Reduce Employee Turnover with These Tips


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If one of your goals this year is to reduce employee turnover, you’re not alone. Employee turnover is costly, aggra­vat­ing, time-consuming, and it erodes hard-built team­work efforts. An arti­cle in Fast Com­pany dis­cussed the issue of employee turnover, and it gave tips for reduc­ing turnover and work­ing with employ­ees who are exhibit­ing toxic behav­iors. Let’s exam­ine some of article’s points and dis­cuss how you can take its advice to make 2014 a year of low turnover for your orga­ni­za­tion.

Employee turnover is no small mat­ter– par­tic­u­larly in the call cen­ter industry

Call cen­ters, unfor­tu­nately, suf­fer some of the high­est turnover rates in the pro­fes­sional ser­vices indus­try. Depend­ing on the type of call cen­ter, turnover rates aver­age 20 – 50% a year. Com­pa­nies pay around 50% of a low-skilled hourly worker’s annual wages, plus ben­e­fits, for every employee lost. In addi­tion to being an expen­sive prob­lem, when turnover is caused by toxic employee behav­ior, it can erode work­place morale and cause man­age­ment headaches. In par­tic­u­lar, some of the more com­mon “toxic” behav­iors to be on the look­out for are noted below:

Employee aggres­sive behav­ior: Employ­ees who exhibit any kind of aggres­sive behav­ior, includ­ing throw­ing tantrums, mak­ing threats, or unnec­es­sar­ily rais­ing their voices.

Nar­cis­sis­tic behav­ior: Employ­ees who are self-focused and unable to com­pro­mise or work in a flex­i­ble culture.

Lack of cred­i­bil­ity and follow-through: A toxic behav­ior of employ­ees who aren’t hon­est, don’t fol­low through with what they say, and lack credibility.

Pas­sive behav­ior: Employ­ees who don’t show ini­tia­tive or own­er­ship of their behavior.

Dis­or­ga­ni­za­tion: These are employ­ees who are con­sis­tently unor­ga­nized, unable to focus, or unable to work with structure.

Resis­tance to change: Employ­ees who are overly rigid and unable to evolve or learn new skills and adapt to a chang­ing work environment.

If you’ve encoun­tered any of the above toxic behav­iors in employ­ees, you likely know that work­ing with the employ­ees can become so dif­fi­cult that you end up spend­ing unnec­es­sary resources and train­ing on improv­ing the employee’s behav­ior, and it often ends in the employee being terminated.

Why is it so hard to spot toxic behavior?

In read­ing through the above list, did it puz­zle you that employ­ees with such toxic traits could ever get hired in the first place? How do they slip through the inter­view process? There are a few dif­fer­ent rea­sons – and it’s due to com­mon errors that many work­places make:

The nature of the inter­view process: The inter­view process is gen­er­ally short – par­tic­u­larly in call cen­ters. Peo­ple with toxic behav­iors are often able to con­ceal their behav­ior pat­terns while being inter­viewed, and some­times, peo­ple aren’t even aware of their own behav­iors, so they come off as hon­est and eager to please.

The prob­lem with ref­er­ences: Can­di­dates may choose ref­er­ences whom they know will only say pos­i­tive things. Addi­tion­ally, fear of legal blow­back can pre­vent even knowl­edge­able ref­er­ences from being forth­com­ing about an employee’s record.

Poor detec­tion abil­ity from man­agers: Man­agers may not be able to detect an employee’s toxic behav­ior, even after the employee has started work­ing for the com­pany. Some employ­ees may be adept at act­ing their best when their boss is around. Addi­tion­ally, fel­low employ­ees may be afraid to “snitch” out an employee. Finally, employ­ees who are tech­ni­cally com­pe­tent may slip through the per­for­mance review process if their toxic behav­ior doesn’t show up on a check­list of com­pe­ten­cies that employ­ees are mea­sured by.

But don’t give up – it is pos­si­ble to reduce turnover by pre­vent­ing toxic behav­iors in the first place

Toxic employ­ees may inevitably slip through the cracks, but you can take pre­ven­ta­tive steps to lessen the pos­si­bil­ity that you will hire toxic employ­ees in the first place.

Step 1: The best way to reduce employee turnover is to not hire toxic employ­ees. Take a dif­fer­ent approach with your hir­ing strat­egy by imple­ment­ing 360 degree observer rat­ings in the inter­view process and using self-assessment instru­ments. Addi­tion­ally, you can tell employ­ees that they are expected to fol­low core work­place behav­iors (many will be the oppo­site of toxic behav­iors), and that you will enforce strict rules to ensure the employee meets the standards.

Step 2: If you real­ize that an employee is likely to act out with toxic behav­iors, inter­vene early. Imple­ment coach­ing and edu­ca­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties that give the employee chances to learn how to cor­rect the behav­iors before they become an issue.

Step 3: Finally, if steps 1 and 2 fail, take your losses and let the employee go before he or she has a chance to erode morale and infect other employ­ees with toxic behav­iors. Make sure that you have taken clearly doc­u­mented notes about the employee’s behav­ior and the steps you took to improve the behav­ior before you deliver a ter­mi­na­tion notice.

Reduce employee turnover by chang­ing how your orga­ni­za­tion approaches hir­ing and training

Your call cen­ter does not have to be another sta­tis­tic with high-employee turnover. By chang­ing how you screen, inter­view, hire, and train employ­ees and man­agers, you can make dras­tic dif­fer­ences in your turnover num­bers and build a cul­ture of enthu­si­as­tic team players.


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