Can Turnover be a Good Thing?

Kristi Birkeland on May 26, 2017 3:00:00 AM

We spend a lot of time cursing the ill effects of turnover. It’s disruptive. It’s expensive. It’s a sign of poor company culture and/or leadership. And while all of these things are generally true, there are certain times when turnover can be a blessing in disguise.

When you need some new blood

I’m willing to guess most of us have worked in stable, yet stifling, workplaces. You know, the kind where everyone has been there for 20 or 30 years and nobody has much interest in embracing new technologies, roles, or processes. You can tell you’re in an organization or department like this if the first answer to any new idea is a reflexive and immediate “No!”

There may have been a time when companies could survive and perhaps even thrive in this sort of culture, but not now. Today’s business pace is super-fast and ever changing. In order to keep up, you may actually need some of your naysayers to hit the road.

As changes make their way into your organization, some of your “No!” folks will naturally opt out. And that’s okay. Don’t fret too much about turnover in this scenario. Concentrate on looking for replacements who are flexible and like a good challenge.

When you’re hanging on to underperformers

Underperformers. Many times, these are fantastic people that you genuinely like, but they just aren’t pulling their weight.

Looking the other way may keep you from having some difficult conversations, but ultimately you’ll be undermining all of your efforts. And risking the health of your business.

No matter how much fun your underperformers are, their co-workers are eventually going to recognize their behavior patterns and stop laughing. This is a slippery slope that can take you from one underperformer to a team full of resentful, potentially disengaged employees. And that’s an even bigger problem.

Keep in mind that difficult conversations don’t necessarily involve termination. It could be that you’ve got a round peg stuck in a square hole. Sit down with your underperformers and see if there are ways to get them motivated again. If so, great! If not, well…

This isn’t the kind of turnover you need to lose a ton of sleep over.   

When you have some bad seeds

Some employers like to treat their employees like family. And this can be a good thing. Being supportive and making sure everyone feels like a valued and contributing member of the team is critical to building confidence and setting a foundation for success.

But if you’ve got a cousin who shows up late for Thanksgiving, forgets to bring the cranberries, drinks all the wine, and breaks a dish every single year, perhaps it’s time to rescind that standing invitation.

The truth is, the bad seeds know when they’ve got it good. They’ve tested the boundaries. They know what they can get away with. They probably also realize that their behavior would never fly in any other setting. So they hang around. Because you let them.

Family can provide a warm, safe place that allows people to thrive. But as many therapists will tell you, family can also be the source of a large host of issues that take a long time (and a considerable amount of money) to get over.

If you’ve got some black sheep in your organizational family, don’t tolerate their behavior in the name of low turnover. Set them free to other pastures.

When you’ve got growing pains

It’s been said that if you’re not growing, you’re dying. This seems to be particularly true for businesses. Growth is an exciting time, but also a volatile one. It involves hiring, change, flexibility, and increased responsibility.

While this would seem like a terrible time to lose people, it can and does happen. Likely, it will be the risk-adverse who are first to jump ship; those who fear uncertainty or don’t fully buy into the mission. Again, this is a self-selection process that should not necessarily be feared.

Growth is not for the faint of heart. You need all hands on deck. This is not the time to try to hang onto people who are feeling squeamish. If they want out, leave the door open. Besides, you never know what amazing new person may come walking in.

Photo by Syda Productions

5 Pillars of Employee-Related Expenses eBook

Topics: HR Strategy