The Fallacy of Staff Turnover

Written by: Alan Rodway

Not sure why this phrase still even exists in business!

Commonly, it has been an objective of business to try to have low staff turnover … why would that be? Keeping ‘experienced’ people, the costs of replacement, consistency of team …. ? Maybe there is some merit in those thoughts. But what if a business has the wrong people in the first place? Then high staff turnover would be the objective, surely. And what about freshness v experience, the costs of keeping the wrong people v the benefits of new people ?

Referring to staff turnover often leads to wrong decisions and behaviours. One of Australia’s leading law firms realized years ago how ‘tired’ they had become, within and in the market, and deliberately set about changing out many of their people … resulting in what would normally be regarded as horrendously high staff turnover. They are infinitely better placed as a business, with an invigorated and re-engineered approach, due significantly to the large influx of new people and the exit of many.

Getting rid of the wrong people often stumps privately owned businesses because of industrial relations law as well as a genuine desire to act fairly at all times with all people. There is nothing contradictory in that to what is being suggested here. Direct and honest dealings with people are within the law and have more integrity than not dealing with people who don’t fit the future of the business and where it’s trying to go. If the business and a person don’t constitute a good fit, then someone should act … for the benefit of both parties. Sometimes, people need to be prodded to move on to experience greater career satisfaction and enjoyment for themselves. It also lacks integrity on the part of the business to continue to enable anything other than high performance on the part of all of its people. Then there is the welfare and performance of the ‘right’ people in the business … ask them how they feel going to work every day with people who just should not be there. They may even leave.

Some businesses fail to act on having the wrong people because they can’t prove it. The decision makers know in their hearts who should not be there but it’s difficult to measure. Those decision makers must find genuine ways to illustrate what they know to be true .. not falsely concocted but tangible, behavioural indicators.

Using the phrase ‘staff turnover’, of itself, gets strongly in the road of sound team management and therefore business management. Ban it as a phrase and as an indicator and only ever ask ‘do we have the right people?’ ‘do we have a high performing group of people?’ Staff turnover is a useless and meaningless metric. Low or high staff turnover is irrelevant … have you got the right people or not?

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