Actions Speak Louder Than Words: No Wonder Turnover Is About To Skyrocket!

Several articles of late have mentioned how analysts and thought leaders are predicting that, as the economy in the Untied States begins to recover at an increased pace, voluntary turnover among many U.S. corporations will skyrocket. Some analysts are predicting involuntary turnover rates as low as 20%, while others peg the amount of pent-up turnover somewhere near the 45% mark. Regardless of what it turns out to be, turnover among average and top-performing employees at a time when corporations should be “exploding out of the box” is a business problem that needs to be addressed. To some HR professionals and senior corporate leaders the news of impending turnover comes as a shock. Many believe that the worst of times is behind them, that the layoffs which once decimated their workforce are finally in the past, and that the employees they have left are the most loyal, top performing, cream of the crop. Many state that their employees say they are “satisfied” ó and therein lies the problem. As any marketing professional worth their weight in salt will tell you, keeping someone merely satisfied is not the same as keeping them loyal. Loyalty comes from continuously exceeding expectations ó not your own expectations, but rather those of your target audience or in this case your employees. Loyal employees:

  • Tell others about what a great company they work for without being prompted to do so
  • Recruit others of a similar caliber to fill open requisitions
  • Support the company by buying its products or services when possible
  • Stay longer and work harder

Building a loyal employee population is essential to strong corporate performance. Unfortunately, while most employees are satisfied today, they are not loyal. Satisfaction is merely a measure of what people say or think about a situation, and not an indicator of what they would do given multiple opportunities. Management consulting firm Bain & Co. has found that as much as 60% to 80% of consumers who change brands of products report that they were either very satisfied or satisfied with the brand they switched from. Continuously exceeding expectations is a science, one that requires constant feedback from your employee population and that forces continuous improvement and change in how you manage them. Expectations change from day to day, and are influenced by numerous external factors, such as the economy, life at home, stories from a friend, etc. Few companies make an attempt to find out what their employees expect as a whole, let alone what individual top performers expect. Most companies opt instead to articulate what employees should expect, an action that speaks louder than any words you can offer with regards to the value you place on your people. To help stave off the impending wave of turnover in your organization, you need to determine what your employees expect and deliver wherever possible. You can opt to focus on key performers and key roles, but to ensure adequate staff for growth that “explodes out of the box,” you may need to include average performers in the mix. Finding out what employees expect isn’t that difficult. Numerous studies have been conducted, and a number of surveys exist to help you determine where you stand. The surveys I am referring to measure engagement and the gap between expectations ó not satisfaction, which as I mentioned earlier is different. Two of my favorites include the Gallop Q12 and the survey offered by the Best Place to Work Institute. According to the Harvard Business Review, some of the leading reasons why employees quit include gaps in expectations and actual deliverables with regards to:

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  • Job content
  • Level of responsibility
  • Company culture
  • Caliber of colleagues
  • Pay

Conclusion Voluntary turnover has the ability to empower your organization when it is low and in desired areas, and damage your organization when it is high and in the wrong areas. Just because your company has made it this far, that doesn’t mean it is time to rest on your laurels. Another war for talent is coming, and a battle plan is needed. If you do nothing else to help prepare, make an attempt to understand your employee’s expectations and exceed them wherever possible.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.



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