6 Tips for Mitigating Employee Turnover

Your employees give you a third of their every day. Isn’t it incumbent on you to help them flourish in turn?

Employee turnover, whether voluntary or involuntary, is drastically expensive. A study by the Center for American Progress puts the cost of turnover at 21 percent of an employee’s annual salary. For senior or executive-level employees, the cost can climb to 213 percent of their annual salary. Reducing turnover is a significant benefit to virtually every company.

When I first entered the workforce, managers predominantly focused on fixing what was “wrong” with employees. While performance reviews listed an employee’s strengths, the meat of the review came in the weaknesses section. One euphemism I recall is “Factors Needing Strengthening.” The premise was that managers should strengthen their employees to match the work that needed doing.

Thankfully, many managers (myself included) have since evolved. We’ve learned that it’s hard to change people, and we all shine when we are matched to work that is right for us. Now, many companies strive to match work to their employees rather than forcing employees into work that doesn’t align with their passions or skills. The result? Happier and more productive employees, lower turnover, and happier managers, too.

So how do you keep employees happy and mitigate turnover? How do you align work to an employee’s unique skills and evolving passions? Here are six tips:

  1. Introduce work-product in interviews. At my company, we call this concept the “mutual try before you buy.” When interviewing candidates, give them work to complete that is similar to what they’d be responsible for should they be hired. If at the end of the exercise the candidate says, “This isn’t for me,” you both can easily walk away. If the candidate enjoyed the work but made significant mistakes, then he or she likely won’t be a good fit. Out of respect, provide specific and constructive feedback regarding how the candidate missed the mark. If the candidate loved the exercise and did a good job, the chances of him or her being happy and successful at your company are excellent. Then you both will have seen the match between the role and his or her capabilities.
  2. Recognize that imperfect matches provide great insight. Even work-product interviews can miss some critical cues. For instance, just because a candidate is skilled at content marketing doesn’t mean he or she will want to do only content marketing at your company. He or she may be more interested in digital marketing or outbound sales, or another role. If the candidate has a solid work ethic and is a cultural fit, this isn’t a failure in hiring. Rather, it’s just imperfect matching. Particularly in the first few months of an employee’s tenure it’s OK for there to be movement. Be open to finding positions that better suit new employees and their evolving understanding of their interests and the opportunities within your company.
  3. Be flexible with your human capital. If employees are not—or are no longer—thriving in their current role, but have valuable skills, work ethic, and are a cultural fit, you have many options beyond terminating them or watching them quit. Ask yourself, “What can this person do better?” Approach other managers in your company to gauge how they might fare with them. You also could re-evaluate the work in your own department. Perhaps there’s something that’s been overlooked or an emerging role that could light a new fire in this employee. The institutional knowledge of the employee will shorten the learning curve and, of course, helps to avoid both hiring fees and any impact on your unemployment contributions.
  4. Let employees “go home” again. As outlined above, it pays to support good employees moving into new roles. In many situations, it also can pay to make it clear that employees can “go home” again, or can return to their previous role should the new one not be a better match. Make your employees comfortable about trying and/or revisiting roles until they find their best match. Of course, never abandon good judgment in the name of flexibility. There may come a point where it’s evident that an employee’s best match is somewhere outside your company.
  5. Allow tasks to be completed in different ways. There’s always work to be done. Some tasks must be completed before others, and some must be completed in a certain precise way. But for many tasks, there’s a lot of flexibility. Be open to more than one way of accomplishing the work. Chances are you’ll get quality work done faster, more creatively, and more cost effectively.
  6. Value institutional knowledge. New employees and fresh perspectives are wonderful things. But don’t underestimate the value of employees who have a deep knowledge of your business and understand the inner workings of your company. Find meaningful ways to pair employees who hold institutional knowledge with your newer employees. The more tenured folks get to polish up and show off their knowledge and the newer employees become productive more quickly—and become assimilated and loyal more quickly; and everyone is happier.

Mitigating employee turnover isn’t just about improving your business’ bottom line. It’s an ethical issue, too. Your employees give you a third of their every day. Isn’t it incumbent on you to help them flourish in turn? Get to know your employees as people, foster that approach in managers, and make sure your managers know that part of their job is to support their people’s changing interests and skills. And, of course, set the example by doing this yourself for your direct reports.

These steps are easy to implement and foster a company of happy, productive, and fiercely loyal employees.

Stefania Mallett is CEO and co-founder of ezCater. The company makes it easy to order food online for meetings. ezCater began with a handful of restaurant and catering partners in Boston. As its service matured, the company expanded across New England and the Southeast. Today, ezCater offers a curated list of the best business caterers for 22,743 cities and towns nationwide

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