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How to Get Ahead of Employee Turnover (Hint: Don’t Wait for Exit Interviews!)

September 4, 2019 Amy Shapiro

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review points out that more employees are voluntarily leaving their jobs than at almost any other time this millennium.

The author goes on to recommend ways that companies can learn from these resigning employees, including reflecting on the nature of the resignation, collecting data to understand the cause of the resignation, and considering its broader organizational implications. This is supposed to allow for the organization to improve, and over time, potentially reduce the amount of voluntary turnover.

As I read this, I couldn’t help but think that this recommendation relies on a very reactive process.

Why are we waiting for employees to leave the organization before we start asking questions and collecting data?

The negative impact of losing a strong employee is clear: Turnover can cost employers 33% of an employee’s annual salary, including hiring costs like fees to recruiters, advertising, interview expenses, signing bonuses, relocation costs, etc.  And, when someone leaves an organization, it can be very disruptive for the teams they leave behind. Current employees take on that person’s work, spend time onboarding and training new employees—and there can be a loss of morale.

The cost is especially high for organizations that can’t attract, retain, or advance women leaders. At the organizational level, according to McKinsey’s study entitled “Delivering Through Diversity,” companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. 

And, the impact of not advancing women extends far beyond the organization. Research shows that the gender gap in leadership has huge implications for the overall global economy. In fact, if women were to participate more equally and fully in the workplace, it could drive $28 trillion in growth—the size of the US and China economies put together.  

Wouldn’t it be better if organizations could get ahead of the issue, before a talented woman leaves the organization? What if organizations could gather data and understand the leading indicators behind not only a woman leader’s decision to eventually leave but her decision to join the organization in the first place, stay and accept new leadership opportunities within, and thrive?

At Linkage, we work with organizations who understand the power of accessing data that can help them proactively make decisions about how to retain and advance their best female talent.

Our Advancing Women Organizational Assessment is deployed by organizations looking to gain access to the leading indicators that will empower them to proactively meet the needs of a population critical to their overall success.

We’ve crunched the numbers, and here’s what we’ve discovered from years of deploying the Advancing Women Organizational Assessment. There are four organizational dimensions that are critical to the advancement of women leaders:

  1. Culture: The extent to which an organization’s values and culture support the advancement of women
  2. Talent Systems: The extent to which an organization’s people systems and policies allow for the advancement of women
  3. Focused Leadership Development for Women: The extent to which an organization is educating and providing development experiences to its best female talent
  4. Executive Action: The extent to which key leaders in an organization are involved in visible, targeted efforts to support, develop, and advance women

With detailed insights into these four dimensions, organizations can track opportunity and progress on key factors that ultimately influence a woman’s decisions about her future at the organization.

These leading indicators allow organizations to capture the current state of their organization, measure meaningful progress, and make decisions proactively about how to transform their organization into one where women can, and choose to, thrive. 

Yes, it is important for organizations to conduct exit interviews and talk to colleagues of those that have left the organization.

But, we can’t wait for the “two weeks’ notice” conversation before we take action.

Instead, we all have a responsibility to get ahead of the issue, look to the leading indicators, and proactively create an environment where all employees, including women, feel a sense of belonging—and stick around.

Linkage’s Advancing Women Organizational Assessment (AWOA) is a research-backed, diagnostic assessment tool designed to equip organizations with the critical benchmark data and insights they need to develop a comprehensive and meaningful strategy to advance women leaders.

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