How Good Leadership Can Reverse Turnover

How Good Leadership Can Reverse Turnover

Staffing is the lifeblood of my HR career. It’s where I truly got my start and really thrived. It’s one of the toughest jobs in our practice, in my opinion, and not just because I used to do it. Because there is rarely a client harder to please than a manager who just lost a treasured employee and not only are they looking to you to fill the position immediately, but they’re also wildly hurt and upset that “turnover is such a problem.”

It’s also incredibly hard in that position to ask them to take a moment for self-reflection. Because as hard as you work to fill that position, if the manager isn’t a good one, there will never be enough candidates in the world for that job. Sadly, bad management is one of the major reasons people leave companies, and it’s a leadership situation that must be addressed.

I was thinking about this recently. The job market is better than it has been in years, but it’s very much a candidate’s market, and the war for top talent is most definitely on. You look at the companies vying for the few talented people out there, and you realize that they may be doing so because their own top talent fled for another company. It’s been said that it costs 1.5 times someone’s salary to replace them. If you have high turnover, it’s not just a matter of productivity; the cost of continually paying to replace people will bankrupt you in no time soon.

Luckily, I’m also a former Fortune 200 CHRO, and I’ve got a lot of time and experience on my site when it comes to dealing with turnover. It’s best to remember that people don’t leave jobs; they leave bad managers. If people love what they do and they’re paid well, it’s hard to get them to defect to the competition. But throw in a bad manager or poor corporate leadership and you might as well help them pack their desk because you’re going to watch your top talent head for the door in droves.

What exactly makes for a bad manager? What does poor leadership mean? I advise my clients to avoid the following:

Working employees to burnout

Few things drive people away faster than throwing them into the proverbial salt mines and never letting them out. According to a Stanford survey from last year, productivity peaks at 50 hours, and declines at the 55-hour mark. Chaining people to the desk or harassing them at all hours of the night via phone, text, and email means you’ll get their best for a very short period of time, and then they’re going to either become a non-performing anchor with a bad attitude, or they’re going to leave for saner, brighter shores.

Plan the work accordingly, distribute it well, and give people a chance to find work/life balance with you before they find it elsewhere. Here are a few other practical tips on how to deal with employee burnout.

Poor hiring and promotion decisions

Nothing says “We care nothing about you” more than hiring or promoting someone less qualified than your existing talent over them. It calls the question of their value to the company, and that instantly starts the resume building. Think carefully about talent additions and promotions, and be sure to reward and consistently challenge your current players.  Also, follow through on promises you make for promotion and compensation reward. If you set the goals and they achieve them, you must hold up your end of the deal or you will lose them shortly thereafter. Just think about how many people leave after bonuses are paid. That proves my point.

Lack of talent development

Performance grows where the passion goes. If you have people who show great interest and aptitude in a certain area, encourage them to follow it. Inevitably, they will either follow that passion with you or they’ll follow it elsewhere. Why not tap into that interest for your own benefit?  Grow your people around their acumen and interests. It will only benefit you in the end, and it’s the basis of how powerhouse teams thrive: everyone doing what they love doing it for a company they believe in.

Lack of recognition

I cannot tell you how important recognition is to employee retention, particularly with the advent of the Millennial generation in the workforce. We must recognize and reward. It’s not a soft skill; it’s a valid business need. People who feel recognized for effort want to do more of it. It’s just that simple. Ignoring accomplishments get you less performance or an empty seat. The choice seems very simple.

Poor relationship skills

We’ve all had a bad boss. Ill temperament, lack of interpersonal skills and approachability, gossiping, scheming, lack of trustworthiness, lack of empathy, lack of personal and professional boundaries, playing favorites – all of these reasons are more are cited in exit interviews time and time again. Every one of them is a teachable if you have a willing participant, and considering how expensive turnover is, don’t you think a bit of leadership development is worth the money? Middle management is rife with these people. It would behoove you to find them now before they cost you everything.

As someone with years of experience coaching powerful companies and start-ups on how to avoid turnover issues as well as grow a thriving leadership team that reduces turnover, I’m thrilled to help your company. Contact me for an initial assessment today, and let’s nip your turnover issues before they even start by growing a leadership team that’s capable of taking your business into a bright, profitable future.


Neuroscience In The Workplace ebook - How Understanding The Brain Can Transform Your Business

Download the eBook and learn how to use neuroscience to attract the right talent, retain high-performing employees and foster collaborative teams.

Get your free copy


Image licensed from

2017-10-07T19:37:42+00:00 By |Employee turnover, Leadership|

About the Author:

Rita Trehan
Rita Trehan, a former Chief Human Resources Officer, now serves as a global business-transformation and capacity-building expert with more than 20 years' experience. She has helped Fortune 200 companies and large corporations worldwide to improve operational efficiency, performance, consistency, and profits, successfully delivering transformation projects for global firms including Honeywell, AES Corporation, Coca-Cola and the World Bank.


  1. […] Here's what my years of experience coaching companies on how to grow a thriving leadership team that can reduce turnover have taught me.  […]

  2. […] Here's what my years of experience coaching companies on how to grow a thriving leadership team that can reduce turnover have taught me.  […]

Leave A Comment