Wanted: Turnover Activists

Years ago, like some of you probably, I thought that staff turnover was an unfortunate cost of doing business. It never occurred to me that I can and should do something about it. Further, I thought that it was someone else’s fault. I blamed it on a lack of funding or the fact that other people (like the state) were able to pay people more than I was for essentially the same work. So rather than look inside my organization for areas of improvement, I pointed the finger at external situations that I believed underlying my turnover rate.

Turnover undermines everything your organization is trying to do. Yes, some turnover is inevitable and probably desirable. But the conclusion that It totally wastes money and makes your service much less than what it could be, is unavoidable.

Turnover is a manageable problem; it can and should be maintained at an acceptable level or reduced. To continue with turnover of over 15% without a program to reduce it is a challenge to leadership that must not be neglected.

So, if your organization has a turnover rate over 15%, your leadership team must start talking about this and sharing ideas about what to do. Do some discovery. Look at where turnover is happening. Is it throughout the organization or in particular work units? Does most of the turnover happen within units managed by certain supervisors? When is turnover happening; after six months, one year, 18 months… exactly when? Set a goal that by the end of 2013 you want to reduce turnover by 5% and determine what you will do to make it happen. You cannot just hope that it will happen. You need a plan, not wishful thinking.

When you are successful at reducing turnover, your organization will change for the better. Here are some examples of what life will look like with lower turnover:

1. Your personnel budget will be on target. Overtime cost will decrease as well as the cost of hiring replacement staff.
2. Morale will be improved. Working overtime burns out staff. For awhile the extra money is great; later they just want to go home and sleep.
3. Supervisors will actually be able to supervise. They won’t be filling vacant positions.
4. Organizational activities and initiatives can be launched because staffing is adequate.
5. You can spend available funds on needed enhancements rather than enriching your favorite temporary staffing agency.
6. The number of critical incidents and operational mistakes will be reduced because more staff are fully trained and experienced.
7. Your clients and customers will love seeing familiar faces and be happier with your service.
8. You will gain a reputation as “the place to work” in your community.

If you already have a turnover reduction plan in place, congratulations. Pursue it aggressively. Be an activist about it. Make it a priority.

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