Survey: Half of Companies Report Higher Turnover Than Last Year

For years, there have been worries that there was a big employee exodus coming — when the economy finally started to show some improvement and began growing jobs again.

Yes, this has been the worry — and why employee engagement is such a hot topic — but given the mediocre recovery, there hasn’t been all that much to really worry about.

Until now.

A new survey released this week from OI Partners, a global coaching, consulting and leadership development firm, says that half of companies are reporting higher turnover this year compared to last, and three-quarters are bracing for still more employees to leave.

Higher turnover across all organizational levels

According to the report, 51 percent of those surveyed report having higher employee turnover in 2013 compared to only 30 percent that had higher turnover in 2012.

The surveyed companies — and OI Partners received responses from 153 organizations with locations throughout North America — reported higher turnover this year across all organizational levels:

  • Front-line workers: 51 percent report higher turnover among front-line employees;
  • High-potentials: 34 percent say they have had higher turnover among high-potential employees;
  • Senior executives: 29 percent have lost more senior-level executives than last year;
  • Middle managers: 27 percent have had higher turnover among middle managers.

As you can imagine, this higher turnover is also fueling concerns about losing still more workers due to the better job market, and those concerns are  running high across all organizational levels as well:

  • High-potentials: 78 percent of organizations are concerned about losing high-potential workers;
  • Middle managers: 63 percent are worried about middle managers departing;
  • Front-line workers: 51 percent are concerned about losing employees on the front lines;
  • Senior executives: 43 percent are worried about senior-level executives leaving

Retaining talent ranked as top HR challenge

As you can imagine, 70 percent of the survey respondents said that retaining talent was selected as the top HR challenge this year. Recruiting the right talent finished a close No. 2 as the top human resource issue, selected by 65 percent, followed by providing coaching to develop employees (48 percent), preparing for the affordable health care law to fully take effect next year (35 percent), and retaining talent while also downsizing (16 percent).

“Companies are most concerned about losing high-potentials, or those they have designated as their future leaders, and middle managers, or supervisors of employees who directly work with customers,” said Patty Prosser, the chair of OI Partners, in a press release about the survey.

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“More employers are making it a priority to demonstrate to workers how valued they are. It’s no longer enough to say, ‘Be happy you have a job.’ They realize if retention is a problem with a still-high unemployment rate, it will only get worse if they don’t entice employees to remain.”

And how do organizations entice people to remain? According to the survey, coaching is the top method that organizations are using to retain senior-level executives, middle managers and high-potential employees, with better compensation and benefits listed  as the second most popular method of retention.

The top employee retention tool? It’s coaching

Coaching? One doesn’t immediately think of coaching as a top employee retention tool, but according to OI chairman Prosser, “Providing coaching to employees in how to become better managers is as important a signal of investing in their career development as are salary and benefit increases,”

I didn’t get a breakout of survey methodology on this report, so it is hard to tell the size of organizations in North America that responded. Make of that what you will, but to me, that doesn’t matter all that much,

What does matter — and I believe any thinking and sensitive manager or executive would agree, is that retaining employees has got to be one of your top, if not THE top, area of concern this year as you look at your organization’s talent management practices.

Yes, the wave of future departures that I’ve been writing about (for years now, it seems), may finally be upon us. The big question is, what will you, as a talent management leader, do about it?

John Hollon is managing editor of Fuel50, an AI Opportunity Marketplace solution that delivers internal talent mobility and workforce reskilling. He's also the former founding editor of TLNT and a frequent contributor to ERE and the Fistful of Talent blog.