You've probably heard of it happening. One employee quits or is fired, and suddenly people are leaving in droves.
This phenomenon is called "turnover contagion," and is a real concern for many companies. It has become particularly common during the pandemic era, where many people are reevaluating their careers.
Turnover contagion is when employees react to another employee quitting by quitting themselves. It turns into a domino effect of departures that can leave a company, especially a small one, very much in the lurch.
Turnover contagion is essentially the result of typical social cues, but it generally has a few causes:
In a few cases, a departing employee may intentionally try to take others with them if they are particularly dissatisfied. This can also happen as a cascade over a period of months, where the departing employee(s) are asked to refer others to positions at their new job and reach out to former coworkers.
First of all, the obvious way to reduce turnover contagion is to reduce turnover in general. You don't have to worry about people quitting in sympathy when the first person doesn't quit in the first place. In addition, you should:
Above all, make sure that if you have to fire somebody, it has not just the reality, but the appearance of fairness. Nothing creates turnover contagion faster than unfair treatment.
We've already mentioned the way your competition might use your ex employee to poach more of your staff, whether deliberately or not.
Headhunters pay attention, and if it appears that people are leaving a company in droves, they are likely to see this as an opportunity. They will target your best remaining staff and offer them better positions elsewhere. The only way to stop this is, as already mentioned, to increase your focus on retention.
Retaining your best employees is ultimately how you prevent turnover contagion. Of course, you may also be in a position to take advantage when it happens to others.
Joel Cheesman is the founder and all-around handyman at Poach. When he's not busy putting together the world's most perfect poaching machine, he's creating content like this. He calls Indianapolis, Ind. home.