Does Your Organization Suffer from Chronic Churn?

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A colleague of mine once worked with a small private university that needed to hire a new Admissions Director. They were convinced if they found the perfect team member, their enrollment issues would be solved.

In the span of five years, they went through four employees in that position. Some didn’t even last a year. University administrators were baffled. Each person they hired had all the right qualifications, but never seemed to meet expectations once they joined the team. What was happening?

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of this issue. In fact, it’s a common concern among businesses who hire me for consulting and training.

I call this problem “chronic churn”, and after working with dozens of businesses battling this issue, I’ve found three key strategies that can help stop the churn.

Accept that the Perfect Employee Doesn’t Exist

Most companies who experience chronic churn are looking for the perfect employee. They find someone who looks great on paper but are ultimately disappointed when that employee doesn’t live up to the hype.

While it’s important to get the right people on the bus, we sometimes get tunnel vision when it comes to hiring. Resumes can help identify people who have the skills to do a job, but it’s also important to find someone who is a good fit for your organizational culture.

The truth is this: the perfect employee doesn’t exist. Instead of looking for the perfect hire, look for people who have the right skills and the potential for development and growth.

Develop A Culture of Success

The university I mentioned thought they were hiring the wrong people when, in fact, most of their hires were well qualified for the job. The problem was that university leadership wasn’t creating an environment that made people want to stay. There were few leadership development opportunities, little to no job training, and unclear expectations. In short, they were sabotaging their employees’ success.

As leaders, we can become so focused on hiring the perfect person that we forget to create a culture that empowers existing employees to be successful and buy in to the company’s mission and vision. To stop the churn, look at what you are doing to either develop employees or create a culture where they can be successful.

Focus on Strengths

Try this exercise with your team: for one week, focus only on what your people are doing right. Write it down. Praise them. Highlight their strengths. Unless there is an action or mistake that is going to cause a major problem, ignore what they do wrong.

My clients who take on this challenge are often astounded at the change. Employee morale goes up, productivity increases, and people make fewer mistakes.

That doesn’t mean we should never address our faults. There is a time and a place for constructive criticism. However, leaders often focus on what employees aren’t doing when they need to change their focus to what their people are doing.

Research shows that the strongest teams have a 5:1 positive to negative ratio. This doesn’t happen all at once, but over time. Good leaders find ways to balance praise with constructive criticism. They help employees work from success rather than stress, and it gives teams the confidence to correct mistakes and ask for help when they need it – and that gives them a reason to stay.

It’s All About Perspective

Chronic churn is less about hiring the wrong person and more about the culture and leadership style that is part of your organization.

Remember, it’s important to focus on your hiring process, but once you’ve hired, you’re not done. The process is just starting – for you and your new employee.

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