Why's everyone leaving? What to do about high staff turnover

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Is your workplace experiencing high staff turnover?

If so, you may be feeling demoralized as you routinely watch close colleagues and friends depart for greener pastures. Or maybe you’re the CEO, and you’re confused about why one division seems to be constantly bleeding staff.

What to do?

First off, recognize that increasing demand for skilled labour has created a more fluid job market in recent years, and that people leave companies for many reasons. A 2015 global survey of top employers found that most leave for career advancement purposes; they simply feel they’re not going anywhere professionally where they’re currently working.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play close attention, whether you’re in the C-suite or simply a co-worker.

Just ask British Prime Minister Theresa May -- high turnover has repercussions. A messy drain of talent -- meaning people leave because they feel under-appreciated at best or, in worst-case scenarios, mistreated, undermined or abused -- can profoundly impact team morale and cause serious damage to a company’s reputation. And in many cases, poor management and adverse work conditions play a major role in a decision to leave.

A high level of turnover is disruptive for any business. It erodes continuity, productivity and enthusiasm. And it costs money and time to recruit and train new employees.

It can also have a contagion effect. One beloved team member who’s fired, forced out or made to feel that they have no choice but to quit can result in others following them out the door eventually. It’s hard to work for managers if you believe they’ve mistreated or derailed the career of someone highly respected. And back to the reputational risk -- does any company want onetime employees out in the field disparaging their former workplace?

Exit interviews are critical and can contain a goldmine of information about what’s going wrong. But CEOs need to actually read them, and to take action if patterns emerge. If one division is experiencing high turnover, and one manager is repeatedly cited as a problem, it’s foolhardy and derelict for anyone leading a company to ignore it or to make excuses for bad behaviour. It could also affect a company’s bottom line if investors or board members get word that there are serious internal problems that are not being dealt with.

And if it’s your fellow team members who keep leaving, and you’re upset, demoralized and fearful about the future, speak up as respectfully as possible to those running the company. If you feel you can’t do that without risking mistreatment or retaliation yourself, then maybe assess whether you’re working at a place that’s right for you.

Rest assured, there are lots of valuable lessons to be learned from bad managers -- they’ll teach you everything you’ll need to know about what not to do when you’re in a management position yourself. If you’re a CEO, you’ll learn valuable lessons about what to look out for in your managers and when to determine that you’ve chosen badly in terms of division leaders. You have the authority to right the wrong. You might also learn about what today’s workers, in particular millennials, want out of their jobs -- including a sense of purpose and a flexible workplace.

CEO or future manager, paying attention and taking action will help ensure your company becomes the kind of place that is respected, not shunned -- and not plagued with high turnover.