The case for higher employee turnover (yes, really)

Silhouettes of business people walking awayEmployee turnover – the rate at which employees leave your organization, whether voluntarily or not – is often considered just a fact of life. Some people will leave. Some people will get fired or laid off. This is not new news; carry on.

Occasionally, someone will make the effort to evaluate turnover relative to industry averages or some other measurement. And sometimes, when turnover seems unusually or undesireably high, initiatives are undertaken to engage employees and reduce the rates.

But what about times when turnover is unusually low? Should we celebrate? Pop the champagne corks? Give ourselves high-fives all ’round?

Not so fast!

Low turnover can be a sign of a quality culture and top-notch employee engagement.

It can also be a sign that the organization is stagnating, hidebound, and un-creative.

Low turnover, especially in thought leadership and middle-management ranks, means new ideas aren’t coming into the organization. It means that people who have been there for years, even decades, are steeped in “the way we do things here” – even if they never say that directly.

People are becoming aware that diversity of thought is just as important as all the other types of diversity we’re learning to focus on. (For more on this, see my post “Mindset: the new diversity.”) And diversity of thought (and other types of diversity) is typically achieved only when new people come into the organization, at all levels.

I’m aware of all the reasons for promoting from within, and I agree with them (mostly, anyway). It enhances morale, provides motivation for advancement along a career path, and so on.

And of course I’m not advocating firing anyone just because they’ve been around for a while.

Just be aware of where your ideas are coming from, notice if you’re not generating enough new ideas, and consider the best ways to bring in fresh thinking.

Especially if your turnover rate seems particularly low for your industry.