Two Tips for Measuring Turnover – Adding Some Meaning to the Numbers

In our industry there is a lot of conversation surrounding turnover. We know that it is difficult to find good talent and even harder to keep it. Moreover, we know that, at least on the frontline, our team members regardless of tenure or performance are actively being recruited on a monthly, if not weekly basis.  As institutions seek to build meaningful talent management programs we have to look at turnover as a metric for how we are doing. Just having a sheer percentage of what your turnover is, however, doesn’t help you build strategy. Here are a few tips to bring more meaning to your conversations about turnover:

Look less at the industry averages and more to your institutional agenda

In fundraising we constantly are searching for data that vindicates our structures or justifies change. Turnover is one number that gets thrown out a lot, however industry averages that are out there are far from standardized and don’t provide context (for example: during the economic crisis of 2008-2010 many shops downsized voluntarily). Furthermore low turnover in itself is not necessarily a good thing; it some cases higher turnover is health. If your organization, for example, is undergoing a major shift in thinking or modernization high turnover allows you to free yourself of those who may stall progress and open up space on your team to build or refine the office culture. Perhaps your team has had minimal turnover for a longer period of time. In that case the lack of new blood or growth can limit your ability to be strategic and creative in an industry that is constantly evolving.

Qualify turnover by a valuation of who’s leaving

Regardless of your institutional direction you want to make sure you are keeping the right people first and foremost. High performers make more of an impact at your organization and are harder to replace than their peers. As such each instance of turnover should be evaluated to determine if it qualifies as what I call the two sides of turnover: talent loss and talent opportunity. Talent loss is when a high performer, rising star, or strong contributor to the team is leaving and the likely result will be a harder to fill position, skill gap, loss of strategic talent, or negative turn in results. Talent opportunity defines turnover that can turn into a potential boon for your development office. Beyond separations, this type of turnover includes when low performers, bad managers, and negative personalities voluntarily leave, easing the pressure on their colleagues and giving hiring managers a chance to improve the next fit for the position.

talent loss and opp

Each program has different needs and reactions to turnover. The more context we provide when looking at turnover, however, the clearer strategy we can build in response to it.

Next week we will follow-up this primer with three more tips related to understanding and managing turnover effectively.


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