A Reason to Stay

attitude buy-in compensation cost of high turnover employee experience employee retention employee turnover reasons hard skills high turnover leadership leadership culture profit profitability profitability killers purpose the areas of an organization impacted by turnover turnover Apr 25, 2023
Employee Turnover Reasons

Now that we’ve identified some of the causes of turnover, specifically the reasons great team members leave an organization voluntarily and the high costs associated with that voluntary turnover, and we’ve looked at the extended reach of those costs, let’s get to work at addressing this profitability killer by providing those folks with a reason to stay!

I’m going to base what we’ll be working through as we wrap up this look at the high cost of turnover on a few assumptions. I realize that can be dangerous but it’s a chance I’m willing to take! First, I’m going to assume that the folks who leave our organizations voluntarily have solid skill sets that are important to what we do - otherwise, they either wouldn’t have been with us in the first place OR their departure wouldn’t be voluntary. I’m also going to assume that their overall compensation package is fair, or at least it was at some point. Again, without that ever being the case I’d struggle to think we would have ever had them on the team to begin with. And finally, I’m going to assume that any team members we’re interested in keeping have predominantly good attitudes. There are certainly times where someone with a great skill set and a terrible attitude adds more value by taking their mess to the competition… I’m not suggesting that turnover only kills any of our profitability when all three of these assumptions are correct, but I’d argue it costs us the most when they are!

Without at least a foundation of requisite skills, I can’t point to any significant cost incurred when someone leaves - even if they’re an overwhelmingly great person. Sure we may have had some time and money invested into their onboarding and training but part of a leader’s responsibility in the hiring process is making sure they have an existing set of skills that can translate to what they’ll be doing moving forward. The sooner we identify a mismatch, the better. If that’s after they’ve joined our team, we’d still do well to help them land well with another organization rather than dropping them like a bad habit but not addressing the issue won’t serve them or the rest of our team long term. And when we can handle a scenario like this by balancing our candor with care, we’re likely to earn a longstanding relationship with that individual even if they’re not in our organization AND we show the rest of our team that we value individuals over short term profit.

Now let’s consider that third assumption, the good attitude. I realize that losing anyone who’s mastered their craft can be a tough pill to swallow, especially when we have a significant workload and finding anyone with the skills we need has been increasingly difficult; skilled labor shortage anyone…? Sometimes though, having a high performer with a crap attitude can do far more harm than good. I’ve seen solid folks walk away from various companies as they were beginning to really dial things in because a more senior member of the team was just an ass to them on a regular basis. In many cases, that high performer with a bad attitude costs us more than their work earns us and that’s why I suggested that they may be more valuable to us if they worked for our competition!

With regards to that assumption about overall compensation, we do need to keep an eye on the market we’re in. With minimum wage nearly doubling in the last two years or so, coupled with a global pandemic and what appeared to be a huge labor shortage, wage ranges have shifted a lot - and quickly! I’m not about to suggest that we need to throw money at every individual in our organization but we do need to be sure we’re at least in the same ballpark as any other company that might try to lure them away.

When each of those things are in place, making my assumptions at least close to correct, there’s one specific thing we need to be sure we’re providing our best people if we really want to give them a reason to stay; we need to make sure they see purpose in the work they’re doing! When we’ve invested the time upfront to ensure everyone in our organization knows and understands our core values and we’ve been intentional about explaining how the work they do on a daily basis ties directly to the mission and vision of the organization, the sense of purpose a team member has can serve a strong reason to stick around even through some of the toughest times. 

I believe having and buying into a strong purpose is why so many volunteer their time with various organizations, why so many great men and women have served in the armed forces, and a big part of why folks choose careers in public safety. But let’s be honest, would you or I do what we do if we didn’t find purpose in it? Since that was one of those rhetorical questions, I’ll just add that it’s up to us as leaders to help our team members find that purpose so they do want to stay - and we’ll look how we can do that best next…