Labour turnover can after all be good

labour turnover at a company

As employers we often deceive ourselves that potential employees have no choice but except to join us. This is not correct as I have come to learn. In the job market all employers are competing for the potential employees by offering attractive packages. It is also important to note that potential employees all have missions/goals to achieve in life and they have developed plans of how to achieve their missions. Potential employees have plans to achieve their missions through employment. Therefore potential employees are looking for employers who will help them to achieve their missions and not your mission as an employer. Many have no idea about your mission until they join you. Potential employees especially the good ones end up having many choices available to them in the area of employment. I have had a chance  overtime to interact with potential employees with the aim of finding out  why they chose their current employer and the reasons I  have noted  are summarised as follows;

  • To access the training opportunities offered by the organisation
  • To get the unique experience
  • To enjoy better terms and conditions of service
  • To work with an organisation with a better brand
  • To work with an organisation which is  near their home especially for working mothers
  • To travel around the world for those interested in adventure
  • To advance their talent. Talented staff in sports and other areas tend to join organisations which will promote their talent.
  • To be with their classmates and colleagues

Why do employees leave?

Time comes when employees have to leave their current employment for various reasons. Somehow employers panic when they are confronted with labour turnover. Very few employers, if any, are 100% comfortable with labour turnover. Most employers view labour turnover from the negative point of view hence the panic and worry about it. Quite often employers overlook developing plans to address labour turnover and they become concerned when for example a key resource that they are paying very well decides to leave. Employers become worried about departure of employees as it may open a can of worms which they may not be aware of. They immediately go into soul-searching mode with the aim of finding out what might be the cause. Employers only relax when they confirm that the departure has nothing to do with them being bad employers.

During my career I have interacted with a number staff when they are in the process of changing their employment with the aim of confirming the reasons for changing employment. There are many reasons why employees change employment and the key ones are summarised as follows;

  • Achievement of the goals for which one joined the organisation
  • Disagreement with their supervisors
  • Terms and conditions of service not commensurate with the experience and competence
  • Too demanding work environment
  • To go for further studies
  • Getting married or family reasons
  • Anticipated change in ownership
  • Deterioration in the performance of an organisation
  • Green pastures to enhance their income and experience
  • Close friends have left the organisation
  • Change in management

Labour turnover can be bad

Labour turnover can negatively impact an organisation performance especially when an organisation has not planned for it. To minimise the negative impacts of labour turnover an organisation should   have a human resources plan incorporating strategies of addressing matters of labour turnover. In the absence of a human resources plan and effective policies on information and asset protection, it is possible for some employees to leave with vital information and asset of the organisation which they easily share with the competition.

It is however a waste of time and effort in entertaining a negative attitude towards labour turnover if you cannot completely stop. It is always advisable for employers to approach labour turnover with a positive mind-set with the aim of managing it. With a positive attitude an organisation will be in position to put in place a human resource plan which will address issues of labour turnover and succession.

What is good about labour turnover?

Labour turnover is healthy depending on the angle you look it from. It is bad if you view with a negative mind-set and it is healthy if you view with a positive mind-set. In my long work experience and extensive travels, I have not come across any organisation with a grave yard for its employees.  This implies   employers are very much aware of the expected departure of employees except they are not as sure as to when they will leave.  No employer should be deceived that they provide the best terms and conditions of service to the employee in the world which prevents staff turnover. As earlier said staff are with your organisation to achieve their missions and they will leave as soon as they realise the current work environment is no longer propelling them forward on their mission ladder. In my view labour turnover is healthy for the following reasons;

  • Labour turnover is healthy provided it is within acceptable levels by a a given organisation. Most organisations have guidelines on what they consider to be acceptable level of labour turnover.  Employers do not get worried provided the acceptable levels are not exceeded.
  • The performance of every organisation is affected by the poor performers if there is no mechanism to get rid of them. Therefore every employer should have a system of assessing performance of staff for purposes of determining the performance of staff. The poor performers who cannot be put on an improvement plan are terminated.  Staff turnover because of poor performance is quite healthy.
  • In a competitive environment it is a fact that staff have to come and go and that there are employers on the market who are willing to pay any salary for trained and experienced staff. I have in my career let go of staff because a new employer on the market had offered them unreasonably too high package when compared to business the staff were bringing on board.
  • Labour turnover enables the organisation to bring new talented staff on board to fill the vacancy. Talented people have unique skills which the organisation may not currently have.
  • I have also come to learn as people stay longer in the organisation they tend to run out of new creative and innovative ideas and they resort to recycling old ideas which may no longer be relevant to the current situation in the organisation. It is expensive to keep the above staff  as their continued stay may negatively affect the performance of the organisation. The affected staff should be advised to look for other avenues of engaging themselves  to create room for recruitment of new staff who are talented.


John Muhaise Bikalemesa

Director: Big Drum Advisory Services Limited