State of Alaska, Department of Administration, Division of Personnel and Labor Relations

Classification: Turnover Concerns

This page focuses on assisting you with situations that you might encounter and questions or concerns that you might have about turnover as it pertains to the work of your department, division, unit, and staff. Within the following you will find information and guidance on the role of Classification in personnel administration and dealing with various issues related to employee turnover. Some of your own questions or concerns may lead you elsewhere within our site. However, we may also be able to address them here. We encourage you to investigate all of the prospective questions and concerns, even if at first glance they don't initially appear to cover yours.

So that we're on the same page, what is turnover and what are the different types of turnover that I might encounter?

Turnover is the inevitable rate at which an employer gains and loses employees (a.k.a., the measurement of how long employees tend to stay in their jobs). Turnover may be classified between two forms:

  • Internal when employees leave one State position for another:
    Although this may be troublesome for managers, it may also be seen as a positive sign that State career paths are clear and available, and that State managers are providing workforce development in a way that promotes career State service. This may be a sign that we are efficiently "growing our own."

  • External when employees separate from State service for other employment:
    There are many possible causes of external turnover including differentials between public and private sector pay, perceived and actual limits on career growth, career changes, relocations, and major life events. There are three causes of external turnover:
    1. Layoff: this form is always painful and is often the result of events that are hard to predict and prepare for. Staffing to address average rather than peak workflows is one technique that might mitigate layoff.
    2. Dismissal: sure, there was a performance issue, but could it have been avoided through training and coaching? Do you have a section with unusually higher rates of dismissal?
    3. Resignation: Exit surveys are vital in clearly understanding why staff is leaving are there environmental issues? Coaching issues? Do employees perceive a lack of career development opportunities? Do managers and supervisors initiate a sincere and meaningful on-boarding program? Or is it some other situation?

What effects of turnover can I reasonably anticipate?

Turnover can be seen as both:
  • A Liability, resulting in:
    • Lost productivity.
    • Increased training and recruitment costs.
    • Gaps in customer services.
  • And, an Asset, which may:
    • Refresh an organization's "gene pools" of talented employees.
    • Provide more career opportunities for remaining employees.

How do I measure turnover within my department, division, unit, and staff?

Turnover is measured as the ratio (or percentage) of employees leaving (i.e., separations) to the number of active positions within a given period of time. There are three pertinent Turnover Ratios that may be calculated as follows:
  • Monthly:
    # monthly separations/# active positions for the month X 100 = %

    For Example: your office has 3 separations within 21 active positions for a given month. Thus: (3 separations / 21 PCNs) x 100 =14.3% Monthly Turnover Rate

  • Annual:
    # yearly separations/# active positions for the year X 100 = %

  • First Year:
    # separations in first year of employment/# total separations in same period X 100 = %

How much turnover is considered a problem?

Once a turnover ratio is available it can be compared to State and national statistics, which may be obtained through such sources as our Employee Planning & Information Center (EPIC), federal Bureau of Labor and Statistics, pertinent trade journals or blogs (e.g., http://www.compensationforce.com/2011/03/2010-turnover-rates-by-industry.html), or through internal survey of your department.

Comparing the calculated rate(s) of your department, division, unit, and/or office to those of others will roughly indicate if your turnover is on par. Your turnover is problematic if your ratio is higher than that of everyone else.

Why can't I just pay my staff more so that they are more willing to stay?

State job classes are assigned to a pay range based on internal alignment within a job family through analysis of the similarities and differences among that family's job classes in terms of levels of skill, difficulty, responsibility, and authority. The dollar value of each pay range is determined through collective bargaining agreement. You may also reference the Compensation Concerns page for further information about this topic.

Workforce studies indicate that compensation is only one factor (of many) that contributes to turnover. Happiness with work, safety and other physical workplace conditions, job performance, lack of career opportunities and challenges, and dissatisfaction or conflicts with supervisors and management are all pertinent and strong factors contributing to high turnover. In addition, national trends indicate that today's workforce stays in positions for much shorter durations than only twenty years ago.

Mitigating turnover requires that you take a much more holistic effort than simply raising pay. To be respectfully direct, focusing purely upon compensation as a remedy to turnover is frequently ineffectual over the long run as there are often additional variables involved for which no amount of pay may offset until they are also addressed. It is strongly recommended that you continue to review the other topical pages in order to build a more comprehensive and effective assessment of your unit's turnover.

How can I better manage turnover?

Turnover is an inevitable part of any workforce. Less skilled positions, such as Office Assistants I, often have high turnover, and employees can generally be replaced without the department incurring any substantial loss of performance. These employees tend to quickly seek, and eventually find, promotional employment. Conversely high turnover rates of skilled professionals can pose as a risk to the department due to the lost investment in training and knowledge.

Some types of turnover, like those stemming from retirement, spousal employment opportunities, and lifestyle relocations, are all expected and, for the most part, not preventable.

Other types of turnover are preventable. Employees may struggle because of insufficient training and coaching or the wrong skills for the job. Some turnover may be a product of environmental issues, such as workplace safety. Supervisor and coworker relations may heavily factor in an employee's decision to leave.

Well-formulated formal training plans and routine career development, such as establishing flexible staffing plans, focused supervisory training, regular and improved constructive feedback, and facilitating an atmosphere of coaching and partnership, as well as consistently updated position descriptions to assure pay reflects the work being performed may all help prevent turnover.

For assistance with enhancing your skills in coaching and training, please contact DOPLR's Training & Development Section, which provides professional supervisory, management, leadership, EEO compliance, and interpersonal skills training development and delivery.

How can I better prepare for turnover due to the looming retirement of a lot of my staff?

The State of Alaska is expecting large numbers of retirements in the next five years. Established and formal knowledge transfer programs should be ongoing. Documenting work processes, techniques, standards, precedents, and historical knowledge in widely available documents like desk manuals and standard operating procedures can go a long way to reducing the effect a retirement can have on a section's productivity. All of these steps can mitigate the pain from other types of turnover as well.

For assistance with evaluating your preparation for impending retirements, you should contact the appropriate HR staff serving your department.

How can I stem the tide of employees leaving right after I've completed their training?

In many cases internal turnover is a double edged sword. On the one hand managers and supervisors don't want to see staff leave after they have invested large amounts of time and money into that staff's training and development. Having them leave only months, or even weeks, after they learn the job can be a drain on resources as well as morale.

On the other hand, internal turnover is a sign that staff are happy with State service and that they feel a career ladder is available here. Considering that national trends indicate today's workforce stays in a position for a much shorter duration than only twenty years ago, if the major steps outlined above to prevent turnover have been taken, there are times when turnover must be considered normal and the ability to limit it to internal turnover should be applauded.

I wasn't able to find my particular questions and concerns here. What other options do I have?

We encourage you to continue reviewing our other pages. However, if you are either certain that your questions and concerns are not covered elsewhere, or have looked and still not found an answer, please do not hesitate to email us directly at the Classification Section.