Don’t get me wrong, I understand and appreciate that turnover creates challenges. Employee turnover causes a decrease in productivity, lower profits, inconsistent quality, and certainly creates work overload.
But here’s the question: Is employee turnover a problem or a symptom?
Turnover is a symptom.
But what is turnover a symptom of? You might argue that turnover is a symptom of unmotivated people, apathy or a labor shortage. But most often, turnover is a symptom of poor leadership. Turnover occurs because poor leaders lack purpose, lack integrity, lack a plan for developing people, have poor communication skills, and treat people like things instead of like people.
Have you ever worked for someone who lacked integrity? Someone who would say one thing and do another? Someone who promised to do something but never did it? Someone who took the credit and placed the blame? Unfortunately, I’d have to guess that each of us has had that kind of boss at one time or another.
When you were in that situation, did you continue to do your work? Of course you did. Was your work accurate and correct? Of course it was. Did you take the initiative on new projects for the benefit of the company? Maybe not. Go the extra mile to make a difference? Hmmm… Did you leave the company at the first opportunity? Point made. When an individual or a company lacks integrity, turnover occurs.
Have you ever worked at a company where the prospect of advancement was nonexistent? Someplace where you knew that you weren’t going anywhere? Did you stay very long? That’s my point. Without opportunity for growth and expanded responsibility, people leave.
Have you ever worked at a company where major changes were “sprung” on you? Where work was assigned to you and after you completed it, you found out you had done the wrong thing? What happens when people don’t communicate effectively? Poor communication leads to misunderstanding, conflict, de-motivation, and stress. What does misunderstanding, conflict, de-motivation and stress lead to? You got it – turnover.
And then comes the most insidious issue of them all – treating people like things rather than like people.
How does someone treat people like “things”? They do it in several ways. They do it when they’re insensitive to them and interact with people as if they have no feelings. They treat people like things when they ignore the fact that everyone has hopes and dreams and fears and stress. They treat people like things when they relate to people as if their own goals and aspirations are more important than the goals and aspirations of the other person. And they treat people like things when they don’t show respect for people or value their contributions and efforts.
When someone treats a person like a thing, it sends the message that they are unimportant and that they just don’t care about them. And when people sense a leader doesn’t care about them, they start not to care about that leader. When the company tolerates leaders who don’t care about people, people tend not to care about the company. When a leader treats people like things, turnover occurs.
In contrast, an effective leader understands that people’s hopes, dreams, fears, and stresses are real and matter to them. An effective leader inspires people. An effective leader interacts with people as people, helping them to be their best. And an effective leader helps people achieve their goals.
When a leader and an organization have a clearly defined purpose, they attract and retain the talent they need. When a leader and an organization have integrity, it builds trust and loyalty. When a leader and an organization are committed to developing people, people become the best they can be. When a leader and an organization communicate effectively, conflict and tension diminish, and cooperation increases. When a leader and an organization treat people as people, they appreciate it and reciprocate.
Turnover isn’t a problem – it’s a symptom caused by leadership problems. Fortunately, these problems can be resolved, and you have the power to make that difference. Strive to become the best leader you can be.