Many leaders fear employee turnover. If people are leaving your team in droves, you’re likely to struggle to get any work done. Recruiting new people takes time and effort, so you don’t want to be doing it constantly if you can help it.
On the other hand, there are a number of reasons why employee turnover should be seen as your friend, not the enemy.
1. Employee turnover gives you fresh ideas
If your team is comprised of the same people for years on end, you may be lacking new ideas. Of course, you can send people to conferences or have them do online training. However, these are a poor substitute for recruiting people who have already been using cutting edge ideas at their previous jobs.
Employee turnover means you are feeding your team and organisation with new experience. Otherwise you will be stuck in the land of “this is just how we do it around here” for a long time.
In addition, you will find that newcomers to an organisation notice existing issues really quickly. They aren’t influenced by workplace relationships or the existing culture, and their impartial view gives them clear visibility of what is really going on. You can leverage this insight to improve the way your team functions.
2. Employee turnover encourages succession planning
When Bob from accounts has finally had enough after working at your company for 20 years, there is going to be a knowledge gap when he leaves. How will you cover that gap? Is there anybody else who knows his job?
When employee turnover occurs at a reasonable rate, it forces you to think strategically. It forces you to get a succession plan in place for your key roles. If Bob is the only person who knows how to do a crucial business function, you should put measures in place to ensure that you aren’t left in the lurch if Bob leaves, or gets hit by a bus.
This sort of key person risk can be damaging if it isn’t addressed by forward thinking.
3. Employee turnover reduces resistance to change
When employees stay in the same job for years, they are likely to be set in their ways. Introducing new concepts or improvements is more difficult when there are many long-term employees, because people have “always done it this way”. In other words, everyone is pretty comfortable with the status quo.
The more people who are comfortable, the higher the degree of resistance you will experience during change initiatives. In contrast, new employees will usually be far more malleable and compliant. They have just changed jobs, so they won’t be expecting things to be the same as in their previous workplace. As such, change efforts will generally become easier.
If you can dilute the pool of long tenure employees with fresh faces, you will also dilute the resistance experienced when you are trying to improve your team.
4. Employee turnover can introduce a burst of motivation
Sometimes when people have been in a job for a long time, things get stale. New faces in the team can bring a burst of “we can do it!” and enthusiasm. They’re excited to have a new job and are likely to bring a higher level of work ethic and enthusiasm than long-tenure employees.
Of course, this will eventually fade, at least slightly. The excitement of a new job and workplace only lasts for so long. But if turnover occurs at a reasonable rate, you will periodically experience these bursts of energy in your team. You should try to take advantage of these bursts of motivation.
5. Employee turnover can remove old relationships
When employees have been in an organisation for a long time, they develop long-standing relationships with their colleagues and peers. Some of these relationships are good, and help work happen more effectively. However, these relationships within a workplace can also introduce an impediment to change.
I’ve seen situations where inefficiency and chaos reign because certain people are long-time “friends with the boss”, meaning they are sheltered from harm. When you have sufficient turnover, a lot of long standing legacy relationships can lose their power, because the new people don’t have any regard or experience with this legacy situation.
Keeping your team fresh means gradually reducing the strength of these long-standing bonds. This will be beneficial for your team and organisation in the long run.
Employee turnover is not something to fear. In fact, it is a necessary factor in running a successful team or organisation. If your turnover is too high, you will experience problems as you struggle to recruit people and retain organisational knowledge.
However, it is often regarded that a very low employee turnover rate is best. Where this mentality exists, you are likely to find leadership who try to please everybody and shelter their teams from any criticism.
Your goal as a leader is not to make everybody happy. It’s to run an effective team. If your team is happy, that’s great, but it isn’t the end goal. Having a moderate level of turnover will prove to be the most effective strategy as you keep a fresh flow of ideas, energy and start to eradicate legacy, unproductive relationships.
Don’t fear employee turnover. It can be your friend.
Have you experienced situations where employee turnover has been an issue? What was the problem? Leave a comment below, I’d love to read your stories!