Examining the True Cost of Employee Turnover

Last updated Oct 16, 2023
  • Employee turnover results from factors like overwork, inconsistent management, lack of recognition, limited growth opportunities, and poor compensation.
  • Turnover leads to financial strain, reduced productivity, recruitment challenges, and lowered morale.
  • To curb turnover, firms should hire aptly, set clear evaluations, offer competitive pay and benefits, update job roles, set achievable goals, promote professional growth, foster a positive culture, review salaries annually, give consistent feedback, and use interviews and surveys for insights.

Employee turnover cost is defined as the cost to hire a replacement employee and train that replacement. But there’s more to it than just getting a new employee, and in this week’s blog post, we want to share with you the real costs of employee turnover.

According to a recent survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Express Employment Professionals, the issue of employee turnover continues to pose challenges in the workforce. 

The survey reveals that 48% of hiring managers in the United States (U.S.) report increased company turnover. This percentage has risen from 44% since late 2021, indicating a persistent retention problem.

It is estimated that the cost of employee turnover can range from 40-400% of an employee’s annual salary. The total cost of turnover includes money, time, and other hidden costs, which are often much more substantial than expected.

Studies on the cost of employee turnover are all over the board.

The costs associated with employee turnover can vary based on several factors, including the company’s size and the employee’s seniority. 

The 2022 Retention Report published by the Work Institute revealed that the average cost of turnover for a U.S. employee is estimated to be around $15,000. 

Additionally, Josh Bersin, the founder of Deloitte, has previously stated that the cost of turnover can reach as high as 1.5 to 2 times the employee’s salary. These figures highlight the significant financial implications that organizations face when employees leave their positions.

Here are some of these costs broken down:

  • Recruitment & Selection Costs – The cost of hiring a new employee, including advertising, interviewing, screening, and hiring. Moreover, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) research indicates that the average cost of hiring new employees is approximately three to four times the employee’s salary.
  • Separation & Administration Costs for leavers – exit interviews, payroll changes, severance pay, etc.
  • When a new employee is brought on board, several costs are associated with their training and management. Typically, a business invests a significant portion of the employee’s salary, ranging from 10-20% or more over 2-3 years, towards their training needs.
  • Lost productivity – it may take a new employee 1-2 years to reach the productivity of an existing person; Missed deadlines and disruptions to workflow.
  • Covering a vacancy with temp workers or overtime
  • Customer service and errors – New employees usually require more time to solve problems and may not be as proficient.
  • Cultural impact –Whenever someone leaves others, ask, “Why?”
  • Reduced morale – The situation may make other employees want to quit.
  • Reputation costs – When a skilled employee resigns, everyone, including the customers, takes note of the departure.

Considering these above facts, it’s obvious that reducing employee turnover is an issue for HR and the overall organization. It requires the focus and attention of the whole executive team, supported by managers at all levels.

Reasons for Employee Turnover

Employee turnover indicates that many team members regularly leave an organization, reflecting a low retention rate. 

Various factors can contribute to high employee turnover, as highlighted by Indeed. 

The nine factors identified are as follows:


When team members are compelled or feel obligated to work extended hours or overtime, it can result in burnout, mental exhaustion, and physical fatigue. This, in turn, can lead to decreased productivity and heightened employee dissatisfaction. 

Factors such as long working hours, inadequate work-life balance, and excessive responsibilities contribute to the problem of overwork. 

Organizations need to establish reasonable time expectations, set realistic and manageable goals, and incorporate breaks between shifts and tasks to address this issue. 

By implementing these measures, employers can promote a healthier work environment, prevent overwork, and prioritize the well-being and productivity of their team members.

The Management Styles are Not Consistent

Inconsistent management styles can significantly impact team member satisfaction and contribute to high turnover rates. 

When managers and supervisors provide inconsistent feedback and disciplinary actions, team members may feel unsupported, unfairly treated, and uncertain about improvement opportunities. 

On the other hand, when managers apply consistent standards of evaluation and discipline, team members are more likely to perceive themselves as equal contributors to the team. 

Moreover, regular and consistent feedback fosters a sense of direction and purpose, encouraging team members to feel supported and motivated to succeed. 

Establishing consistent management practices is crucial for maintaining a positive work environment and reducing turnover.

Failure to Acknowledge the Contributions of Team Members.

Team member recognition can help employee morale and increase productivity and achievement rates. 

When team members’ achievements and hard work go unnoticed or uncelebrated, they may feel undervalued and struggle to understand what constitutes good performance in their workplace. This can lead to a decrease in motivation and the quality of work. 

Conversely, when leaders and colleagues recognize and acknowledge team members for their accomplishments, it fosters a sense of support and appreciation within the organization. 

