Questions to Ask to Fix Employee Turnover

February 21, 2022 in HR Best Practices



Employee turnover is affecting every organization in every industry. It doesn’t seem to matter if you are a small company or a multi-national, whether you’re selling food, clothes, and technology or providing healthcare to patients. Due to this, fixing employee turnover is a growing need in businesses today. To fix employee turnover for your company, ask yourself the questions below.

Why do employees leave?

A quick Google search reveals nearly a million reasons, far too many to mention here. Unfortunately even the least-discriminating person can see that most are anecdotal and rhetoric. The culprit? Few managers (HR included) rarely, if ever, collect data other than going through the exercise of an obligatory exit interview.

Finding solutions that work lies in asking the right questions, aggregating data, and then continuously analyzing it. Once a company takes a deep dark look into the data it has buried in employee files and spreadsheets, reducing employee turnover generally boils down to one of several common sources.

  • Bad Managers

Before you find yourself falling down rabbit holes and blaming your recruiters and HR department, it is realistic to consider the manager’s role. Topping nearly every survey and study of employee turnover is poor leadership. Research has proven time and again that employees don’t quit companies, they leave managers. If your organization is experiencing turnover, the first place to look is at the team’s leader.

The most popular and undeniable cause of turnover is an interpersonal conflict between supervisor and employee–something in each person’s make-up just rubs the other person the wrong way. It could be attitude or communication style. It could be different approaches to work. Oftentimes, neither party is wrong or right, good or bad; their styles just don’t work together…in the end, the employee leaves voluntarily or involuntarily.

  • Poor Management Skills

Interpersonal conflict is not always the cause.  Often it’s just mismanagement. Research consistently confirms that more than half of front-line managers fail due to poor management skills, often the result of little or no people-management training. Many managers are hired based on past technical accomplishments but lack adequate experience or training in managing teams and motivating other employees to complete projects. Similarly, many internal employees are promoted to management as a reward for tenure and loyalty.  However, both strategies are recipes for higher turnover and lower productivity.

To eliminate direct managers as a cause of employee turnover, you need to ask the following questions:

    1. Have they received adequate training?
    2. Does one manager have more or less turnover than another?
    3. Is turnover high on one shift or in one location but good in another?
    4. Does the manager have performance goals that include retention, turnover, and employee engagement?

To evaluate other potential causes of employee turnover, ask yourself:

    1. Are employees leaving after three to five years or during their first few months?
    2. Am I providing Millennials and Generation Z enough opportunities to learn?
    3. Do I give Millennials and Generation X enough opportunities to advance?
    4. Are my wages and benefits competitive?

In other words, is it a hiring, training, or retention problem?

    • Higher turnover is a trend that has become more common. Due to this, HR and managers feel compelled to fill open positions quickly with less-qualified people to satisfy frustrated managers.
    • While employee turnover is impacting many organizations, especially hard hit are companies that have not experienced turnover in the past. For each Baby Boomer that leaves, it often takes multiple new hire tries to get the right fit.
    • Solving employee turnover has a lot of chicken-or-the-egg thinking in it. To be fair, there are other causes of employee turnover. Don’t make managers the catch-all scapegoat.

Best Solution to Fix Employee Turnover

Lastly, the best solution for employee turnover is a good hiring process and effective leadership development. It means placing the right employees on the right teams with the right managers. Likewise, equipping managers and leaders with the right people-management skills and resources is no longer optional or just a “nice-to-have,” but rather an essential for improving productivity and sustained business growth.

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Editorial Note: Partial content of this blog originally appeared in the November 2017 edition of ABR Employment Services e-newsletter, HR Insights. It was written by Ira Wolfe.