Lately, it’s become fashionable for leaders to talk about healthy turnover. I hear things like “we’re not losing our best people, just those who aren’t really engaged.” As I listen to these conversations, it sounds like healthy rationalization — a way to avoid feeling bad about the consequences of a disengaged workforce. These statements could have some credibility if 70% of most companies’ workforces weren’t disengaged. However, given the reality, it’s just not a convincing proposition.
Now, to make matters worse, fairly frequent movement by employees is becoming acceptable in the recruiting market. This means that an individual who is not happy can risk a couple of job moves without damaging his resume. This point is brought out in a recent Wall Street Journal column, Can You Make a Workplace U-turn? The column goes on to quote a Korn Ferry International executive who says that “it is increasingly easy to make mistakes matching people to jobs.” Thus, the logic follows, expect bad hires, expect low engagement, expect turnover.
OK, enough! It is not hard to match people to jobs properly. Companies just don’t do it well. They ignore available tools such as personality, relationship and competency-based assessments. They also neglect to develop reliable inventories of critical behaviors of high performers in the jobs, including the knowledge, skills, abilities and personality traits that underlie these behaviors. The result: the wrong people in the wrong jobs, or more tragically, the right people in the right jobs with the wrong managers.
It’s time to end this vicious cycle. High turnover of knowledge workers is not healthy — period. Low employee engagement among knowledge workers is not acceptable — period. We have the tools to get off this treadmill. The great companies of the future will use them.