Addressing Turnover Also Means Addressing Surprise Departures

April 3, 2015 | Communication, Employee Recognition, Leadership, Trust

We’ve all known that turnover costs companies money, and high turnover costs companies lots of money. The costs depends on the industry and company’s cost structure. We do know that turnover costs are derived from the cost of recruiting, training, and the cost of integrating employees into the organization. There are also soft costs that can be a little more tricky to quantify like the cost of grief of having a vacated position or the oppurtunity cost of losing out on other opportunities because of the lack of manpower.

That is why it is so important to address turnover as it costs companies in so many ways. What is even more of a blow is when an employee’s departure is a surprise. Departures cannot always be avoided. External forces that we cannot control can cause an employee to depart and there is not much we can do about it. However, any departure should rarely be a surprise. If they are, they should only due to an extreme external force.

So how do we reduce surprises? One way is constant rounding of our employees.  Asking genuinely how things are going frequently (by frequently we do not mean monthly, quarterly or when we get around to it) is important. Asking employees about how we as leaders can help them by removing barriers to get their work completed effectively is another way to reduce surprises. In Quint Studer’s book, Results that Last, he tells a story of an employee that had their resignation notice drafted, signed and ready to give to their supervisor. That very day, before she could hand the letter to her supervisor, she realized that her request for a new copy machine was fulfilled within days of her asking. This one action caused her to change her mind. This copy machine was her barrier to performing good work and was almost the “straw that broke the camel’s back”. A simple fulfilled request saved an employee from departure. What is more expensive; the cost of a new copier or hiring a new employee to replace her?

Another way to reduce surprises is to have transparency as it pertains to filling vacant positions. If we interview multiple existing employees for an open position, each candidate that did not get the position needs to be notified before the position is given to the chosen candidate. Employees should not be notified by an all employee memo announcing the chosen candidate, and it should not be news heard through the grapevine. Furthermore, hiring someone for a position without posting the position or letting your team know about the open position is another way to thwart transparency. We as leaders may already have a person in mind for a position but not opening it up to our team for a chance can reduce trust which increases the chances of surprises. That is why we also advocate for peer interviewing. We will cover this in an upcoming blog post.

In closing, when an employee surprisingly departs an organization, there are two problems. The first problem is the employee’s departure, and the second is that the leader had no idea that it was going to happen. Not seeing the departure coming could have been avoided and the departure itself may also have been avoided if time was spent building a relationship with that employee.

What are some other causes for surprise departures? What are some other ways that we can reduce surprise departures?


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