People First HR Services

Help your firm avoid revolving-door reputation

Colleen Coates
No organization wants to have a revolving-door reputation, gaining notoriety as a place where employees tend to enter and leave quickly.

Having an alarming rate of traffic move through the office has a negative impact on all areas. Losing good people and then training replacements means productivity slows down. Without continuity, operational flow is interrupted.

Morale certainly suffers as seasoned staffers wonder who will be next to go and leave them to pick up the extra work or carry out unfinished projects, or else they avoid making meaningful connections with newcomers lest they too disappear by the end of the quarter. And once word gets out that the company has a retention issue, potential employees stay far away, deciding that the work environment must be toxic.

To be successful, organizations need both young people with fresh ideas and outside perspective and longtime workers with valuable knowledge and skills that has been developed and refined over time. But to ensure that the organization can retain both valuable groups, they need to be aware of what employees value. Creating job enrichment includes implementing practices that will motivate your people in a work environment that fosters productivity.

I have previously discussed the importance of clearly communicating goals so that both the employer and employee are on the same page when it comes to expectations. We’ve also covered how essential it is for employers to acknowledge hard work, loyalty and extraordinary achievement by offering genuine rewards ranging from public thank you’s to employee luncheons, awards and gifts. These still go a long way toward having a healthy and productive workplace.

Some other ideas:

Plan more effective meetings. This means setting an agenda, a goal and a time limit before the meeting commences. Too many bosses hold meetings for the wrong reasons: because they are insecure (is everything going OK?), boredom (what else am I going to do today?) or because they think it’s what they should do. Don’t waste your people’s time. Keep meetings swift and action-oriented with very few problems to resolve.

Rearrange your workspace. Want to get your people out of a rut? Try doing some office-space cleaning to shake up work spaces. Dumping clutter, moving furniture and changing monitor positions can act like a reset button in the way we work.

Give your people room to work — both literally and figuratively. Studies have shown that giving employees quiet spaces to work allows them to focus on critical details. Give them an environment without distraction — and that includes backing off and letting them get things done on their own. It’s Productivity 101: plan with other people, but execute without them.

However, it is flexibility that seems to be a major key to keeping employees happy for the long haul. Employees are traditionally healthier, more productive and better engaged when they have some say into how, where and when they work.

Wherever possible, try to remove rigid controls and respond to your people’s individual work styles. Allow them to be more independent when it comes to setting their own schedules, deadlines and processes.

Sound scary?

Most managers are wary of giving employees added flexibility. They worry that there will be people who will take advantage of the arrangement or are not sure they can administer it in a way that is flexible and fair to everyone.

But the truth is, flexibility works when it’s established in a culture that focuses on getting results that matter most to the business. Once everyone understands the goals of the organization and the expectations that come along with it, those results can be defined accordingly.

We all have our own definition of what a flexible culture looks like, which is great because we each tend to work in different ways. Some people like blending their work and family roles, some choose to keep them completely separate. Some want to stay in touch with the office while on vacation, some regard workplace communication as an intrusion on their hard-earned time off. The employer should help employees to mesh their preferences and needs to the reality of what needs to get done at work.

Rather than trying to swim against the tide of your employees’ time and attention, give your people a choice in how they manage their productivity. It has tremendous benefit. Once they feel empowered, employees speak up and feel accountable for the work they accomplish and this makes them want to contribute more.

Having a greater sense of control of their time and energy also helps employees view their workplace as supportive and caring, which in turn makes them more loyal and likely to stay. It is an effective way to put a stopper in the revolving door.


— With reporting by Barbara Chabai


Colleen Coates, CHRP, CCP, is a practice leader with People First HR Services Ltd. She can be contacted at



CAAR Communicator, April 2012; “Job Enrichment: Solutions for Retaining X and Y”



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 17, 2012 H1