3 Reasons Why Staff Turnover Fails To Measure Employee Engagement

by Stacey Barr |

Staff Turnover might be easy and familiar to measure, but it is a very poor way to measure employee engagement. Here are five reasons why.

When they have a strategic goal to improve employee engagement, many people default to an easy and familiar measure: Staff Turnover, the percentage of staff that leave the organisation. But neither ‘easy’ nor ‘familiar’ are good criteria for the relevance of a measure for a goal. Here’s why:

Reason #1. It measures a symptom of the result, not the result itself.

Staff Turnover measures the amount of staff leaving the organisation. It doesn’t distinguish why those staff leave, and we all know that the reasons someone would leave an organisation are wide and varied.

That they feel disengaged is just one possible reason among many: they were fired, they retired, they have family commitments, they felt like a career change, they have a health problem, they’re moving to a new city, and so on.

Reason #2. It is a lag measure, at best.

Staff leaving the organisation happens well after they have been feeling disengaged – if it happens at all for this reason.

It’s too late to re-engage people after they’ve left. A better measure of engagement is one that can detect a shift in engagement before it becomes a problem.

Reason #3. An increase might be good or bad, depending on your aims.

One strategy for improving engagement of staff might be to allow the people who don’t – and likely won’t ever – fit the culture to leave. That means you’re aiming for an increase in Staff Turnover for these people.

But you’d still need to know who isn’t very engaged and why. So we still need a better measure of engagement before we can even use Staff Turnover as a tool to help manage it.

How to meaningfully measure employee engagement.

Of course, Staff Turnover is not the only example of where the wrong measure is used as evidence of a performance result. Customer Satisfaction is not a good measure of how loyal customers are, even though it’s used that way a lot. And Number of Sales Calls is not a good measure of how talented the sales team is.

The only way to get good measures is to design them deliberately for your performance results. If you settle for what’s convenient, popular or familiar, you’ll pay the price in your decision-making. Here’s an example of how to measure employee engagement using a deliberate approach.


Where might you be using the wrong measure as evidence of your performance result? Take the time now to design a better measure, and you’ll avoid wasting time in the future acting on the wrong assumptions.

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