Tips for High Turnover

In the past year and a half, over half of the librarians and all of the staff (except one) in my department have left, for various reasons, including all three of our managers. When a department has this level of turnover, there are many things that happen. Some questions should be pondered by the other PTB in the organization, even if the employees left for better jobs or reasons beyond the control of others.

Questions like: Why do we have good people leaving for better jobs? What opportunities did they have or not have here? Is there something wrong with the atmosphere of that department or of this organization? How are the remaining employees coping? How will training of all the new people take place?

Some of these questions are best answered by the PTB. I, as a peon in the structure, have very little control over many of the questions above. There are some things though, that even the lowest staff member should keep in mind in a department where the turnover has recently been high.

You are no longer new. You may have once been the newbie, but you may suddenly find yourself the old hat with the institutional knowledge. Occasionally, when new policies or programs are discussed, someone might ask what has been done in the past. Try not to show your surprise if everyone looks at you. You may be the only person in the room who knows.

Get out of the rut. Along the same lines as the first item: If you are an “oldie,” do not sing the, “we always did it this way” song. Having a slew of new people in the department also means new ideas. You may know what used to be done, but do not let that knowledge keep you from embracing new ideas. This may be the chance your group has needed to do something new and exciting, even if new only means moving the mailboxes. If you look around and realize you are the only one clinging to the neck of that sacred cow, you may want to ask yourself why. Release your arms slowly and move along.

Be welcoming. In a group with a lot of new people, everyone is responsible for creating the sense of team. I think the older members should lead the way and make the new people feel at home and welcomed. However, if turnover is really that high, even an employee with a couple months under their belt may not be the newest kid on the block. Turnover disrupts the team atmosphere of a working group and everyone will have to work to redefine their place in the new structure and the new team identity.

Listening does wonders. New people frequently means new managers. Adjustments have to be made on both sides. Old employees should be willing to help their new managers and be understanding while they learn the culture of the organization. New managers should listen to their employees and try to catch up as fast as possible. Managers should ask what employees need from them and follow through. Employees and team members should do the same thing for their managers and each other. A simple, “What can I do to help you be successful?” goes a long, long way in creating a good team. Especially, if you take the time to listen and actually do what you can to fulfill the needs of those around you. Listening is a skill we should all improve upon.

–Jane, Mr. R is always asking her to listen with her whole brain instead of half or a quarter