5346367901_ee4b36de2fI get it; retention is a very important metric in HR, recruiting and management. We put a lot of stake in those turnover numbers and we tend to see them as a reflection of hiring and leadership shortcomings or strengths. While metrics can be extremely helpful as a guiding light for performance, sometimes there is a story behind those metrics that matters more than the numbers.

The day-to-day of business sometimes forces us to look at turnover rates in a far too simplistic way. We see a number; it is either good or bad, and action is taken. The reality of the situation is that sometimes, turnover is actually a very good thing. There are several instances in which letting an employee go can actually improve other metrics like productivity, workplace engagement and even the bottom line.

The Wise Guy

I actually see many managers dealing with what I’ll call “the wise guy”. For whatever reason, the management team is in no position to fire one of their staff, and an employee is wise to the situation. They realize that the team is short staffed or having trouble hiring, and they know exactly what they can get away with –showing up late, calling in sick, copping an attitude because they can.

This is where leadership sets the precedence for poor performance, no matter the situation. It’s better to cover a week’s worth of shifts for someone who got fired, than a year’s worth of call-ins because you didn’t establish the standard.

The Anchor

I don’t mean the grounding force that holds the ship in place, I mean the worker with the bad attitude that can pull down an entire team with drama, gossip and just plain old negativity.  Workplace advice expert Lisa McQuerrey said:

“Having a bad attitude at work can be just as detrimental to your career as being a poor performer. Many employers view a poor attitude in the same realm as they do poor behavior, and will hold you accountable, even if your work product is technically acceptable.”

This is a great point. A bad attitude should be treated the same as bad behavior; it is just as toxic.

The “Eh” Worker

This worker is known for their low, or super-average performance, and quite frankly it doesn’t matter if they quit or get fired, it’s only up from here. In this situation, their replacement is likely to outperform them, potentially off setting the associated costs of the “eh” worker’s turnover. This is positive turnover and should be considered when looking at the numbers. HR pro and one of the best in the business when it comes to telling it like it is, Jessica Miller-Merrell said:

“When determining whether or not specific instances of turnover are bad or good, there are many factors to measure. These include employee performance, skill and contribution to the company, how difficult it will be to replace them, their motivations for leaving, where they go when they leave you (to your competitor?) and how critical their role is to the success of the business.”

So, next time you’re reviewing your turnover metrics and your mind turns to those scary figures that tell you the company is losing x amount of dollars per minute, please consider that not all turnover is bad. In fact, some turnover can yield a positive return in a lot of ways that we don’t tend to track or use to compare, like fostering a positive work environment or hiring a replacement with higher productivity and engagement ratings. Furthermore, some turnover ends up having a neutral affect on the organization. Metrics are a guiding light, not the sun and the moon.

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