Voluntary Turnover

Ryan Archibald
Ryan Archibald

Table of Contents

Shock and disbelief: your best employee has submitted their resignation. How can you prevent this from happening? Read on to learn the primary causes of voluntary turnover, how to calculate it, and tips on how to prevent it.

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What Is Voluntary Turnover?

Voluntary turnover is an HR metric that measures the amount of a company’s workforce who end their employment for their own reasons and not the company’s reasons.

Primary Causes of Voluntary Turnover

An employee can end their employment for any reason. This section discusses five common reasons you may see at your organization.

Job Dissatisfaction

An employee can experience job dissatisfaction if they lack interest in their job or are overwhelmed by the stress associated with it.

Career Progression

Some positions only progress to a certain title or level of responsibility. Employees may leave to find a position that allows them to continue to advance their careers.

Poor Compensation

Employees leave when they realize competitors pay better and/or have better benefits.

Management Issues

An employee who feels bullied or harassed by a stressful relationship with their manager may feel resentful and leave the organization.

Lack of Flexibility

The kids get home from school, dentist appointments, the plumber is scheduled to come Tuesday—no one wants to schedule their life around their job. Employers who don’t provide flexibility may see an increase in voluntary turnover.

How to Calculate Voluntary Turnover

Collecting a few numbers and doing some quick math will give you the voluntary turnover rate for your organization.  Here’s how.

Step 1: Data Collection

In your HRIS system or other data-storage methods, you will have a record of terminations and a description of whether they were voluntary or involuntary. Find the total count for the previous 12 months (i.e., 25 employees left voluntarily in the last 12 months).

Second, you need to know the total employee headcount at the beginning of the same 12-month period (i.e., 250 total employees)

Step 2: Divide

Time for some math. Divide the number of employees who left voluntarily by the total employee headcount at the beginning of the 12 month period.

Example: 25 terminated employees / 250 total employees = 0.10

Step 3: Multiply by 100

Take the resulting amount and multiply by 100.

0.10 x 100 = 10

The result from our example is 10 and can be interpreted as a 10% voluntary turnover rate for the organization.

Tips to Prevent Voluntary Turnover

If your voluntary turnover rate seems high, see if you can narrow down the causes (exit interviews should gather this information) and address them. Besides the issues listed above (job dissatisfaction, lack of career progression, poor compensation, and lack of flexibility), the strongest way to prevent voluntary turnover is by fostering a positive relationship between managers and employees. The following tips will help you support managers in forming positive relationships with their teams.

Tip 1: Connected Managers

Managers who stay in contact with their employees can learn their concerns and quickly address them. Daily communication in the office helps prevent employees from even thinking about finding a new job.

Tip 2: Empathy

It is easy to feel powerless in the face of a problem an employee brings to you. Nevertheless, a few words that shows them you understand and care, or advice on how to begin tackling the problem, is support that increases the odds the employee will want to stay.

Tip 3: Empowered Managers

The importance of the relationship between manager and employee cannot be overstated. Managers are positioned to resolve employee concerns. An HR rep can support them in the decision-making process, but you should not force yourself in the middle.

For example, if an employee needs an accommodated schedule, partner with their manager. The manager will know if the team can maintain the same productivity as when the employee works their normal schedule.

Tip 4: Employee Recognition

Employees will leave if they feel their work doesn’t matter. Their manager is the best mentor to explain how an employee’s contribution helps fulfill the company’s mission.

Tip 5: Remove Toxic Leadership

Does a manager yell at their team or tell others it is their way or the highway? This dictatorship style of leadership will increase voluntary turnover in your organization. There are two options to deal with this behavior.

  • Coach the manager. As HR, you can coach the manager on their behavior and how it is driving turnover. If you need additional support, partner with the leader that manager reports to. In most cases, the manager can quickly change their leadership approach and prevent voluntary turnover.
  • Move to separation. If the manager refuses to be coached, the toxic manager’s employment should be terminated to maintain company culture and a positive team environment.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Voluntary Turnover

Turnover rates vary widely between industries. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (https://www.bls.gov/news.release/jolts.t18.htm) reports an overall average rate of voluntary turnover of 25.5% in 2020.
The cost to replace an employee who leaves voluntarily is typically around double the employee’s base annual salary.
Ryan Archibald
Ryan Archibald

Ryan is an HR Director with four years of experience and three masters degrees. One accomplishment he is proud of is the design and launch of a learning and development program for 800+ employees.

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