Staff turnover hit the headlines at the start of the year when the Hay Group announced the results of its study, which predicted a talent exodus, with worldwide employee voluntary turnover levels set to “reach new highs, rising sharply in 2014.” With this crisis in staff loyalty upon us, it is no surprise to see a lot of commentary on corrective steps that should be taken to counter this threat to work-force stability.
But, with this quite understandable initial reaction, is it now time to take a second look at the employee loyalty crisis and find the virtues of voluntary employee turnover — since it will happen anyway) — and understand how it can be leveraged.
There is a cleansing aspect to voluntary employee turnover if the employees who leave come from the actively disengaged element of your business, because you will be removing an unproductive, demoralizing influence on your business, which could lead to a boost in productivity. This gives you an opportunity to hire a more engaged replacement, address any external factors that led to that employee’s disengagement, and have an all around net gain in productivity.
This potentially cleansing effect — in terms of disengagement — and the potential savings in costly litigation related to dismissing employees has arguably led companies like Amazon and Zappos to take the innovative and controversial step of paying employees to leave. If employers are disengaged from these employers, then under certain conditions these firms will pay their staff a four figure sum to leave. This is a controversial but potentially effective tactic to encourage disengaged and unproductive staff to leave voluntarily, turning this current talent exodus to your advantage.
Bi-Directional Knowledge Transfer
There is another seemingly contradictory benefit to turnover: while knowledge may be lost, there is also a potential gain in knowledge. Yes, researchers at Wharton and the University of Maryland found that there was a bi-directional knowledge flow in employee turnover, which means that the company who lost talent gained insight into the receiving employer’s business and vice versa. This is known as the “outbound mobility” effect.
Larger Industry Footprint
Studies show that employee turnover also means that you have a larger industry footprint and influencing power, as your ex-employees will be interacting with the wider market in professional associations, on technical committees, and in lobbying forums. Companies can leverage this footprint by building and sustaining active alumni groups.
Opportunity for Suppressed Employees to Step Up and Shine
Usually when a leader moves on, employees who may have been suppressed during the leader’s tenure have the opportunity to step up and shine and demonstrate skills that the organization did not previously benefit from. It’s important that organisations consider internal promotion as a priority over external hires if they are to fully leverage nascent internal talent.
Opportunity to Change Ways of Working
The outgoing manager may have been entrenched in an outmoded and inefficient way of working, and when they leave, this gives your organization the opportunity to both identify it and to change it to a more efficient modus operandi.
As you can see, once the initial wave of panic around the 2014 talent exodus has subsided, it becomes clear that turnover is not just a problem, but also an opportunity for businesses to cleanse their organizations, increase their footprints in the marketplace, and create spaces for internal talent to blossom.