Retention is always a top priority for any good recruiter, HR leader, or talent management professional. Even before a hire is made, recruiters are thinking about what it will take to not only get a candidate to accept a job, but also to get that candidate to stick around for the long haul.
However, even if you hire the right people who will fit in and thrive, offer a robust pay and benefits package, and have meaningful employee rewards and recognition programs in place, turnover can still happen. And it does — in every industry and at any time, even during a pandemic.
High turnover rates can even strike industries you might not expect. For example, in my own personal experience, I’ve noticed tremendous turnover in accounting roles — not exactly the kind of high-tech, high-demand field that usually gets press!
I mention accounting specifically because it is also a good example of why turnover is such a big problem when it happens. You don’t just lose an employee — now you have to go out and find someone who is just as talented to fill their open role. Sourcing a replacement is harder than it sounds. Take accounting: Losing a seasoned certified public accountant (CPA) means having to find someone else with that CPA credential to replace the departing employee. Often, companies end up having to hire recent graduates instead of similarly experienced CPAs, and those graduates will require additional time and training before they can get up to the same level of productivity as the person they are replacing.
While turnover is extra frustrating when an employee leaves unexpectedly, even the customary two weeks’ notice is rarely enough time to find and train a perfect replacement.
No matter what we do to keep employees from jumping ship, it seems there will always be gaps to fill. Turnover keeps happening — and it often takes us by surprise. Which brings us to an important question: Is there such a thing as a foolproof approach to reducing turnover and boosting retention?
Communication: The Key to Preventing Unexpected Turnover
The unfortunate truth is that there is no way to completely protect your company from turnover. It will happen. That said, you can protect yourself from unexpected turnover by fostering constant communication with your employees.
For HR representatives and team leaders, it is important to make time to connect with each employee on a monthly basis. This time should not be geared toward status updates and technical work; rather, the focus of the conversation should be the employee’s experience. What’s working for them? What’s not? Are there any growth and development opportunities they’d like to pursue? Any issues they’d like to discuss?
These conversations serve two purposes: They allow you to proactively give employees the things they need to stay on board, and they also allow you to identify and intervene in problems before they become the kind of full-blown crises that drive unexpected turnover.
Of course, even if you do everything right during the hiring process and in these conversations, you’ll still experience turnover. However, it will usually be turnover you can see coming, which will give you more time to plan a response. And remember: Not all turnover is a bad thing! In fact, some turnover is needed to flush out the employees who are not fully aligned with the company’s direction.
In any case, it is always a good idea to cross-train employees to learn various functions instead of siloing staff members on rigid teams. Not only will this allow you to easily cover for employees who are on vacation or out sick, but it will also give you some breathing room when an employee decides to leave the company. If your team members can only do the very specific jobs they were hired for, you are not ensuring the company will be able to function efficiently no matter what happens.
Shadowing programs can be a great way to get cross-training up and running. Pick a day of the week that you know will not interrupt any other job duties and responsibilities, and have employees shadow one another for 2-3 hours. Over time, this will give everyone a good idea of what their shadowing partners are doing.
On a final note, remember that there’s an app for just about everything today. Before you hire a new employee to replace someone who has left, consider whether you can automate some of the departing employee’s tasks instead. Even if you can’t automate them all, you may be able to lighten the load considerably.
Dr. Kanya D. Hubbard is owner and operator of Dee Jones, Inc.