Two men working in an industrial setting with spark emitting machinery

Reducing Turnover in 2018

by Randy Ardis, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, on January 02, 2018
I love a good challenge. One of the most difficult I’ve ever faced dealt with reducing rampant turnover in a manufacturing plant.

Ten years ago, in a departure from my previous roles in HR, I transferred to Florida to work at a manufacturing facility as a Site Manager for an Operations & Maintenance contractor. Our company managed a significant portion of the plant’s workforce with over 500 contract employees who were responsible for packaging and shipping the client’s product and for completing construction and maintenance projects at the plant.

In my first week, I met with the Plant Manager. As I entered his office, he was warm and welcoming; you could even say quite friendly as he asked about how my transfer was going and how my family was dealing with the changes. It didn’t take long for the conversation to turn serious. “We’ve got a major problem with your company in that they can attract talent, but they can’t keep it.”

I had reviewed the HR metrics before our meeting, and the numbers were not good, over 82% annualized turnover for the year. Just think, five out of six people who were hired within the past year were not there by year’s end. As I agreed and shared my concern with the Plant Manager, he quickly cut to the chase. ”Randy, if turnover is not down to 40% or less by this time next year, you and your company won’t be here.” My big picture goals for the year…keep the client’s business for my company and my job as well. What had I gotten myself into? I definitely didn’t want to fail my company, nor did I want to fail my family.

All companies, whether they are small “Mom and Pop” businesses or multinational conglomerates, share the need to attract and retain good talent if they are going to be successful. The constant churn of employees through an organization has many negative effects. Training and administrative costs of onboarding are major expenses. The loss of operational efficiency increases as time is taken away from the tasks at hand to train and mentor new employees on procedures.

So, how should an employer address turnover in the workplace? Although one size doesn’t fit all, there are three strategies that will help keep turnover to a minimum—hire quality people at the start, encourage accountability for retention, and cultivate an atmosphere of trust.

First, even in times of low unemployment, look for quality hires. Always take the time to follow good, lawful screening procedures and make sound judgments in hiring. Don’t just look for the “can do” factor, but look for the “will do” factor. Even if someone hits all the marks for the ability to do the job, look for a willingness to do the job and to do it with a positive attitude. Lackluster initiative is a warning sign of an employee who may soon head out that “revolving door.”

Second, make everyone accountable for retention. One thing I did to ensure the departments were engaged in the hiring process was a leap of faith for me. I handled the pre-qualification portion of hiring, but I left the final hiring decisions to the departments. They would make the final calls on who was a good fit for their organization.

Once I did this, I was able to do two things. I was able to disarm those managers who kept accusing HR of “hiring the wrong people” and once they made the hiring decisions, they were held to a higher standard to ensure those new hires were onboarded and trained properly. Each department had a retention metric that followed the new hires closely through their first six months of employment. Portions of the managers’ bonuses relied on these metrics.

What I found was that the departments quickly took on this responsibility, and they enjoyed being involved in the hiring process. Their higher level of engagement opened up improved communication between their departments and our HR team on the skills and traits they were looking for (which helped us be more accurate in our recruiting methods). I also found that they were much more invested in the training and mentoring of employees and they worked harder to ensure their selections were successful as employees.

Third, cultivating an atmosphere of trust will lead to happier employees who want to stay, not leave. Trust should permeate all relationships in the company—between management and employees, among employees, and between the company and its customers. Employees want to feel respected and supported by their leadership and that their leaders are invested in their success. Open and honest communication from leadership to employees about the company’s successes and challenges will also foster an atmosphere of trust and reduce reliance on the company “grapevine” which can be so divisive. When trust prevails in a company and knowledgeable employees are retained, customers can trust they will receive consistent delivery of high quality products and services.

In my experience, hiring the right people, engaging leadership in the hiring and mentoring process, and creating trust was the recipe for success. After the first year, we were able to report a reduction in turnover down to 37.7% --- the Plant Manager was more than pleased. Operational concerns including safety incidents and customer complaints were trending down because we were stabilizing the workforce. We were able to engage this more stable work team by continually training and challenging them to improve processes by sharing knowledge and by listening to their input. We continued our efforts, and the next year we dropped our turnover rate to 20.1%. Not bad for a group that had one foot out the door just two years prior!

Need help or guidance with a retention plan?
Give our HR Consulting team a call today at 1-800-888-0472. They can create a custom employee retention plan to make sure your top talent sticks around in the New Year and beyond!
Randy Ardis, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Randy is a seasoned HR Professional with 23 years of exempt-level experience in the fields of manufacturing, telecommunications, entertainment, and service industries. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in HR Management from Winthrop University. A certified Senior Human Resources Professional (SPHR) and Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP), Randy is highly experienced in Employee Relations, Staffing & Recruiting, and Training. Randy has been a Florida resident for eight years, and has spent most of his career in the Southeastern United States. He is active in the Greater Pensacola Society for Human Resources Management chapter, the Pensacola Chamber’s HR Managers Roundtable – has served as Co-Chair, Northwest Florida Manufacturer’s Council member, Central Gulf Coast Industrial Alliance’s Workforce Development Team, and a member of the Northwest Florida Skilled Technician Talent Supply Task Force.

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