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[Real Life HR] Department with High Turnover

[Real Life HR] Department with High Turnover

Q: I've noticed that one department within my organization is experiencing higher turnover compared to the rest of the company. What should I do?


A: As you track turnover, you may notice spikes within one or more teams rather than throughout the whole company. Higher than average turnover rates among certain teams may point to bad management practices or unusually stressful working situations, but they also may be a sign of normal and good things happening. Approach the situation with curiosity.

You may find that teams with higher turnover operate with more entry-level or transitional positions that employees don’t typically spend a lot of time in. Perhaps you have a manager who’s regularly helping their reports move up in the organization or setting higher (but still reasonable) performance standards than their predecessor. You may also find that the work that team does is more stressful, grueling, or monotonous than work elsewhere in the organization. You’d expect higher turnover in these situations. It’s not necessarily a problem you need to solve, but it’s definitely something to account for.

Could it be that your employees are not “engaged”? This may sound like another corporate buzzword, but engaged employees share a number of common traits:

  • They seek out challenging work.
  • They’re good at resolving and/or finding solutions to problems.
  • They share ideas and solutions with colleagues.
  • They offer support to colleagues who are busy.
  • They seek out training and development opportunities.

Here are some of the things you can do to improve engagement:

  • Offer team-building activities.
  • Let employees contribute in big ways when possible, and highlight the impact they’re making on your company.
  • Communicate with your employees regularly, and have an open-door policy.
  • Make sure your managers take a proactive approach to employee relations. Create opportunities for everyone to spend time together discussing goals, sharing successes and providing feedback that reinforces your company values.
  • Assign employees to a special project or put them in an expanded role. Build in opportunities for employees to cross-train one another.
  • Ask yourself these questions: Are the right people in the right roles? Do you have too many people for the amount of work that needs to be done? Do you need to reorganize? Are your people getting the feedback and recognition they need?
  • Manage your managers. Make sure brand-new managers have the tools and resources necessary to succeed.
  • Provide training and development opportunities designed for your supervisors.
  • Make sure that your employees have appropriate ways to communicate feedback about their managers.

By understanding the common reasons for high employee turnover, you will be better able to protect your business from a similar fate. Employees who are well-compensated, challenged, engaged and properly managed will likely be loyal, productive members of your workforce.

If you work in HR, you may have some sleepless nights. It’s the nature of the job. You’re constantly putting out fires, addressing emotionally challenging situations, and taking steps to make every hire a good investment for the company. When people leave, it can feel like you’ve failed.

But be kind to yourself. Turnover is always important—but it isn’t always a problem. Turnover is normal and expected. Some turnover is good! Approach employee departures with curiosity and patience. They may indicate that something needs to be fixed or tweaked, but they may also be a sign that everything is working as it should.

Check out more trending topics and resources on Employee Engagement.

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