Every company deals with employee turnover, and some industries even build turnover into their strategic workforce planning. But higher-than-average employee turnover can damage a company’s culture and significantly drive up employment costs.
In fact, according to Gallup, companies in the U.S. lose up to $1 trillion every year to voluntary employee turnover. The average cost of employee turnover typically ranges from half to two times that employee’s annual salary. And when you lose a long-term employee, you lose institutional knowledge that isn’t passed on and, potentially, other employees they’ve influenced.
So what can you do about it? Let’s start with the employee turnover definition and what causes it to increase.
What Is Employee Turnover?
Your employee turnover refers to the number of employees who leave your company during a specified period of time.
To calculate your employee turnover rate, divide the number of employees who leave during a specific time frame by the number of employees working during that time frame. Multiply by 100 to get your employee turnover rate.
Generally, 10% is considered a “normal” turnover rate. But employee turnover rates by industry can vary widely. Some industries — including staffing, food services, and hospitality — expect higher employee turnover rates. Public agencies, finance and insurance, and wholesale trade industries tend to see the lowest employee turnover rates.
What Causes Employee Turnover Rates to Go Up?
There are two types of turnover: voluntary and involuntary.
Involuntary turnover refers to an employee’s involuntary termination, including for poor performance.
Voluntary turnover, on the other hand, refers to an employee’s decision to leave an organization, typically to pursue better opportunities or simply because they don’t feel valued or engaged.
What are some of the specific reasons for voluntary employee turnover? According to the Work Institute’s 2019 Retention Report, the most commonly cited reasons for leaving a job are:
- Lack of career development opportunities.
- Inadequate work-life balance.
- Unhappiness with a manager’s behavior.
Each of these factors can contribute to a decline in employee morale. When employees lose their drive and motivation, they’re much less likely to remain engaged in their work — or with your organization.
How to Reduce High Turnover
It’s impossible to eliminate employee turnover.
But there are steps your company can take to create a more engaged, stable, and healthy workplace. Here are four ways to reduce your annual turnover rate.
Conduct Regular Exit and Stay Interviews
It’s important to find out why team members are leaving. When an employee puts in their notice, set up an exit interview to probe whether they’re leaving because they aren’t happy or because they received a better opportunity. And if the latter is true, what makes that opportunity better? Will they receive better compensation and benefits? Or are they attracted to the company culture?
Conduct stay interviews, too. Randomly select employees to interview, and ask what makes them stay with your company. You don’t want employees to stay simply because you’re providing them a stable job and a paycheck. If they find that elsewhere, they’re at risk of leaving.
You want employees to stay because they’re passionate about and engaged with their work and because you offer an employee experience that can’t be replicated. Regular stay interviews can help you get a feel for employee engagement on a personal level. These one-on-one conversations give you a better sense of what employees love about your company — and what they don’t. From there, you can work to improve the employee experience.
Help Employees Find a Sense of Purpose
Employees feel more engaged when they feel like they’re working toward something. Helping disengaged employees find their sense of purpose can help them become more excited about and engaged with their work, which reduces employee turnover rates.
Goal alignment software can help employees visualize their role in driving the organization’s larger goals, helping them find a sense of purpose. Focusing on professional development is important to finding an employee’s sense of purpose, too. Employees need to be able to see an opportunity to reach their full potential as a professional within your company.
Layout clear pathways for internal mobility and give employees access to training and reskilling resources to help them achieve the roles they want. Incentivize managers to help employees discern their professional goals, as well as the opportunities they have within the company for fulfilling them.
Survey Employees and Meet Their Needs
Employees’ needs are changing every day. It’s important to find out what their needs are so you can implement benefits and programs to meet them.
An annual survey can help you gather data on bigger changes you can implement to support employees. These items might include new benefit offerings or other human resources initiatives that take time to develop and implement.
A pulse survey of three to five questions should be reserved for changes you can implement right away. If you’re constantly conducting pulse surveys but never acting on the data, employees will stop responding to them.
With any survey, it’s important to only ask about items you can feasibly implement. Conduct focus groups to add depth to the data. As you gather input from employees, be transparent with survey results. The data should be your source of truth for directing and justifying people-focused decisions.
Prioritize Employee Health and Well-Being
Putting employee well-being first can reduce employee turnover rates, as employees tend to be more loyal to employers that invest in and care for them.
Highlight the resources available to employees, such as health and wellness programs, employee assistance programs (EAP), or paid time off (PTO).
Start by training managers to communicate more effectively. Improved, more frequent communication builds trust between employees and their supervisors.
When employees feel like they can approach supervisors with questions or put up boundaries around their workload, they can collaborate to create a healthier schedule.
Burnout is a significant contributing factor to high employee turnover rates. It’s essential to do what you can to prevent employee burnout before detachment sets in. Once an employee gets burned out, it’s extremely difficult to re-engage them.
The best way to prevent burnout is by helping employees take adequate breaks and disengage in a healthy way. For this reason, many companies are embracing mental health days. These could be designated days off where the whole company shuts down, or they could be additional days added to each employee’s PTO.
Leaders and managers should set an example by taking time off themselves. Without the example, employees may feel that even though they have PTO, using it will be frowned upon. That’s a cultural attitude that you must intentionally combat to prevent employees from becoming burned out.
Reducing high employee turnover heads off lost productivity and also produces a healthy culture. As you work to meet employee needs, think about how you can hone your employee value proposition and improve the employee experience. When employees feel valued, they’re much more likely to remain engaged with — and employed by — your company.