Lately, I’ve had some clients who have been experiencing what I call “turnover turmoil.” It’s that time in your business when things are changing, team members are leaving (based on their decision or yours), and multiple aspects of the business seem confusing and frustrating.
Most people resist change (which actually inspired me to write my first book, “The Six Dimensions of C.H.A.N.G.E.”), but it really comes down to how you view the period of turmoil as well as what you learn from it to move your company and life forward in a positive direction.
We all know turnover can be a huge challenge as well as time-consuming and costly, but sometimes it can be the best thing for your company culture — a fresh start. I’m not saying constant turnover is good, but sometimes parting ways with a team member can be a huge opportunity for improvement and growth. I’ve had lots of experience with turnover as an owner and consultant, and looking back on almost every single time it has happened, it ended up being for the best, even if it was hard to acknowledge at the time.
Now, there are two different kinds of turnover. Planned turnover is good, but “blind spot” turnover is not.
Planned turnover involves recognizing team members who are no longer a fit and strategically planning for how to replace their position and revenue stream. Blind-spot turnover is when people leave the company because of a variety of reasons that went unrecognized by leadership. There are also the occasional fluke team members who don’t fall into these two categories, but the majority of the time, it’s either planned or due to a breakdown in the company’s systems, leadership, and communication.
Avoiding blind-spot turnover
For the purpose of this column, I want to focus on the unplanned type of turnover and what you can do to keep it to a minimum and avoid stressful situations as much as possible.
So, what causes unplanned blind-spot turnover? The main culprits are: culture issues within the company, lack of communication, poor leadership, hiring people who are not a correct fit for the company or specific position, and team members failing to appreciate their positions and opportunities.
You’ve probably heard this saying: “People don’t quit companies, they quit people.” This is so true. People desire a sense of community in the workplace, which includes feeling supported, included, and appreciated.
Based on these causes of turnover, let’s think about what we can do to make sure we have a solid team of people who aren’t going anywhere soon (unless you decide they should). The focus here is twofold: recruiting and retention. You need to be sure to have a solid, supportive, cohesive culture in place; then, recruit the correct people who fit your culture (and get rid of the ones who don’t).
You need to be clear and upfront about exactly what type of team member you are looking for, otherwise they will cause issues within your company and probably not last long anyway. Make a list of attributes you are looking for in a team member and always have clarity surrounding the position itself and what it entails.
It’s also crucial to utilize a Team Member Commitment Form (position agreement) that outlines objectives and expectations so everyone maintains the same level of understanding. This keeps things from getting personal and helps uphold a high level of accountability throughout your team.
The second part to focus on — retention — is really how to take your company to the next level of stable and continued growth and success, but it is too often overlooked.
Failure to focus on team member retention is a huge reason for blind-spot turnover. Retention techniques really aren’t difficult or overly expensive — they just take a little planning, strategizing, and thoughtfulness. Most company leaders don’t take the necessary steps to improve team member retention for a variety of reasons, but it really comes down to the limiting belief that they can’t afford to be having parties and company events all the time, so they don’t do much of anything.
I’ve also seen companies that stop having parties because nobody shows up (which, in itself, is a huge indicator of a poor culture). When it comes down to it, you really can’t afford not to do company team-building activities, regardless of the size of your company or budget. It’s not just about allowing everyone to spend time together — it’s about showing appreciation for your people and that you care about them as individuals. Something as simple as coordinating a picnic in the park does wonders for a company culture.
Bringing everyone together for an event also helps you see who the team players are; if certain people are consistently absent from gatherings, they might not be a good fit, or they might not feel like they “belong.” Another retention tip is simply texting someone on your team when they’ve done something great, or acknowledging them in a meeting just to show your appreciation. Simply build systems around retention just like you do for other aspects of the company; it’s also a chance to have a good time with your team members that will really pay off in the long run.
Every time I talk about turnover, I also need to bring up the fact that many business leaders in our industry tend to keep team members they shouldn’t for way too long because it’s easier to avoid finding someone to replace them. If you know someone isn’t a right fit, or they’ve done something that doesn’t feel good to you, take the appropriate action and deal with the situation head on, even if it means letting them go.
Trust me because I’m speaking from experience here: Being proactive will help you avoid unnecessary pain and hassle in the future. Times of turnover turmoil are going to happen. Minimizing how often they happen and managing how effectively you deal with them is the key.
Stay clear-headed and focused on the end goal and what’s really important to you and your company. Don’t sit around and feel sorry for yourself or blame yourself when you are blindsided by unexpected turnover; use it as a time to reflect and see if you need to make some changes or what can be different next time.
Turnover is part of business and part of the experience of leadership. Learn from it, make sure you are laser-focused on recruiting and retaining the right people, and view it as a time of opportunity and transition instead of frustration and turmoil.
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