Monday, January 07, 2008

Reasons for Staff Turnover

People are joining your team. People are moving on. Both can be good or bad. In all cases staff turnover has an impact on your team and also an impact on the relations to other teams, including customers and other stakeholders.

People leave for different reasons. In some cases it might actually be the best option for both the person and the team, if the person is leaving. Sometimes people simply prefer a different working style that is not compatible with that of the team.

A few years ago I had a team member who preferred to work alone and who preferred to work on very complex items. He saw these tasks as unique opportunities and challenges. He was an excellent engineer. The solutions worked and when you took a closer look they turned out to be excellent solulutions. Almost beautiful. However, the person was very introverted and he wasn't able to fully leverage his potential to the rest of the team. In addition the code he created despite being excellent from an engineering perspective as too complicated for the average engineer. The solution was complex, elegant, and still hard to understand as some of the concepts were too abstract for some people. In the end he decided to move on to a different company. It turned out a good development. He was better off because he moved into an environment more suitable for his working style, and the team was better off because the proliferation of the highly abstract code was avoided.

And even more years ago, I had a team member who wasn't able to adopt a new programming paradigm. It was when we introduced object-oriented programming. That was in the early 90s. The engineer tried for many months to come up to speed. Finally he and his manager had to realize that he wouldn't be able to make the required mindshift. We then decided to try finding a different role. Fortunately we found a solution that was beneficial for both the team and the engineer. Instead of simply developing software, he took on a role that contained elements from marketing and presales support. We preserved his experience for the company and at the same time opened up a development path for the struggling engineer.

Fortunately when people leave most of them leave for good reasons. For instance people may choose to move to a different country. Here in New Zealand it is part of the life style to go on an overseas experience (OE). Over several years I saw people leaving for Europe, US, Canada, Singapur, Australia.

Another reason to leave might be that people would like to pursuit a career that is not available within the current company. Sure, you probably would keep people within the company but sometimes it is simply not possible.

Compensation might be a reason as well. My personal preference would be that people don't leave just because of the compensation package. And similarly I don't want people stay just because of the compensation package. I guess I am trying to say that you should be very careful with the compensation package. You don't want just the geniuses (see example above) but on the other hand you don't want to pay just bananas and peanuts either (otherwise you shouldn't be surprise if you are surrounded by monkeys). Compensation is a hygiene factor. You have to have an eye on it.

In my next post I'll explore a little more on the impacts of staff turnover and how to mitigate them using agile principles and techniques. I wish you a Happy and successful New Year!

No comments:

Hostgator promo code