Measuring Employee Retention and Turnover


Employee Retention, senior living consulting, senior living consultant, Moore Diversified Services I recently completed a two-webinar series on employee retention/turnover. If you did not have a chance to watch those in person, please visit our YouTube channel at MDSseniorliving to view any of our past webinars. Probably the most asked question after each of these webinars was “How do you measure employee turnover/retention?” I thought this would be a good space to go into employee turnover/retention measurement a little bit further.

Defining Employee Retention and Turnover

It might be helpful to define retention and turnover. There are multiple definitions and different ways to measure each of these so I will discuss the generally accepted standard definitions. Measuring employee retention usually means picking some timeframe to measure what percentage of employees have been employed with the company that long. I generally use a year as a base for retention, but the time period can be adjusted to suit your specific needs. Employee turnover is anyone who separates from the company, either voluntarily or involuntarily, and must be replaced. This could be due to retirement, being a stay-at-home parent, other self-induced separations, and forced separations.

Attainable Employee Turnover Rates

Due to the definition of employee turnover, it is highly unlikely that any company would ever have a 0% employee turnover rate. While it may sound somewhat counterintuitive at this point, actually having 0% employee turnover rate in larger organizations would not be a good thing. It seems there will always be those in which we have to ask to leave our employment and those that move-on on their own. Additionally, bringing in new people to an organization leads to fresh ideas and new perspectives on old methods. Generally a 10% – 20% turnover rate is acceptable and attainable.

While not a lot of people measure it, job vacancy can be a crucial workforce indicator. There is an inherent cost to vacant positions, which are somewhat more difficult to calculate but it can be done. Vacancies can have a toll on workforce morale due to the added load it puts on other employees, as well as affecting customer relationships through poor service. If employee overtime is at an escalated level or has been steadily increasing and/or customer satisfaction ratings are dropping, it may also be a good idea to look at the position vacancy ratio.

To calculate this measure, divide the average number of vacant positions over a specific time frame by the total number of authorized positions in the company or department.

Calculating Employee Turnover

So let’s start off by looking at employee retention of one year or more. You would take the number of employees who have been employed at your company for one year or longer and divide that by the average number of current filled positions. In measuring retention and turnover, if the number of filled positions fluctuates during the time periods you measure, it would be best to take an average of filled positions. This could be done by taking the filled positions at the beginning of the month and those at the end of the month and running a simple average.

When measuring employee turnover, there are a few more steps that we may want to go through. This can be done over any time frame in which you desire. The only thing you’ll need to remember is that you will need to annualize for any time periods that are less than a year. Because the number of separated employees will more than likely continue to grow throughout the year and the number of filled positions will remain fairly constant, the number should be annualized for consistency.

If you’re comparing one month to one month or one quarter you can use the raw number, but to measure employee turnover for one month and to use that rate to speak in general terms of employee turnover would be incorrect. A good general measurement to start with is to take all the people that separated within a specific time and divide that number by the average number of filled positions during the same time period.

There are many variations of detail in which you can measure employee turnover. While the general overall turnover of a company or department is a good place to start, if it’s a small company a large number can be misleading because there are not a lot of total employees. Therefore, each employee who leaves will appear magnified. In just the reverse, if you’re within a very large organization, a generally low number may cover up hotspots within departments or divisions within the company. For these reasons there are a few more steps that I would recommend.

Length of Employment

Probably the most important secondary measure of turnover would be the factor of time. Usually a large amount of employee turnover happens within the first year of employment, with most of that coming within the first 60 days. Selected time periods should be looked at in depth in order to find problem areas within the system. I would recommend looking at 30 day, 60 day, 90 day intervals as well as 180 day, 270 day, and 365 day increments. In order to measure this segment of turnover you would take the number of separations during the specific time period divided by the total number of separations. This should help you isolate any troubled spots.

Some of the other areas that you may want to measure would be voluntary and involuntary separations, high achievers versus low achievers, male versus female, turnover by department, and other variables that may be important to your company. These sub-measures will help you isolate any problem area to allow greater focus of developing targeted solutions.

Employee Turnover – A Runaway Locomotive

This has been a very simplistic view of employee retention/turnover measuring and I hope it has help you in some way.  When I speak of other Income Statement and Cash killers such as “Cost Creep,” I call it the silent killer, but Employee Turnover is just the opposite.  It is the runaway locomotive barreling down the tracks through the middle of town with everyone running and screaming to get away from it, but very few addressing the large looming issue head on. It’s difficult, there are no doubts about it, but the cost to your organization is extremely high where measureable, and damaging in areas that are unmeasurable.

If you are experiencing high employee turnover, I would encourage you to give me a call. We can work together to solve this issue. It is not one that can be solved overnight, but it is one that can be solved. Think about each employee and the cost associated with them when they walk out the door. The cost is astronomical when you assign a dollar figure to it. And there is also the toll it takes on your residents, those who need change the least.

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Roy Barker is Director of Special Projects at Moore Diversified Services, a Fort-Worth, Texas-based organization specializing in senior living operations analysis, marketing development, and investment advisory services. Roy is an authority in the field of employee turnover analysis and retention strategies.


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