Maybe Turnover Isn’t Such a Bad Thing

Note: this post is the last in a five-part series on “Navigating Culture Fit in 21st Century Organizations.”

If you believe in the power of “culture fit,” then you need to prepare yourself to fire some people, and for others to quit. This is tough, because we have been collectively telling ourselves for decades that turnover is a bad thing. When people leave, they take institutional knowledge with them, and then we have to spend time and money training new people to do the job, not to mention the time and expenses associated with recruiting and hiring. Given this cost of turnover, we’ve been struggling to try to keep people.

But if you believe in culture fit, then keeping someone who doesn’t fit in your culture—simply as a cost-saving measure—is actually a huge mistake. It’s similar to the response I give when leaders are afraid to invest in training and developing their employees because “what happens if we train them and then they leave?”

Well, what happens if you DON’T train them, and then they stay?

In an ideal world, as soon as either the organization or the employee realizes the culture fit is no longer there, they should start separating. But both sides are afraid. The employee is afraid they won’t find another job, and the organization is afraid they’ll get sued. I get it. Those are real risks. But let’s continue to work on mitigating the risks, because I think culture fit is worth it.

I can’t speak to the legal aspects, but as an organization you should probably be figuring out how to make it so you can live without any of your employees (including senior level) if they should up and leave. And do you have processes in place where you can help someone find a new job when the fit isn’t there? Why not? And what about an “alumni” program where you can stay in touch with (and continue learning from) your former employees?

And individuals should think about their plans for when that day comes as well. I remember being told that before I launched my own business, I should have at least six months of “salary” saved up for the transition, but I also remember one of my friends saying she made the same plan—not for starting a business, but for having the freedom to quit and find a better job when she needed to.

I believe that in the 21st century workplace, there will simply be more comings and goings. Rather than trying to fight that, I think we should all be figuring out how to make it work.

Jamie Notter is a co-founder and growth strategist at PROPEL, a coaching, consulting, and learning company helping headers integrate culture, strategy, and execution. He can be reached at