Common Sense Guide to Reducing Employee Turnover

by Patricia Schaefer

Finding, hiring and training employees is expensive and time consuming. If turnover is too high, it can suck the life out of a thriving business. Fortunately, employee turnover is preventable. Use these common sense guidelines to reduce employee turnover in your business.

Image source:

About 400 years ago, Voltaire said, “common sense is not so common.” Unfortunately the same could be said today about many businesses that fail to use good old-fashioned horse sense when it comes to reducing employee turnover. The truth is – aside from outside economic forces like the unemployment rate or the exodus of boomers from the job market – two facts remain:

1. High employee turnover is preventable;


2. Businesses that make the reduction of employee turnover a priority can and do effectively curtail it.


Keep in mind that your goal is not to have zero turnover. Some employee turnover is healthy and necessary to prevent your business from becoming stagnant; new employees bring essential rejuvenating energy and ideas. Small businesses generally can expect a somewhat higher overall turnover rate than their larger counterparts, but any inherent shortcomings can be alleviated with the use of preventive tools.

With a little common sense and application of the following guidelines, reducing employee turnover should be well within your grasp:

Don’t "cut off your nose to spite your face"
The costs of repeatedly hiring and rehiring can be staggering. Actual dollars spent to replace a worker can range from the hundreds to the thousands, with the latter being far more common. One of the most important things an employer can do to retain their employees is to offer a competitive wage. If not, that dollar an hour you think you’re saving will likely end up costing you thousands in the long run when you find your workers running off for better wages elsewhere.


A number of savvy businesses have found tremendous success with offering their employees just a bit more than the competitive rate. As long as other factors are in place – such as good working conditions, a respectful and thoughtful managerial style, and a job the person can take pride in – these workers rarely jump ship. Again, the savings reaped by significantly lowering your turnover can make it a win-win situation for both the business owner and worker.

Take Care When Hiring
The wrong person for the right job is not a good equation for encouraging employee retention. Time and care must be taken to; first, have for yourself a clear definition of the job; second, know what experience or education level you require; and; third, know what you’re willing to pay.

RELATED: 5 No-Fail Hiring Tips for Small Businesses

Carefully consider the applicant’s resume for skills and education, relevant experience, and be sure to contact references. Interview a number of applicants and try not to decide on the spot. When a candidate makes it to a second interview, explore other factors: Will this individual fit in with your company’s culture? A hippie-wanna-be might not gel with your suits-only workplace. Will this person get along with their prospective coworkers? Are they a good match with your working style? An independent young firecracker might not appreciate a boss who likes to supervise closely.

Weigh the value of attitude versus skill. Skills can be taught. Positive and conscientious attitude rarely can.

Provide Training and Orientation
A worker’s first day and first weeks on the job are critical to retention. An orientation and introduction to the firm and coworkers that first work day goes far in putting the “new kid on the block” at ease. Training – no matter how simple the job may seem – is essential. A written job description with specific and detailed procedures is also a useful tool.

If at all possible, career development opportunities should later be afforded as people often need to feel there is an opportunity for learning and advancement.

When you hire that new employee, don’t ever forget that the more important, accepted and secure new people feel, the greater the chance for many more company tomorrows.

Keep an eye on your managerial style
Let’s face it. Many people flee their jobs because of the boss man (or woman). The reasons are varied but include:

  • Negative or disrespectful words, attitude or actions
  • Employee favoritism/inequities
  • Unreasonable workload or overtime demands
  • Rigid rules with no room for flexibility
  • Devaluing/disinterest in employees ideas or suggestions
  • Lack of communication with regard to goals, procedural changes, and company rules (“But Mr. Smith, the last time you said to do it this way. Now I’ll have to do the whole project over again.”)
  • Lack of praise for a job well done

Remember, always treat your employees the way you would want to be treated.

RELATED: Is Your Management Causing Employee Issues And Slow Business Growth?

Employees need to feel that their work is meaningful and beneficial to their organization. Keep the fire lit under their internal motivators of purpose and passion. Do this by sharing your business’s future goals and how they personally can play an important part in conquering them. Recognition and praise go a long way in keeping employees at work. Consider using rewards to recognize outstanding performance.

RELATED: What Really Motivates Employees

Develop a sense of fun and community
It doesn’t hurt to lighten up now and then. Like the Proverb says, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” And hard work should certainly be rewarded on occasion.

Start some company traditions like a once-a-year “Food of All Nations Day” where people bring in dishes from their native lands. If funds allow, have an annual company picnic or holiday party.

Do something specific to your industry or field; i.e. during National Lab Week, a small lab I once worked for had a different cafeteria feast every day of that week – Chinese, Pizza, Bagels, Desserts, and Heroes. Each day was full of fun and delight, and was a big boost to morale.

Stay in touch with modern times
Today, less and less workers are interested in toiling at a traditional full-time job. These days a balance and flexibility between work and family life is sought by much of the workforce. Consider options such as alternative work schedules, flex time, and telecommute arrangements.

Also contemplate the use of an employee satisfaction survey to pinpoint where your business’s strengths and weaknesses lie.

Don’t overstress the help
The American Heritage Dictionary defines the term “stress out” as “To subject to or undergo extreme stress, as from working too much.” It’s no wonder then that stress on the job is a big contributing factor to higher turnover rates.

Simply put, if you have fallen short in any of the aforementioned areas – low rate of pay, poor management, lack of training, etc. – stress levels of your employees will increase, leading to higher turnover.

Be educated and stay educated
When you run a business, knowledge truly is power. Start with your favorite daily newspaper and try to scan it cover to back each and every day. You’d be surprised at what nuggets of helpful news and information you will find buried within.

And whatever business you’re in, be sure to read or subscribe to that field’s publications such as newsletters, professional/trade journals, and magazines.

Being informed will help you to make better and more knowledgeable choices when it comes to hiring, retaining and motivating your employees.

Copyright 2015 Attard Communications, Inc.

About the author:
Patricia Schaefer is a staff writer for Business Know-How. She can be reached by email at 


Free small business newsletter
Get great business ideas and advice like this sent to you in email twice a week.
Subscribe to the free Business Know-How newsletter. 
Enter your primary email address below


Follow Us and Share