Regular and positive feedback, whether publicly or privately, reinforces desired workplace behaviors and encourages timely completion of tasks, brainstorming of innovative ideas, and proactive problem-solving. 

Creating a culture of recognition can help improve team member satisfaction, engagement, and overall performance.

Scarce Opportunities for Improving One’s Professional Development

Insufficient professional development opportunities in organizations can hinder team members’ growth, decrease productivity and affect effectiveness.

Team members can only become stagnant in their roles without access to learning new skills or staying updated on technology and industry best practices.

Organizations can improve professional development by providing access to training programs, offering free courses or educational resources, and promoting a culture of continuous learning.

Investing in such opportunities can support team members’ growth, enhance their skills, and ultimately boost productivity and effectiveness.

Lack of Career Growth Opportunities

An organization’s lack of career advancement opportunities can make team members feel undervalued and underutilized. This sentiment can also arise when team members move laterally to similar positions without significant pay, benefits, or seniority changes. 

Establishing clear paths for career progression is essential to address this issue. 

Organizations can reward their performance, enhance their skills, and foster employee loyalty by providing opportunities for team members to move up based on their productivity, quality of work, and professional development. 

Additionally, offering clear career advancement opportunities can attract new candidates seeking organizational growth. 

Creating a culture of advancement can contribute to increased employee satisfaction and engagement.

Low Salaries and Low Pay Raises

Low salaries and infrequent pay raises within organizations can make team members feel undervalued and underpaid. This can lead to dissatisfaction and a higher likelihood of seeking better-paying roles elsewhere. 

Moreover, it can impact motivation, productivity, and the overall quality of work. 

However, when organizations prioritize competitive pay rates and provide regular raises that align with cost-of-living adjustments and performance, they are better positioned to attract and retain high-performing team members. 

This, in turn, can enhance overall productivity and quality, facilitating goal achievement and organizational growth. By paying more competitively, organizations demonstrate their appreciation for team members’ hard work, fostering a positive company culture and improving overall employee satisfaction.

Insufficient Benefits

If organizations do not offer enough benefits, like health insurance and retirement plans, team members may feel unappreciated and experience personal difficulties that can affect their productivity. 

To tackle this issue, organizations must offer benefits packages that meet or exceed industry standards for specific roles, industries, or experience levels. 

By giving comprehensive and competitive benefits, companies can make team members feel more valued, secure, and supported. 

This can increase job satisfaction, productivity, and overall well-being of employees in the organization.

Poor Company Culture

A poor company culture arises when an organization consistently fails to align its actions with its stated beliefs and values. 

For instance, if an organization claims to prioritize work-life balance but fails to provide sufficient paid time off, it may be incongruent with its stated values. 

To improve company culture, it is essential to establish consistent and fair policies that reflect the organization’s values. 

Demonstrating values such as compassion and community fosters a positive culture. 

Additionally, promoting good behaviors and effective communication within the organization helps create an environment that nurtures a healthy and supportive company culture. 

By actively addressing and improving company culture, organizations can cultivate a more positive and engaging workplace for their team members.

Conflict and Issues Between Team Members

Conflicts and issues between team members and management can greatly affect team member satisfaction and overall productivity. If these problems are resolved properly, leaders and team members may become satisfied. 

Organizations can resolve conflicts by analyzing their causes and characteristics. They can then reorganize their teams to include people with personalities, work styles, skills, and interests compatible with each other.

To improve communication, efficiency, and overall satisfaction within a team, it is vital to promote a sense of belonging and mutual respect between team members and managers. 

Organizations can create a more harmonious and productive work environment by proactively addressing any incompatibilities and building positive relationships.

Impact of Employee Turnover

High employee turnover is a critical issue for all companies, regardless of size. It can have severe consequences, such as reduced productivity and increased recruitment, training, and onboarding costs. 

Moreover, it negatively affects employee morale and damages your company’s reputation. 

As a business owner, manager, or HR professional, it’s essential to understand these impacts and take proactive steps to address and resolve the issue.

Here are some of the effects of employee turnover:

Lost of Revenue

High employee turnover not only incurs costs in recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and training replacements, but it can also directly impact revenue generation. 

Consider the scenario where your top salesperson leaves and joins a competitor. 

With their established client relationships, those clients may follow the departing employee to the new company, even if it means switching to a competitor.

This risk becomes even more detrimental if you don’t have an immediate replacement who can seamlessly take over the departing employee’s responsibilities and maintain client engagement. 

Ultimately, high turnover rates hinder your revenue generation potential and may provide an advantage to your competitors.

