Staff turnover: you can’t say we didn’t warn you…

One of the best bits of my job at Chiumento is leading our research agenda. We aim to produce research that pushes the boundaries and inspires the HR profession to prepare for challenges ahead. We always try to be a bit controversial too. There’s nothing like stirring up a good debate!

Back in 2009/10 we produced two reports that investigated the phenomenon of “corporate prisoners” – people who stay in jobs without being engaged. We explored the risks these individuals presented and challenged organisations to grasp the nettle…

No one likes a smart Alec but I can’t help but smile that one of our predictions seems to be coming true… Back then I wrote:-

“Escapers are trapped by the lack of opportunities outside the organisation. They have little or no desire to stay but can’t afford to leave until there’s another job to go to. They are already plotting how to escape and are just waiting for the opportunity. In the meantime they create a false sense of employee engagement as turnover figures fall.

Escapers can be hard to spot. Their day-to-day behaviour may suggest they are still fully engaged. They may even be among your top performers – but they have decided your organisation is not where they want to be. Generation Y employees – used to frequent job moves in a buoyant market where the candidate was king – will undoubtedly revert to type as soon as the market turns, swelling the ranks of the Escapers.

The danger for you is the potential of rapidly escalating staff turnover exactly at the point you want stability to seize the opportunities of a return to growth. Escapers will threaten business continuity and drive up costs.”

An article just published by CIPD vindicates that warning. Their research (based on 3,000 people) suggests that one in four UK workers is now actively job hunting. The number of organisations with job freezes is falling and articles are appearing almost daily from recruitment firms saying the market is increasingly active. The war for talent didn’t end – it just took a ceasefire.

The implications for HR span everything from recruitment (how do you scale up quickly if turnover leaps) to engagement (how do you make sure your proportion of escapers shrinks). Corporate Prisoners have always been a factor – but the recession undoubtedly swelled their ranks.

Based on requests from clients we are going to re-release the Corporate Prisoner research in November. It has stood the test of time rather well we think! To obtain a copy follow this link.

No doubt the person who complained to the CIPD about my use of the term “corporate prisoners” at the 2010 Talent Management Conference will again be outraged. I can only suggest that will fade into insignificance compared to the reaction of CEOs when they see their best talent slipping through HRs fingers… After all, they’ve had 4 years to develop an Escaper strategy.

Ian Gooden
Chief Executive

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