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7 Min Read

5 Ways to Reduce Regrettable Turnover and Keep Valued Employees

Nicole Klemp

Each time your organization loses a great employee, it hurts. Though some regrettable turnover is inevitable and expected, when too many of those losses start stacking up, the entire employee experience can topple over like dominoes.

The impact of employee turnover—particularly regrettable turnover—can be felt throughout a company, from dips in productivity to wounded team morale. In today’s competitive talent market, replacing high performers is difficult and expensive, and high turnover is a serious threat to business success.

As a strategic HR leader, you’ve no doubt felt the pressure to increase employee retention. But the reasons behind turnover aren’t always clear, and are often complex. While there’s unfortunately no one-size-fits-all solution, there are some proven methods for uncovering the root causes of regrettable turnover, and a few tried-and-true best practices for retaining more of your top talent. 

What is regrettable turnover?

Regrettable turnover occurs when an employee’s departure from the company has a negative impact on the organization, or when a high-performer decides to leave of their own accord. 

One misstep that many HR leaders make is failing to differentiate between regrettable and non-regrettable turnover. Lumping all turnover together and applying blanket solutions to the problem won’t yield great results. These efforts might reduce some turnover, but don’t give you the ability to hone in on retaining the people you want to keep most—your high performers. 

Read on for five proven ways to meet the demands of today’s workforce and reduce regrettable turnover in your organization.

Use data to identify the causes of voluntary turnover

Taking a closer look at employee data can reveal insights into your company culture and areas that need improvement. Tracking regrettable turnover metrics can help you understand more about the high performers leaving your company and what might be driving them away. 

Start by working with company leaders and managers to identify what traits and behaviors make someone in your organization a top performer, then use that profile when tracking regrettable turnover. It’s helpful to know how many high performers are leaving, what teams they’re on, and any additional circumstances around their departure. 

Just tracking where your regrettable turnover is coming from can tell a story, and alert you to potential areas of concern. For example, say your regrettable employee turnover rate as an organization is just 2%. But, when you look at team-level metrics, you notice regrettable turnover on the customer success team is 12%. This discrepancy tells you something may be going on within that team, and should be investigated further.

For a deeper data dive, tools like employee engagement surveys can help you uncover issues that can be occurring on specific teams or within certain employee groups, and even allow you to predict—and hopefully prevent—future regrettable turnover. 

Improve communication and feedback between employees and managers

You can understand why an employee might want to look for a job elsewhere if they feel they’re misunderstood or don’t have a voice at their current workplace. The ability to safely give and receive feedback between peers and managers is critical to retaining top talent.

In our 2022 Workplace Report, we found that more than half (53.8%) of employees say one of the top reasons for leaving a company is unsupportive management. To improve employee-manager relationships and start chipping away at voluntary employee turnover, identify what a good manager looks like at your organization and develop a plan for upskilling managers across the organization. 

Managers should hold regular 1-on-1 meetings with each of their direct reports to discuss priorities, challenges, and opportunities for growth. Enabling managers with communication tools that give them visibility into their employees’ progress allows them to hear and address any concerns or roadblocks their team members are encountering, before they become bigger issues. 

Be transparent and offer competitive benefits and compensation

The promise of more money somewhere else can be a big motivator for an employee to leave, especially if they’re already unsatisfied or disengaged in their current role. In a recent study from Pew Research Center, 63% of workers who quit a job in 2021 cited low pay as a reason.

All employees—but high performers in particular—want to feel they’re valued and are growing within their organization and in their career. And while it’s not the only thing people consider, compensation is inevitably a major factor all employees look at to gauge how much they are (or aren’t) valued by their company. Nearly a quarter of workers even report discussing pay with their co-workers, according to a 2019 Marketplace-Edison poll

Offering competitive pay and benefits is obviously important—it’s human resources 101. But one area where many companies don’t do so well is in providing a transparent compensation philosophy. 

Employees need to see how their pay is determined and what they need to do to increase their earnings, with clearly defined opportunities for promotions and raises. Otherwise, they may make incorrect assumptions or feel they’re not being paid fairly. This puts them at much higher risk of getting whisked away by another potential employer with an enticing offer.

Promote work-life balance and embrace cultural transformation

The days of glorifying “hustle culture” are over. Today’s top talent demands work-life balance and most won’t hesitate to change jobs in the pursuit of a better culture. In fact, MIT’s Sloan School of Management found that a toxic company culture was ten times more likely to contribute to turnover than compensation.

To retain top talent, organizations must be more willing to embrace flexibility and reimagine the employee experience. Post-pandemic, many companies are maintaining the option for employees to work remotely, at least some of the time. Reimagining what work looks like and offering employees more flexibility can increase engagement and allow high performers to thrive.

In an article for Forbes, Shane Metcalf shared how transformational changes like implementing a 4-day workweek can lead to happier employees and better performance. “Since early 2020, newly remote or hybrid employees have been burning out due to a lack of boundaries between work and life. A four-day workweek can create greater structure around work and adds a free weekday to rejuvenate, handle life matters, and often to deepen relationships with family,” he said.

Invest in employee development and provide clear career paths

If you’re trying to boost retention, don’t underestimate the importance of professional development and growth opportunities, especially when it comes to high performers. Sixty-three percent of employees that quit a job in 2021 cited “no opportunities for advancement” as a factor in their decision to quit, according to Pew Research.

When your best people feel like they’re stuck in a role or don’t see any room for growth within the organization, they will look to continue their career path somewhere else. High performers want to be challenged and feel like they’re unlocking new levels of achievement. That’s why it’s critical for them to have career-focused conversations with their managers and have stretch goals to strive for.

At 15Five, we use the objectives and key results (OKR) framework to align and motivate employees to reach personal and professional goals. The OKR methodology works well for high-performing teams, as objectives are aspirational while providing a clear path to achievement and growth. Whether you use OKRs or some other system, what matters is that you make goal-setting part of your culture, to motivate and retain your top talent.

Get the Guide to Reducing Regrettable Turnover

Losing too many great employees? A high regrettable turnover rate can be detrimental to an organization, which is why 15Five decided to develop a guide that focuses specifically on combating it. Learn about the different types of employee turnover, how to identify regrettable turnover, and how to start taking steps to reduce it, with this practical guide for HR leaders.