I’ve been traveling the country this year meeting with leaders – thousands so far. One of the highlights is always hearing their questions. It’s good to know what other leaders are struggling with on a day-to-day basis. One of the questions I received recently was not new, but seems to be an ever present challenge: How do you respond to turnover?
I want to begin with an idea you may think obvious - try to prevent turnover. Seriously, if you can minimize it, you’ll be better off. I’ve written about this before in a post entitled, Closing the Revolving Door. I’ll not repeat myself here other than to say, the best deterrent to turnover is outstanding selections.
Now, if you’ve done all you can do to select the right people, here are a few ideas to manage the impact of turnover.
Build your bench – Turnover is inevitable. Even at our company with 95% retention, there is turnover… some people leave, some move to another role, others retire. It’s much better to prepare for turnover, rather than be surprised by it. You may want to try a strategy employed by sports teams – create a depth chart for all your key roles. “Who’s next?” is a wonderful question for leaders to ask and to answer. When turnover happens, why not have your next player ready?
Help new people connect – When you do have turnover, new people will need help connecting. I had a leader tell me his team wasn’t “clicking.” As we discussed what was going on, he revealed he had two new players on his leadership team. It seemed to me this was probably contributing to the team's new awkwardness. In essence, he had two strangers sitting around the table. If you find yourself in a similar situation, you may want to dedicate additional time to building community. If you don’t, it may literally be months before new people will feel part of the team.
Upgrade talent whenever possible – I don’t know a leader who likes turnover. However, I’ve met many leaders who see it as an opportunity. I know that sounds strange, but what could happen if you saw every departure, regardless of the reason, as a chance to make your team stronger? Why not see every open position as a potential defining moment in the history of your team or organization. Always look for stronger players than the ones you are losing. If you change your outlook, you might change your outcomes.
Turnover doesn’t have to be debilitating for your organization… minimize it, manage it and make it work for you.[GLS_Shield]