Decline in Productivity

As per a HubSpot productivity report, high employee turnover results in decreased productivity, with annual costs of up to $1.8 trillion for U.S. businesses. 

Losing experienced employees voluntarily has a profound impact on a company. Vacancies that cannot be filled quickly lead to a strain on existing staff, resource reallocation, and increased workload. 

This overwhelms employees, causing stress and subpar performance. The search for replacements and training processes further hinder productivity, adding to the challenges of employee turnover.

Difficulty in Recruiting

High turnover poses challenges in recruiting top talent for your company. The negative impact on your company’s reputation makes it difficult for you to attract qualified candidates. 

When your company is seen as a revolving door, potential employees may be reluctant to apply or join your team, exacerbating the problem.

Companies with high turnover are often subject to assumptions about dissatisfaction with work or management and poor company culture. 

These assumptions deter quality candidates from considering your organization. 

Consequently, struggling to attract prospective candidates becomes an indirect cost associated with high turnover issues.

Decrease in Motivation and Enthusiasm

High turnover breeds low morale. The resulting stress leaves employees overworked and burnt out. 

Additional responsibilities fall on existing staff until new hires are onboarded, further contributing to a negative work atmosphere. 

Even new employees may be disheartened by ongoing turnover. This creates a cycle of diminishing morale and a growing desire for employees to leave.

Additionally, when close colleagues depart, employee engagement is affected. The remaining employees must be more focused and inattentive and may consider their job search.

High turnover’s impact on morale leads to disengagement, demotivation, and reduced employee satisfaction.

Reducing employee turnover

While some reasons are not within an organization’s control and cannot be avoided, by doing right by your people, you can help retain top talent and the desired reputation for your organization.

Here are some ways to lower employee turnover in your workplace:

  • Hire the right people from the start. Interview and vet candidates carefully to ensure they have the right skills and fit well with the company culture, managers, and co-workers. Make sure candidates have realistic expectations of the position and what it entails.
  • To ensure fairness and consistency in evaluations, it is crucial to establish clear guidelines for both peer and manager assessments. Implement a standardized evaluation process across all departments and teams while also incorporating function-specific adjustments to provide relevant feedback. Collaborate with managers, team leaders, and HR to develop shared metrics and performance indicators, ensuring everyone is evaluated equitably, regardless of their team or department.
  • Ensure that your organization sets the right compensation and benefits for its employees. Collaborate closely with the HR department to gather up-to-date data on industry pay packages. It’s important to stay competitive and consider creative approaches to benefits, flexible work schedules, and bonus structures when necessary. By offering attractive compensation and benefits, your organization will be better positioned to attract and retain top talent.
  • Review and update team members’ job descriptions to align with their current responsibilities and goals. Schedule meetings to discuss and compare job descriptions with actual duties. Update as needed to ensure an accurate reflection of roles, which aids in determining suitable compensation packages. This proactive approach maintains clarity and alignment between expectations and performance.
  • When reviewing team members’ job descriptions and responsibilities, ensure that their goals are realistic and ambitious. Assess whether these goals can be achieved within the allocated time and available resources. This evaluation allows for effective workload allocation, potentially reducing overwork and burnout among team members.
  • Invest in a professional development or learning platform for your team. Partner with a reputable platform that offers courses, assessments, and certifications. Funding this service eliminates the financial burden on team members, enhancing satisfaction and loyalty. If budget constraints exist, seek out recommended resources for team members to access independently.
  • Create a positive work environment through meaningful recognition and praise from managers. Implement regular team-building activities to foster bonding and improve communication. These activities range from training sessions to social outings. By organizing such events, team members feel more connected, fostering camaraderie and friendship. This contributes to positive company culture, overall satisfaction, and improved retention.
  • Schedule annual reviews to assess and adjust team members’ salaries. Consider cost-of-living adjustments, sustained exceptional performance, and recent professional or educational achievements during these reviews. This demonstrates to your team members that the organization recognizes and values their values.
  • Provide regular feedback.  Employees are hungry for feedback that makes them better. Weekly feedback sessions are fast and effective at making employees feel valued and heard.
  • Conduct stay interviews with team members to gather their feedback and insights. These one-on-one discussions focus on various aspects, including company culture, managers, teammates, and their roles within the organization. Stay interviews promote open communication, enabling leadership to improve the organization and enhance the team member experience, ultimately increasing retention.
  • Exit interviews and attitude surveys. It sounds simple enough, right? When someone leaves, ask them why. But it can be hard to get someone who may have been unhappy to answer honestly. Managers must address these carefully and constructively use the information to improve the organization.

What do you think? What else can managers do to reduce employee turnover and retain top employees?

By: Curran Daly + Associates


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