By Steve Touhill, Partner.
With the April 15th tax deadline looming, I’m reminded of the old Ben Franklin quote about death and taxes as the only certain things in life. As an executive recruiter, in business I submit that there is one other certainty (albeit much less dramatic than death and taxes), and that is employee turnover. The problem tends to be most pronounced during the first quarter. With bonuses distributed and new annual goals disseminated, those employees with one foot mentally out the door make a physical exit to perceived greener pastures, leaving you starting this quarter behind. So turnover is always bad, right? Not necessarily.
We have all seen news articles and consulting firm reports about the financial and productivity impact that turnover has on a business, and there are probably even a few that address the emotional impact on the team when an especially admired leader moves on. Well, look at the bright side:
- You’re probably good at recruiting talented people: what company wouldn’t want to hire away the top talent of its biggest competitors? If business has been good and you feel like your company is being targeted, it probably is. Your competitors want to steal your mojo, baby. Aggressive companies don’t want to pluck survivors from sinking businesses, they want the sharks.
- You’re creating a career path for up-and-comers: hitting the ceiling hurts more when you’re climbing the fastest, and it’s one of the most common motivations we encounter when recruiting top talent. By backfilling vacancies through internal promotion, you enhance retention amongst your best performers by demonstrating that they don’t need to move on to get the responsibilities, title, and compensation that others leave for.
- You have an opportunity to examine and improve your company culture: you have something good going on at your company if you were able to attract these top performers in the first place, but there’s room for improvement. Don’t neglect the exit interview. It shouldn’t be a perfunctory administrative exercise nor a gripe session. It should be objective, rational, and focused on what you and your organization could have done differently to make that person stay. In aggregate, patterns will emerge to guide your thinking about people, policies and environment that will plug some of the holes you may be unknowingly drilling today.
Dealing with the inevitable can sometimes seem like a daunting task, but focusing on what you can control is always the best place to start. By focusing on building an organization that pays competitively, communicates clearly and transparently, and listens to its employees’ suggestions and needs, you will face the inevitability of turnover with less stress. Have a great Second Quarter!