What Causes Voluntary Turnover, Part 2:  Organizational and Team Factors


In a previous post, I provided a basic of list of variables for predicting employee turnover.

I then talked about demographic factors that help predict turnover, with an eye toward a different interpretation of some of the traditional factors such as age. Note: You can find our primer on developing your own predictive models for employee turnover here.

In today’s post, I am going to take a peak at some team and organizational measures that are typically overlooked when it comes to understanding the causes of voluntary employee turnover.

Why you should read this post:

  • Learn how to think about the variables you select…and don’t select
  • Shed light on team-based factors that companies often ignore when trying to understand and predict turnover.


There is an old saying in Anthropology, “A lone ape is dead ape.”  People are social animals. We live in and depend on multiple, nested groups. We rely on families to raise us, schools to teach and train us, companies and customers to employ us. We work as individuals within teams within companies within regions within economies.

If you want to understand, measure, and predict human behavior never forget the role of context. In HR analytics, this means the team and the organization. Accordingly, remember that all organizations differ and what holds at one place might not hold at another. Learn from others but expect to cut your own explanatory path.

Department/ Business Area

Let’s suppose we have a company of 200 employees and I report that voluntary turnover was 8% (or 16 people) in the previous year. Not so bad, right?

But what if I now told you half of that turnover (8) came from a single team with only 20 people. Sure, our OVERALL turnover was 8%, but it was actually 40% for a single team and 4% everywhere else. That’s a big difference and one worth looking into.

Looking inward to org-related issues (like lousy management) is a great place to start but don’t overlook external factors like the local labor market and neighboring industries seeking similar skills.

People in the same business areas tend to have similar skills. Birds of a feather do indeed flock together in the labor market.

Tracking the impact of surrounding circumstances might be easier in a smaller company. In a larger organization though, especially one with offices across the country, digging deeper into the analytics by remembering that people self select can help you uncover valuable data signals along with problems that need to be addressed.

Team-Level and Leader Turnover

When predicting and understanding turnover, it’s typically a good idea to include a measure of team-level turnover such as the number or proportion of fellow team members who have left within the last year.


Because when team members leave for greener pastures, it sends a strong signal to those remaining behind that better opportunities are out there. The same holds true for a leader leaving the company. High turnover in the leader role (leader turbulence) for a given team can also be an issue.

The dynamics vary across teams and companies, but HR and analytics professionals would do well to include team-level turnover in their discussions and their models.

Time in Role

Ok, I know this one is actually an individual-level measure but I have an org-level view of it here.

Some people like consistency and predictability, but motivated, top-talent types need growth and variety to reach their potential. If you are concerned about turnover or trying to model it formally, be sure to consider the amount of time highly regarded individuals have spent in a role.

Highly-rated employees who have been in a role for several years may be getting frustrated with the lack of progress and the organization’s lack of attention.

Plot your data, include it in your model…and then go out and have some conversations to figure out if those talented individuals are languishing and need to move on.

Team-member Time in the Role

It also pays to look at how much experience those on a team have, namely the amount of time they have spent in their role. For individual contributors, having experienced colleagues is almost always a big plus.

But team-level experience can also make a big difference for leaders. Some may be doing a great job given the limited experience of their teams while others may be dropping the ball and coasting by on the success and experience of others.

Organizational dynamics differ so there is not a single answer when it comes to the contribution of team-level experience to turnover. Still, team-level experience should be a factor in considering leader performance and heading off voluntary turnover at the pass.

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