Employee turnover is one of the most disruptive parts of running a business, highlights Charlotte Boffey.

It can happen for a range of reasons, from retirements to resignations to redundancies. But whatever the cause, research shows there is a serious risk that one or two departures starts a landslide of “turnover contagion”.

Our recent Talent Insights Report found recent reductions in headcount was the number one reason cited by employees who were hoping their next role would be at a new company. It was cited as a top reason by 42 percent of these potential leavers.

When staff are made redundant or are not replaced, the staff that are still there can suddenly feel a lot less secure in their job than they did previously. Other changes can just add to a sense of insecurity and make work harder. The temptation to jump to a safer ship kicks in – another top reason cited in our survey was “I think I can get a more secure role elsewhere”, cited by 30 percent of these potential leavers.

How to stop the contagion: Security. As the economic picture darkens we saw an overall rush to security across the survey. Asked what would encourage them to stay in their current role, 18 percent of workers said “an assurance of job security”. Other proxies for security were even more popular – the top reason cited was “a salary increase” at 45 percent. People who get pay increases don’t feel like their job is about to disappear.

Communication is more than key

Not every firm can afford to give employees bonuses or pay-rises to make sure they know they are valued. Indeed, doing this at the same time as reducing overall headcount could be particularly problematic. So how should employers going through a reduction in headcount make sure the employees who stay know they are valued and secure? Tell them.

Proactive and thoughtful communication with employees at these tough points is key – make sure the people who you need to keep your business running know how much you value them. Be honest about the state of the business without giving them undue cause for concern. Some of your best people might not have any idea of how much you value them – a simple personalised note will change that.

If you can, make clear that their job is safe and the current redundancy round or other headcount reduction is over. Make clear that you d0 not see the company shrinking forever, and there are still big opportunities for their career within it.

What about learning and development?

Offering some sort of training or other development opportunity is a great way to show employees that you are there for the long term with them. Do not just quietly assume your best people know that you want them to step up at some point – make clear that this is a goal and help them achieve it. Good HR software like Employment Hero will help set these goals in stone, not just as half-hearted commitments made every three months at quarterly review meetings.

Anonymising and formalising feedback can also do a lot to prevent problems before they metastasise. Employment Hero offers anonymous happiness surveys for employees to complete which are a great tool for getting an overall picture of employee wellbeing and workload. A key resignation might result in a serious increase in workload for one team that you need to know about, and spread the load if possible.

These rough economic waters won’t last forever. Getting through them with your team intact will require some work, but it will be worth it on the other side.


Charlotte Boffey is UK head of services at Employment Hero.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.