Reducing Talent Attrition: What are the causes of employee turnover?

Melissa Hall

Aug 09, 2023

Reducing Talent Attrition: What are the causes of employee turnover?


Predicting turnover can be a valuable tool in talent planning, as there are certain factors that can indicate someone’s inclination toward a long tenure or otherwise. If you can identify candidates who come with a low risk of early turnover, this could make a huge improvement to your hiring results.

There are many causes of employee turnover, many of which are beyond the control of employees themselves. However, it may be possible to predict a candidate’s ‘time to turnover’, by looking out for certain markers. Knowing what to look out for as indicators of an ‘early’ resignation can help you be more prepared in advance or positively influence your hiring strategies from the start…

Basic factors that cause early turnover

Let's face it, there are always factors that can reduce an employee's chances of sticking around for the long haul. One factor that can cause early turnover is a long commute, and anything over 45 minutes would constitute a long commute time. A long commute increases employee dissatisfaction and therefore can prompt someone to look for a new role much sooner. You should also know that the impact of a long commute is significantly bigger in lower-paying jobs, probably due to fuel costs taking up a larger proportion of their salary.

Another early warning signal is if a candidate prioritizes money as their primary motivator, as they may find themselves disappointed if the salary offered doesn't align with their expectations. 

However, it's important to note that emphasizing money over other factors, such as the position itself, can lead to potential challenges. Candidates who solely focus on financial compensation at interview stage may later realize that it doesn't compensate for a lack of progression opportunities or a less challenging role. In these cases, they may become more likely to leave the organization in search of a more fulfilling and rewarding position.

Screening out possible early leavers

It sounds obvious but low-interest or ‘ghosting’ behavior early in the process should not be overlooked. Similarly, if a candidate cancels an interview during the process or has any unexplained delays while considering your job offer, these are also signs of ‘low-interest’ which could mean they are still looking or interviewing for another new position.

If a candidate has a track record of hopping from one job to another in a short span of time, it's a possible warning sign. Of course, it's essential to dig deeper and ask why they made those moves. They might have had valid reasons for each departure, but your job is to assess whether there's a likelihood of them facing similar circumstances in the new role.

By proactively screening out candidates who have a history of early turnovers, you can save valuable time and resources invested in the recruitment process. You should ask potential employees why they left their last two roles, and compare these reasons with information gained from exit interviews from your own team. You must also ask them what other reasons are likely to make them want to look for an early exit and discount them as a viable candidate if any scenarios provided occurs frequently in your own company.

It's a smart move to focus on finding candidates who demonstrate stability and a genuine commitment to long-term growth with your organization. Remember, prevention is better than cure, especially when it comes to the costly business of recruitment.

Poor onboarding can frustrate employees early on

Employers should ensure their onboarding is strong and effective, that there is adequate initial training, and that the position is exactly as advertised. Onboarding is your new employee's first experience of your employer brand and culture; therefore, a poor onboarding experience will give a new hire a bad first impression of the company, as they may consider it an early indication of things to come.

Organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%, according to statistics from Glassdoor. This emphasizes the importance of a well-structured onboarding program. Companies with weak programs not only fail to instill confidence in their new recruits but also have a much higher likelihood of losing these individuals in their first year. This highlights the significant impact that onboarding can have on both employee retention and productivity.

Training also plays a crucial role, it must equip the new employee with the necessary skills and knowledge to perform to their best. Poor performance due to a lack of training can have a negative impact on morale.

In some cases, the issue may lie with the managers themselves, it's essential to monitor line managers to identify any patterns of early resignations. A manager with poor communication skills can be one of the biggest causes of employee turnover.

Peer interviews for accurate insights

Employees who have already proven their worth in terms of performance and tenure are perfectly positioned to gauge potential candidates. A neat tactic to take advantage of their insight on candidates is to undertake peer interviews.

This is where the candidate’s potential future team members conduct a more informal group interview without the presence of a formal interviewer or hiring manager. The team members can then have a more candid conversation on a more equal basis, with questions encouraged from everyone involved.

The hiring manager can then speak with these peers (preferably before they have a chance to discuss their thoughts with each other!) and get their opinions on whether or not the candidate is likely to last a significant time in the job.

But what are the indications of a long stay?

As well as recognizing signs that a candidate has the potential for an early turnover, hiring managers should also look out for signs that predict more favorable outcomes. For example, referred candidates are more likely to stay for a significant period of time, this is because the referring employee is more likely to act as a mentor, help with onboarding and continue to persuade them to stay. This is especially the case if the referral and the referring employee are close friends outside of work.

It is also a good sign if the candidate specifically targeted your company. They have clearly researched and admired your company, which predicts an above-average stay.

Perhaps one of the best ways to reduce turnover is providing clear opportunities for career progression. Training programs to help expand employees’ abilities along with genuine career advancement are vital for employee retention, and research shows that organizations that offer these retain their teams at a much higher rate.