9 Causes of High Employee Turnover and How To Prevent It

Updated February 3, 2023

Every organization aims to recruit and retain the best team members they can to ensure they are productive and successful in reaching business objectives. Human resources professionals, managers and team leaders may use a metric called employee turnover to determine how effective the organization is in recruiting and maintaining great candidates. Learning how high employee turnover can adversely impact your team and overall organization can help you address factors leading to high turnover.

In this article, we explain what high employee turnover is, detail what can cause it and provide the steps you can follow to avoid it.

What is high employee turnover?

Employee turnover is the number of team members who leave an organization, either soon after being hired or later into their time with a company. The number may indicate how happy and satisfied team members are with the company or in certain roles or departments, or it can highlight the level of work-life balance team members experience.

Managers, supervisors and HR departments can use this metric to study how frequently team members come and go, which can help them identify ways to retain team members and reduce turnover rates. These are some effects of high employee turnover:

  • Increased recruitment cost

  • More training time

  • Less experienced staff

Related: Turnover Rates: Factors and Reduction Strategies

What causes high employee turnover?

High employee turnover indicates that many team members leave an organization regularly, meaning retention is low. These are nine factors that can cause high employee turnover:

1. Overwork

When team members are required or feel obligated to work long hours or overtime, they may experience burnout and mental or physical fatigue. This can lead to reduced productivity and increased dissatisfaction. Conditions like long working hours, poor work-life balance and excess responsibilities can contribute to overwork. These are some ways to avoid overwork:

  • Reasonable time expectations

  • Realistic and manageable goals

  • Breaks between shifts and tasks

Related: How To Advance Your Human Resources Career in 5 Steps

2. Inconsistent management styles

Managers and supervisors ensure that teams set and meet goals, have the resources and training they need and receive constructive feedback. Sometimes, these leaders can be inconsistent in how they give feedback to and discipline team members. This can lead to team members feeling unsupported, unfairly disciplined and unsure of how they can improve in their role, which can all impact team member satisfaction and turnover rates.

When team members see that managers and supervisors use the same standards of evaluation and discipline for all team members, they are more likely to feel like equal parts of the team. In addition, consistent and regular feedback gives team members direction and purpose, which can help team members feel supported and encouraged to succeed.

Related: 10 Common Leadership Styles (Plus How To Find Your Own)

3. Lack of team member recognition

This refers to little to no celebration of team members' achievements or hard work, which can lead to team members feeling underappreciated. It can also make it hard for team members to determine what good performance looks like in their workplace, possibly resulting in low productivity, low quality of work or otherwise low achievement rates.

When team members are recognized by leaders and colleagues for a job well done or hitting a professional milestone, they are more likely to feel supported and appreciated by the organization and team. Regular positive feedback, whether in public or in private, can lead to positive reinforcement of desirable workplace behavior like completing work on time, brainstorming new ideas and being proactive to solve problems.

4. Few opportunities for professional development

Professional development involves providing opportunities for team members to learn new or advanced skills, pursue higher education, attend industry conferences, earn professional certification or complete role-specific training. When organizations don't provide these kinds of opportunities, they risk team members stagnating in their improvement, getting behind on new technology or best practices and decreasing productivity and effectiveness. These are some methods for improving professional development:

  • Providing access to training

  • Offering free courses

  • Promoting education and learning

Related: Q&A: What Is an Employee Turnover Rate?

5. Little to no career advancement

When team members stay in one role for a long period of time without moving up, they may feel undervalued and underutilized. Also, team members moving laterally to similar positions or positions with similar pay, benefits and seniority can also experience this sentiment.

Making clear paths for team members to move up in the organization can reward high productivity and quality, encourage professional development that can improve the team members' abilities and promote company loyalty. It can also attract new candidates looking to grow with an organization.

6. Low salaries and low pay raises

Some organizations lack the ability or motivation to provide competitive pay and regular raises for cost-of-living adjustments and quality work. This can lead to highly skilled team members feeling undervalued and underpaid, which can encourage them to find roles that provide a good salary elsewhere. It can also lead to decreased motivation, productivity and work quality.

When organizations can and do pay team members at or above the going rate for each position, they can better attract and retain high-performing team members, increasing overall productivity and quality that can help the organization better reach goals and grow. Paying more competitively can also improve overall satisfaction and create a company culture that values team members' hard work.

