better take all of the steps David suggested and even more.
    1. Hire for retention.
    2. Make the first day the best day any employee will ever have. It should not be just about you it should be about them
    3. Give continual and honest feedback.
    4. Find out where they want to go and help them get their.

    If you help people get what they want they will help you get what you want.

    July 20, 2008

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