We focus a lot on the importance of retaining top employees. It reduces cost, increases productivity, builds trust and camaraderie—and the list goes on. However, we rarely discuss the elephant in the room: everyone eventually quits, even your best employee.
At some point, they have learned all they can and given all the value in their role. Once they get to that point, it's time to move up within your company or on to another company. Either way, you're going to have turnover beyond your control. But as a manager, you can choose how to frame it within your company culture.
Some turnover is good, especially if it involves employees who have overstayed their welcome. Top performers can quickly become bottom performers if they stay in a role they are no longer satisfied with. They will start to lose motivation and become unengaged, and eventually, the cost to retain them will exceed the cost of turnover. Turnover can also open the door for beneficial new ideas and skills. Maybe your team is in a rut and is caught in a cycle of groupthink; having new talent enter the picture can really help you gain new perspectives.
Unfortunately, many businesses view turnover as an extreme offense. Instead of being afraid to talk about it, reframe the way you and your employees look at turnover. Embrace it, and don't fear it. Remind yourself, "I know that my employees will eventually move on, and there's nothing wrong with that." Turn it into a positive as part of a healthy business relationship instead of a dramatic bridge-burning breakup. When you embrace a culture of quitting, instead of ex-employees, you have alumni. This is a mutually beneficial relationship that opens the door to future opportunities.
The tenure a good employee stays on may vary, but there are things within your control that have been proven to drastically reduce the frequency of employee departures. The number one thing you can do to slow down the inevitable cycle of turnover is to provide development and advancement opportunities. Most employees leave because they don't see a clear path to further their career, they don't feel challenged, or they don't feel like their skill set is being put to good use. As their manager, you have the power to change that.
Instead of fighting to keep top talent, focus on growing top talent. Strive to be known as the company creating leaders and subject matter experts instead of status quo employees. Doing this accomplishes several things: it keeps your employees engaged, it creates top talent within your company, and it becomes a valuable recruiting tool when word gets out that working for you will result in career development.
By providing development and advancement opportunities, you'll also reap the following strategic cost-saving benefit.
The moral of the story: spend money today to save money on turnover later. Eventually, you will have turnover. Instead of shedding former employees, think about how releasing highly skilled alumni into the workforce will come back to benefit you.
A common misconception about turnover is that once a great employee leaves your company, you lose all return on investment. You spent money training and developing them—now they're gone, and you have nothing. On the contrary, when you embrace turnover and send alumni on their way with a positive attitude, you leave the door open for future revenue.
As a leader of your company, you set the tone on how turnover is perceived in your culture. Your actions speak volumes louder than your words. Make sure those actions align with a culture that values retention, provides advancement opportunities, and promotes the development of their people even if that means they need to move on.
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