Related: 20 Recruiting Metrics You Should Know for a Better Hiring Process

7. Inadequate benefits

Organizations that can't or aren't inclined to provide adequate health insurance, retirement plans and other team member benefits can also have team members who feel undervalued or experience hardship that can affect productivity.

Providing benefits packages that meet or exceed current standards for certain roles, industries or levels of experience can help team members feel more secure and established.

8. Poor company culture

Company culture encompasses the beliefs and values of an organization, and having a poor company culture can involve inconsistently enacting or incorrectly using an organization's beliefs and values. For example, if an organization says it values work-life balance but doesn't provide adequate paid time off, this organization may be inconsistently reflecting its values. these are some things you can do to improve company culture:

  • Establish consistent and fair policies

  • Show values like compassion and community

  • Promote good behaviors and communication

Related: 50 HR KPIs You Can Monitor (With Definitions)

9. Incompatibilities between team members and management

Sometimes, managers and team members may not get along or collaborate well, and not effectively addressing these incompatibilities can lead to team member dissatisfaction for leaders and team members alike.

Assessing how and why management and team members conflict can help organizations identify teams that can be reorganized to have people with similar or complementary personalities, work styles, skills and interests. A sense of belonging and respect between team members and managers can lead to improved communication, efficiency and overall satisfaction.

How to prevent high employee turnover

Use the following tools and techniques to prevent high employee turnover and improve your organization's retention:

Establish clear guidelines for peer and manager evaluations

Make sure that every department and team uses the same process for evaluations but includes function-specific adjustments that allow for more relevant feedback. To do so, collaborate with managers, team leaders and human resources to come up with common metrics and performance indicators to ensure everyone on every team is evaluated equally.

Related: What Is Human Resource Management? (With Duties and Tips)

Research salary and benefits in your organization's industry

Use data from reliable government institutions, like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or professional organizations to see how much different team members are making based on how much education they have, their level of experience, where they're located as well as what certifications and specialized training they completed. This can help your organization hire with and maintain competitive salary and benefits packages.

Review team members' job descriptions

Every quarter, twice a year or once a year, be sure to meet with team members to go over their most recent job description and compare it to the current responsibilities and goals they're working toward. Then, update the job description to more accurately represent what the team member does, which can also help the organization better determine salary and benefits packages that accurately represent the team member's value.

Related: 30 Key HR Metrics (And the Benefits of Using Them)

Set realistic yet ambitious goals for the organization

In reviewing team members' job descriptions and current duties, be sure to assess whether the goals they have are attainable within how much time they're given to reach them and with the resources they have. This can help your organization better allocate work to team members, possibly reducing overwork and burnout.

Purchase access to a professional development or learning platform

If your organization has funds to develop a training program, consider partnering with a trusted professional development platform that provides courses, assessments and even certifications to your team members. Paying for this service reduces or eliminates team members' fiscal responsibility, which can improve satisfaction and loyalty. If your organization cannot fund this platform, consider finding resources you can recommend to your team members.

Related: Your Guide To a Career in Human Resources Management

Plan regular team-building activities

Team-building activities can involve training or just a lunch out together. These events promote bonding and improve communication. Having these events regularly can make team members feel more welcome, connected and like a team or group of friends, which can improve company culture, overall team member satisfaction and retention.

Schedule annual reviews to assess salary.

Taking time every year to adjust team member salaries based on cost-of-living adjustments, continued great performance or recent professional and educational achievements can show your team members that you value them.

Send out team member feedback surveys

Create brief surveys to ask team members to rate the organization on different categories, like company culture, communication, teamwork, productivity and goals. Consider making them anonymous surveys to encourage honesty, which can help your organization better identify what really needs to improve to keep team members happy, healthy and productive.

Complete stay interviews with current team members

A stay interview involves talking with current team members one-on-one about their experience, including with the company culture, their manager, their teammates, their role and other elements of the organization. This meeting promotes direct communication between leadership and team members with the express purpose of improving the organization and team member experience to increase retention.

Related: Human Resources Careers: Job Demand and Salary Guide

Assess your hiring process

Review where you're sourcing candidates from, the information you're including in job postings, how you're advertising certain positions and their expectations and the techniques you use during interviews. Determine whether postings accurately reflect the role's expectations and whether where you're posting the job ads attracts the right people so that you're recruiting only the most qualified candidates. Make sure that the questions you ask during interviews can help highlight the most important qualities and experiences from candidates.

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