21 Some Attrition Can Be Good!

How can attrition be good? Several reasons:

  1. Sometimes employees recognize that the job they hired into is not a good fit. This can be especially true for lower-paying positions (for example: retail clerk, entry-level manufacturing). When the employee starts, they realize that this job just plain does not fit. They do you a favor by quitting early on – if they had stayed, you would have invested your time in training them, bringing them through the learning curve. And the ill-fitting employee would pull the rest of their work team down. One of my manufacturing clients has a 50% loss of new shop floor employees during the first 2 days. After that, the remaining employees tend to be solid. When I started work as a consultant with one of the large accounting firms many years ago, they told us that there would be 50% turnover in 2 years. They recruited and staffed with that expectation. In less than 2 years, I realized that I didn’t fit their culture and left.
  2. Sometimes an employee gets an offer that’s too good to decline – so they leave on excellent terms and serve as your ambassador to their community and their new workplace. For example, a first-level manager at a non-profit was offered the opportunity to be the executive director of a different non-profit. She left with everyone’s support.
  3. Sometimes they’re “retired in place” – their energy is flagging. They’ve run out of fresh ideas. They are the last to arrive and the first to leave. Their first clue: having headaches Sunday evening, and/or having great difficulty getting out of bed Monday morning. Time to help them find a place where they can grow again and replace them with a person with ideas and enthusiasm. One rule of thumb is that more than 5 years’ time in the same position can become increasingly unproductive.

Most important, however is that some turnover is necessary for people to see a possibility of advancement unless your organization is growing rapidly. If retirement is the only reason people leave, your most promising employees won’t want to remain in your company – they’ll move to another organization that provides a better opportunity for them to grow.

Gary Langenwalter


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