13 MAY, 2015

When Turnover Is Good for Your Company Culture

In the HR and engagement industries, turnover is usually a bad word, but it doesn’t have to be. Consider Zappos, who recently paid three months’ severance to anyone who wasn’t on board with their new self-management system, Holacracy. More than two hundred people took the offer. Whether Holacracy is actually successful or not, it takes a lot of guts to so clearly define a culture and stick to it this way.

A company’s culture should be defined by the way it wants its employees to work. If you want your employees to be creative and action-oriented, instituting a complex management hierarchy and making cross-functional collaboration difficult is not going to support those goals. Employees should be empowered to make decisions and allowed to test new ideas without fear of failure. On the flip side, in an environment where you want to keep tight controls on output, such as a manufacturing floor or a restaurant kitchen, the hierarchy must be kept in place and obeyed. You don’t want your sous chef adding mushrooms to your perfectly balanced sauce during the Friday dinner rush! Most people are best suited to one management style or another, while a few can adapt in any situation.

Once you put the structures in place to support the culture you want, you must maintain it. This includes letting people who do not fit into the culture go, despite how much you may like them as people or appreciate the quality of their work. Even one person who doesn’t fit with the work style of the company can hurt productivity and change the entire vibe.

If you regularly have very high levels of turnover, however, it’s time to look to your management team and the culture it has created and try to change it. Negative company cultures tend to have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Politics over productivity
  • Hypocrisy and/or inconsistency in management practices
  • Individualism over teamwork
  • Fear as a prevalent motivator
  • Lack of positivity, recognition, or company spirit.

People will leave when they don’t fit into this type of culture, too! The problem is, those that stay are often exactly the types of employees you don’t want. In a situation like this, it might be time to look at some of your managers as the next in line to go.


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