When Staff Turnover Has You Pulling Your Hair Out…

Girl in a white shirt holding a box of office supplies.

In theory, business is simple. There are basically only a few things to manage: money, marketing, stock, equipment and people. 

Each has its own impacts, each affects the business owner in a different way. Money issues often generate a ‘pit of the stomach’ or ‘sleepless night’ symptom. Marketing problems may result in bewilderment and slow burning anger. But it’s the “People” problems that tends to cause sheer frustration and the feeling of wanting to pull your hair out (at the low end of the self-harm scale). 

Why? Why? Why can’t they do it right? Why can’t they turn up for work? Why can’t they put in the effort when they are here? And why do they keep leaving? It is so hard to find replacement staff these days.

In truth all those staff questions you are asking yourself are related.

This is good news because it means when you adopt the right solution you will be knocking down several pain points at the same time. I say the ‘right’ solution because there is more than one cause for this problem, so it may only be one item that you need to address. Or it may be a couple.

In this article I want to mention a few different factors that can lead to high staff turnover, and then one overarching element that can address most of those problems, so they plague your business no more. But first let’s explore why this is a problem that needs to be solved.

Manager sitting at their desk holding a sign that reads 'help'.

A problem that needs solving

In a business I was involved with recently we had a real problem with staff turnover. Mostly it was unskilled labour and delivery drivers who were the issue. The constant turnover put a strain on those that remained. 

Staff on the shop floor felt that they were forever training people up while fixing their mistakes and cleaning up their errors. Drivers felt the pressure of having to complete their runs as quickly as possible so they could fit in another run which had no driver. Or they were constantly bounced from one run to the next, never getting settled, and never able to do the job to the level it deserved.

This stress on the system and the people impacted morale.

Morale is a word that only has an intellectual meaning, until it gets really bad, and suddenly there is a visceral meaning attached to it. Low morale means that managers are having to deal with personnel problems that should never be problems. Politics arise where there was no concern in the past. Nerves and tempers become frayed.

And don’t for a second think that your customers are oblivious to this.

For many customers, their experience of your business comes through their interaction with your staff on the shop floor or your delivery drivers. -Or whatever the equivalent is in your business.

If the staff are stressed, frustrated or annoyed, your customers and clients will feel that. The impact can be significant. If there is somewhere else they can go, somewhere that feels better, then you may lose their business. If there is nowhere else to go, you may not lose them, but you may find their frequency of visits will drop, costing you sales.

Add to this the high costs of temporary staff, missed or delayed projects or deliveries, and the wear & tear on the staff that do hang in there, and the price you are paying for staff turnover is significant.

So what can you do about it?

As mentioned, there are a number of factors that can generate a high staff turnover. These include:

  • Limited career growth opportunities
  • Low salary
  • Poor work-life balance
  • Bureaucracy and red tape
  • Lack of recognition and appreciation
  • Toxic workplace culture
  • Poor management
  • Limited decision-making authority

Let’s have a look at a couple of these.

Low Salary

Often, it is what it is. Our unskilled workers were on a low salary, which was pretty much all the business could bear. While business revenue was high, margins were low, and there wasn’t a lot of room to play with wages. Each department had a budget they needed to stay within.

When this is the case you can look elsewhere to see what you can do that can act as a counterbalance to low wages. If you offer increased flexibility, an amazing workplace culture, added responsibility and recognition, or the possibilities of future opportunities, then the wage rate becomes less of a dealbreaker.

Lack of appreciation and recognition

This is often an easy, inexpensive fix, but it is also easy to overlook. Just getting the BBQ out in the yard on Friday lunchtimes and putting on some food for your crew can make a huge difference to morale.

Make a point of addressing the difficulties of having to deal with a shortage of staff or an overabundance of green staff, and thank those who are dealing with it and helping the business out. This can go a long way to making people feel appreciated and part of the team, rather than feeling like a forgotten cog in a big machine.

Taking a break from work and connecting as a team over a BBQ can make all the difference.

But wait! What was the overarching solution?

I’m glad you reminded me. Having wrestled with this over a period of years with the business I was in, I came to the conclusion that an effective, online onboarding process for new staff would resolve many of the issues we were facing.

  • It minimised the number of mistakes made by new hires (reduced not removed).
  • Staff had a clear understanding of their role in the organisation.
  • Staff understood how their department worked in conjunction with the other departments, which made a big difference in morale and diminished ‘silo’ thinking between departments.
  • Because new staff knew what to do (and where to find information if they didn’t), they didn’t feel as lost and so were less likely to leave in the first few months.
  • The onboarding training included information regarding opportunities to learn and grow, and a pathway for them to do so, if that is what they wanted to do.

Finally, I suggested that some of this training was made available to applicants, and part of the application process was for new applicants to check out the training so they knew what the business was all about, who our customers were and the range of roles in the business. 

We let them know that if they got to an interview they would be asked questions on this, which meant we filtered out a lot of applicants who were unwilling to take the time to learn about the business and their potential new role.

So, if you would like to find out more about how an online onboarding process might help your business, contact me and we can discuss a range of resources that would fit your business needs. [email protected]

Related Articles


Your email address will not be published.