The Lemonade of Employee Turnover
Employee turnover is inevitable. As a leader, you have to expect to lose both great people, and the people you are not sorry to see go. Regardless, a departing employee leaves a gap in your team that could dent productivity unless you take a few steps to limit the damage.
Much has been written about succession planning and cross-training as methods for minimizing the impact of turnover. Both make sense.
Succession planning – Even in frontline teams of lower-level employees, putting a mental plan in place for how you would replace each team member is useful. Who would handle what if that person left? Document your thoughts and revisit them quarterly to reflect changes that did occur, or new perspectives on who can handle what.
Cross-training – This has value even for covering vacation gaps. And it builds your team’s ability to flexibly cover gaps when a person leaves. Your cross-training needs to answer the question “who should be able to handle what,” and get skills and process management tasks shared across your team members.
These exercises can also serve as engagement devices. Cross-training in particular offers employees the chance to grow their own skill sets and broaden their organizational horizons. They also give you a chance to check on motivational mindsets. Are the employees excited about cross-training? Who sees it as a threat instead?
As a leader, you can do more to turn the inevitable departure of a team member into a source of rejuvenation and creativity. Let’s consider some of the other benefits of turnover.
Retaining positivity – If the person who left was popular, acknowledge that person’s contributions, but also communicate that those who remain are completely up to the task of replacing that person. And if the departed got a great new job, emphasize that such an opportunity is there for your team members, too. Never lament the loss of a great team member to a promotion. That reflects well on your leadership.
Eliminating negativity – If the person who left was not highly engaged in his or her work, some negative influences may have left as well. Disengaged employees are active recruiters for their cause, because they share their disgruntlement. Removing that negative force will have an overnight impact on raising workplace mood. Use that opening to show a lot of appreciation for the hard work of those who remain, and quickly move on to the next two benefits to cash in this break in “business as usual.”
Reinventing tasks and roles – When tasks handled by the departed employee are reassigned to other employees (even temporarily), those pinch-hitters may uncover ways to eliminate or update the task or its process. A fresh mind handling the task often challenges old work methods. The replacement employee (whether internal or external) will inevitably also bring fresh perspectives to the role, and (with encouragement) may reinvent it.
Giving current employees the chance to shine – People asked to step in to fill the gap caused by attrition may surprise managers with untapped abilities (again, if given permission by a transformational leader to experiment and grow.)
Staff turnover is costly, but it opens the door for reflection and review of your current situation, giving you and your team the chance to shake things up and find better solutions to achieving your mission.
Grab that chance. Make the most of a negative event. Make lemonade out of that lemon!