Friday, March 29, 2019

The Terrors of Employee Turnover

By Ben Kinsey, CPA

Image courtesy Pixabay
Ask any business owner what’s one thing that keeps them awake at night and nine times out of ten they’ll say their employees.  Whether it’s a fear of having their employees do something that harms the business or sweating the fact that all too many employees simply punch the clock while others are all too easily swayed to jump onto a competitor’s ship, the credo of many a business owner is, “It’s hard to find good help.” 

That being said, if you want to keep employee turnover from scuttling your ship of commerce, you also need to step back and take a look at how your employees perceive you.  Just as no employer wants to hire deadwood, no employee wants to work for Captain Ahab who beseeches his employees to commit body and soul into hunting that accursed white whale. 

A Job is a Job

Even if a business owner does all the right things during the hiring process, that doesn’t mean he or she will wind up with employees that are going to be ready, willing and able to complete the tasks at hand.  This is particularly true if the owner doesn’t take the time to initially train and supervise new hires.  (And by supervise, I don’t mean micromanage.)  Some employers complain that they don’t have enough time in the day to train, much less supervise all their employees.  To that I say hogwash.  

Sure, it takes time to hire and train, but with modern conveniences like podcasts and video, even a working boss with little time on his or her hands can take the time to teach one employee the ropes while a video camera is running.  Then they can sit the next hire down to have them watch the video, with a short Q&A session afterwards.  When Ray Kroc began franchising McDonald’s restaurants, he quickly realized that the only way to give customers a quality product was by instituting a mandatory training class that made sure all their franchisees did the same things the same way.

Three Kinds of Employees

Image courtesy Pixabay
When it comes to employees, there are only three types.  1.Those that put body and soul into the job.  2.  Those that do the least effort for the greatest gain and 3. Those that actively undermine a business.  The problem is a 1 can quickly turn into a 2 and eventually into a 3 if you aren’t careful.  That’s right, even ta well-intentioned employee can backslide down an all too slippery slope in a hurry if they feel their efforts aren’t being appreciated.  While many employers feel that things like salaries, benefits and bonuses should be appreciation enough, employees don’t feel the same way.  Sure, they want to be compensated for their efforts.  Who doesn’t?  But if the compensation comes at the crack of a whip, it won’t be long before frustration leads to dissatisfaction which leads to subversion. 

Lead or Drive?

One of my favorite TV sitcoms of all times was Taxi.  Who can forget little Louie DePalma who derived pleasure only when he was turning the screws on his cabbies?  While his character was fictional, there are all too many real-life Louie’s out there whose only contact with their employees is to point out what they’ve done wrong.  Believe it or not, it’s just as easy to give your employees a pat on the back as it is a kick in the butt.  More importantly, if your employees seldom get praised, the only thing they’ll remember are all the times you scolded them, which can cause a rift that can soon become impossible to close.  If your business seems to experience higher than normal turnover, the first thing you have to ask yourself is if you’re leading or driving your employees.  It also doesn’t hurt to build into your corporate culture a few diversions designed to breed camaraderie and foster esprit de corps.  While business meetings are important, when was the last time your company sponsored a Blue Jeans Day or gathered your staff together for a pizza or to watch a sporting event together?

My Way of the Highway?

Image courtesy Pixabay
Even if your company prides itself on being a great place to work, do your employees have a ready-made ladder to success or a slide down the chute to oblivion?  Forbes Magazine pointed out that employees can stagnate if left in the same job for too long.  Burnout leads to disappointment which leads to searching for a better position with another (possibly competing) firm.  Business owners who wish to minimize employee turnover go out of their way to make sure their employees have a clear path forward that leads to advancement and career satisfaction.  Even if a move is only a lateral one, helping employees feel empowered can make them strive to do better and stay longer with their existing firm.

Another motivating factor for many employees is to feel they have some control over their work schedule, particularly if they have a family.  One of the quickest ways to help an employee achieve job satisfaction is to allow them to create a work-life balance that allows them to have a job and a life at the same time.  While flexible schedules aren’t possible in all businesses or even in certain job descriptions within a business, those who can offer employees more control over their work schedule find these employees are much more likely to stay in their employ longer while feeling more job satisfaction than those who are chained to a rigid schedule.

Just as in Herman Melville’s tale, if you really want to experience terror, what all you captain’s of industry should really be worried about is whether your crew is going to help you bag your whale or whether they plan on turning their harpoons against their master.

Ben Kinsey, CPA of Small Business Group works with owners of closely held corporations in the Northeast Florida region.  If you work in the North Florida area we offer a FREE initial Consultation at our office, please contact Small Business Group if you would like to know more about strategies for your business.


  1. Another thing employers need to be wary of is the potential for disgruntled employees to sue their employer.

  2. Employees are problematic in the age of accusation without proof and sue crazy lawyers looking to cash in on businesses willing to settle out of court,