Turnover Tide


How to avoid the top-four turnover traps and retain employees.

By Vicki Swisher

What is your employee retention rate for 2016? Are you proud to share the number? As job opportunities increase and the market favors employees, more resignation slips may come across your desk than you’re comfortable with.

The number of voluntary quits in 2015 was higher than it has been since the start of the recession in 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pair this with Gallup’s 2015 finding that roughly two out of every three employees are not engaged, and you have a recipe for high turnover in the ranks.

Most organizations use exit interviews as a part of the voluntary turnover process. Although these are helpful for tracking trends, analyzing data, and pinpointing areas of improvement, waiting until your employee is headed out the door to find out why he is leaving may not be the most proactive approach.

To get in front of these issues, focus on the root causes that are likely impacting engagement and retention in your organization. There are four key factors – consistent across multiple studies and found in our extensive work with clients – that contribute to low engagement and, too often, employees deciding to leave their organization altogether:

1. Poor fit between employee and company culture.

2. Supervisor is a poor manager.

3. Employee doesn’t feel challenged.

4. Employee doesn’t understand company goals and how she contributes.

Here are 4 tips on how to proactively address these factors and minimize resignation letters.

The Employee and Your Culture Don’t Mesh

TurnoverTide2Company culture is a hot topic. There is the culture that is out in the open – what’s on your website, how you describe your employer brand, etc. – and then there is the culture of how things actually get done, how employees interact with one another, and what the general office vibe is like. It is important for organizations to identify what behaviors reinforce this culture and what behaviors run counter to it.

To ensure you’re acquiring and retaining talent that will help your culture thrive, articulate your culture in behavioral terms – ones that employees can understand. For example, saying that your office has a “customer service culture” can mean different things to different people. But describing your culture with specific behaviors, such as “We prioritize customer calls first” or “We anticipate and respond to team members’ needs,” helps bring the culture to life in a way that is easily understood, measured, and scaled.

Culture can be continuously reinforced through managers modeling the behaviors and HR incorporating it into talent acquisition, performance management, and talent development programs. When culture is reinforced through multiple modes, employees know what behaviors to strive for and what key skills to hone. This will ensure a better overall fit for the employee and your organization.

Managers Fail as People Leaders

The working relationship an employee has with his immediate manager is a highly important factor in job satisfaction. In fact, research indicates it is the single most important lever to drive engagement and retention. Good managers inspire employees to give their maximum effort. They understand what motivates different team members and their preferred work style, which in turn sparks interest and passion in employees.

Managers need to view themselves as talent developers. The most effective managers are great mentors and coaches to their teams. These managers delegate challenging opportunities, make recognition a priority, and seek out and use employee ideas. While personalities always differ, making an employee feel heard and valued goes a long way in boosting engagement.

Growth-Oriented Challenges Aren’t Prioritized

Providing opportunities for valuable on-the-job development is critical to both skill growth and employee engagement. Skilled managers embed development into every part of a person’s job instead of tying it to one episode or event. Deploying a variety of different learning approaches is essential as well. A multimodal learning approach using proactive coaching, seminars, and skill development projects reinforces learnings and further solidifies gains.

Development opportunities should not be reserved for the upper tiers of your organizational chart. Build integrated development programs that can be scaled and cascaded across your organization. Millennials have an expectation that they will be challenged and developed in their roles. They are not just interested in growing for their own sake, but also for the success of their company and the world around them. The ground swell that is starting here is consistent with what drives engagement for everyone – regardless of age. So take a note from the younger generation in your office and create growth opportunities regularly.

Employees Can’t See How Their Work Contributes

High-impact managers and leaders connect the employee’s contributions to larger organizational goals and outcomes. The most engaged employees feel a strong connection between their role and the goals of the organization. Getting your talent behind your company’s goals is only possible when they can describe how they personally contribute to those goals.

Employees want to know how their role fits into the larger picture. They want to know they are making a meaningful difference and how their work impacts business growth. Immediate managers must be able to articulate how a team member’s contributions matter in the grand scheme of business.

It’s a proven fact that disengagement drives voluntary turnover, and there are factors within every organization that can either promote or chill engagement. Your talent is a precious commodity and far too valuable to lose. By proactively addressing these common root causes, you and your company will successfully stem the turnover tide and keep your valuable talent from jumping ship.


Vicki Swisher is the senior talent development consultant at IMPACT Group. Swisher has more than 15 years of experience in talent, leadership and organization development. She facilitates High IMPACT programs and creates integrated development programs to maximize talent at all levels. Connect with Swisher on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/vickiswisher.


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