August 19, 2015

How to Keep Your Turnover Rates Below 1 Percent

SparklerThe average turnover rate for a healthcare organization in 2013 was 16.8 percent, and more recent reports suggest similar rates persist today.

And then there’s Aero Jet Medical, an air-ambulance transport company that has seen turnover rates of less than 1 percent for the past 10 years, according to CEO Danielle Wilson.

Such a turnover rate is so low it’s practically obscene, but Wilson, who is rather unassuming throughout our recent phone conversation, isn’t boastful. In fact, she readily agrees to share some tips on lowering turnover rates with our readers.

1. Tap Into Employee Passions

“We’re fortunate enough to work in healthcare, and much of the time, we are working with people who have a passion for what they are doing,” Wilson says.

But not every organization operates in a field like healthcare, an industry to which many employees are initially drawn by their own passions for helping people. So, what can non-healthcare organizations do to actively foster passion in their employees?

“It’s important to meet with your employees at least once a year — if not more often — for performance evaluations,” Wilson says.

But these are not regular performance evaluations: these are performance evaluations that focus on helping employees reach their goals.

“Part of the [evaluation] should be about learning employees’ goals — whether in the company or in the industry in general — and helping them achieve those goals,” Wilson says. “Know that you’re their to help your employees strive to be better.”

Wilson also jokes that Aero Jet follows a strict chain of command that is “kind of paramilitary,” but, she says, that approach to leadership gives employees a clear understanding of their place in the company. It prevents confusion, frustration, and stress, and frees employees up to focus on what matters: achieving their goals in their jobs.

“When someone is hired, they distinctly have clear goals and expectations [from me], and there’s a very clear chain of command in place,” Wilson says. “It sounds very regimented, but it has worked very well for us.”

Such strong leadership is not about putting employees through hell. It’s about holding them to high standards and supporting their efforts to meet and exceed those standards. It also helps create an air of constant challenge, which Wilson believes contributes to the overall passion of her workforce.

“It’s always challenging,” Wilson says. “There’s no time to get complacent.”

2. Build a Collaborative Environment

Pilots“It’s always important to bring like-minded people together,” Wilson says. “When you do, there is great collaboration and great work. Any time there’s any kind of struggle in the workplace, you have a great team to help. It makes those working relationships even stronger and more personal when people have to work together constantly.”

Aero Jet strives to foster a workplace environment in which collaboration is a key component of everyone’s job. When employees work closely with each other, they build powerful bonds — the kind of bonds that keep people engaged at work.

Wilson says that Aero Jet also helps employees build relationships outside of the workplace with sponsored get-togethers for off-duty employees.

“That way, they have time outside of work to get to know each other on a more personal basis,” Wilson says. “It’s a great way for them to debrief.”

3. Use One-on-One Recruiting Strategies

Companies can do a lot to retain employees once they are hired, but great retention strategies begin even earlier: when an employer knows how to recruit well, that employer will have an easier time finding the kinds of people who are more likely to stick around for the long haul.

For Aero Jet, recruiting well means “one-on-one contact.”

“Everybody goes through resumes and looks at work experienced, but truly it comes down to meeting with that person one on one,” Wilson says. “It’s about the interaction you have [with a candidate]. Are they likeminded? Are they willing and [able] to go above and beyond the call of duty?”

Wilson also notes the importance of Aero Jet’s employe referral program in finding the right talent — which should come as no surprise to anyone who spends time in the recruiting blogosphere.

“We have had significant success with using our current employee network for referrals,” Wilson says. “What I’ve found is that people who are happy working for us usually hang out with people who have the same type of work ethic as they do.”

WavesLike me, you may be struck by the fact that Wilson’s advice is not all that radical. It focuses on some fairly well-worn chestnuts like “tap into employee passions” and “build a collaborative environment.”

So, what separates Aero Jet Medical from other companies across all industries? I’d wager it’s the fact that Wilson’s organization actually follows through with what it preaches.

We’re always talking a big game when it comes to lowering turnover rates and treating employees right, but how many of us actually do that? Looking at average turnover rates throughout the whole economy, I’d say the answer is “very few of us.”

I don’t work for Aero Jet, obviously, so I can’t say for sure that the company follows through on all of its commitments, but I feel comfortable assuming that it does. After all, with turnover rates that low, the company has to be doing something right.

Read more in Turnover

Matthew Kosinski is the managing editor of