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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Positive Side of Staff Turnovers

Words by Francis Kahihu

This came as a pleasant assertion by the CEO of an NGO in Nairobi last week. During one of the several staff exit parties, he articulately let staff appreciate the fact that staff turnovers are not necessarily a negative thing. This was an attempt to help staff realize that turnovers should not always be demonized since they could be an indicator of something positive.

As his brief talk went on, he narrated an experience of a head of a project who was castigated by an evaluation panel since from the start of the three year project, no single staff had left the organisation. This was interpreted to imply that the head had been ineffective in promoting staff development. With the results of the midterm exercise, the manager went back and in consultation with the HR officer and staff developed a professional development policy and strategy for the staff for the remaining project period.

It is true that staff turnovers lead to the disruption of processes and relationships at the work place. The employer has to incur extra costs in the process of recruiting the replacements, inducting the new teammates and have to contend with the speed at which the new staff pick up the tasks. All this slows down the general procedures leading to delayed or non realization of the set targets. Relationships are also interfered with as the remaining staff are left ‘mourning’ the departure of their colleagues.

The turnover of staff can however be a positive indicator of positive happenings within the organisation. It could also be what the organisation really requires for improved performance. It has been said that market leaders provide human resources capacities to those behind them. At a CEO’s forum held recently, one of the leading CEOs indicated that leaders should not always blame themselves wondering how to stem the transition of staff. He said that as a market leader, you will always prepare human capacity for other players hence is an unstoppable result. He then encouraged them to appreciate turnover especially when they are sure they have put in place adequate measures to ensure that staff are not necessarily leaving the organisation for lack of growth opportunities but for greater challenges.

The turnover of staff can be a great blessing to the organisation. After years of engaging the same staff, people get into the ‘normal’ gear where no much energy is expensed. Staff slacken in their service delivery as the challenge of the work diminishes. Since familiarity begets contempt, the quality of services is compromised and the level of internal skills transfer reduce. Habituation creeps in. This is the experience when staff get used to certain stimuli that they no longer appreciate the gaps in the system. This is detrimental to the growth of the organisation. The turnover of staff hence ensures a natural flow of fresh energy and ideas into the system. How many times have you heard new staff raise issues at the workplace that make others wonder ‘and we have been here yet haven’t seen it in that way’?.

Finally, staff turnovers have a tendency to revitalize an organisation’s culture. People with different personalities join the organisation and influences the culture either for the better or worse. When well managed, the organisation can harness impressive character traits to empower the rest of the team with a valuable culture.

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