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Making Turnover Work for You

Tuesday, March 29, 2016 - by  Katy Tynan 

It’s a Tuesday afternoon and one of your best people walks into your office and shuts the door. The dreaded words come out of her mouth. 

“Do you have a minute?” 

And then… 

“I’ve been offered another opportunity…” 

With those five words, your next three months have just gone from “on track” to “off the rails.” Losing a key player can be a big problem, but only if you let it. Rewind three to six months, and consider some things you could have (and should have) been doing to make turnover work for you. 

Accept Reality

Not everyone is going to work for you forever. Actually, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone when people leave—given that the average person changes jobs more than 10 times in their career, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and that number is climbing. So instead of assuming your best people are here to stay, make sure you’re planning to manage a rotation of great people instead. 

Hire for Attitude and Aptitude

Many companies make the mistake of creating Frankenstein job postings. They are jobs that have evolved over time because one particular person happened to have progressively inherited a set of unique responsibilities. When that person quits, the company immediately goes out and looks for someone JUST LIKE THEM. Don’t do it. Hire smart, adaptable people, and then see what they can do and build on their new ideas. 

Rotate Roles

A big percentage of what makes someone a great employee is their knowledge of how the organization works. By shifting people into different roles every six to 12 months, you leverage that knowledge and bring a fresh perspective to the new role. The employee stops doing things “because that’s the way we’ve always done it” and starts trying new things because the new role makes them look at things from a different perspective. As a huge bonus, it builds empathy and resilience in the organization because people have done each other’s jobs, can cover for each other over vacations, and so on. 

Three Keys to Success

Bottom line: Turnover is a fact of life in today’s working environment. The idea of staying in the same job for five or 10 years is dead. For some people, staying in a job even two years is a long time. As a manger, your best defense is a good offense. Plan for turnover—and for change—instead of hoping things will stay the same. 

1.     Plan for Turnover. Rather than assuming people will want to stay forever, plan for six to 12 month transitions.  

2.     Focus on Documentation. Make it a goal that anyone can step in and do anyone else’s job for a day. Having clear processes and documentation can make it easier when someone moves on. 

3.     Hire Smart. Hiring a team of flexible, curious people who are willing to learn new skills and try new things will make your organization more nimble, and it will help your team adapt more easily to changes in staffing.

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