Riding the Turnover Tsunami

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

My last two posts have talked about the Turnover Tsunami that may be hitting employers in 2021. After getting through 2020 in survival mode, employees are now asking themselves the age-old question to employers: What have you done for me lately?

Last month’s focus on preventing a tsunami from swamping your business said with the right planning and action, many employers can prevent most voluntary turnover. However, they can’t prevent all of it. Good employees will still leave for a better job, more money, more responsibility, for the opportunity to work from home…or because they don’t like their team or boss.

We also know that sometimes the employee who leaves may be one we aren’t sad to see go. It could have been their attitude or performance that made them a less than desirable employee. In too many cases though, it’s the talented and effective employee who resigns leaving us with a hole in the company.

Here are four steps to take now to deal with the eventual loss of employees and how employers can mitigate the damage it might cause.

1. Be proactive

Regular conversations with employees tell you a lot about their attitude toward their job, the company, and you, their boss. These check-ins will show that you and the organization are proactively engaged in their wellbeing and seek to ensure things are right in their world. Additionally, these dialogues will help identify any issues the employee may have and give you an opportunity to proactively address them before it’s too late. Employee surveys can serve the same purpose on a company-wide scale but shouldn’t replace the regular chats between a manager and their staff.

Once an issue is identified, let the employee know you will address it as appropriate. If possible, seek their input in helping resolve the issue. This interaction helps gain buy-in from the employee, and if a resolution can be found, creates another bond with the company that may help prevent their departure. At the very least, these conversations should give you a heads up that an employee is about to submit their resignation.

2. Protect the loss of institutional knowledge

Over time, employees gain valuable knowledge about systems, processes, customers and history that is not necessarily captured in any other manner except in their head. This could be someone who has worked for you over the past few months, or for the past 20 years. When they leave, so does the information in their head.

Aside from confidentiality issues, this loss of knowledge can put a wrench into your relationships with customers or in the well-oiled operations the departing employees was so intricately involved in. How many times after someone has left have you realized the only person who knew how to fix a recurring problem now works for another company?

This loss can happen when someone resigns from the company or when they need to take a sudden leave of absence because of an illness or injury. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. It is critical for employers to document processes and procedures and update them regularly. Start by documenting the daily and weekly tasks of each employee. Then move to the less regular activities and finally when a new issue happens, document how it was resolved. This will serve to not only reduce downtime fixing issues, but it will also help onboard new employees and get them up to speed more quickly.