Labor Turnover Definition

Labor turnover is the rate at which employees leave an organization over a specific period. It is a critical metric for human resource departments and management teams as it provides insights into organizational health, employee satisfaction, and productivity. High labor turnover indicates underlying problems within the organization, whereas low labor turnover typically suggests employee contentment and stability.

How Labor Turnover Works

Labor turnover measures the frequency at which employees leave an organization and are replaced by new recruits. It is calculated by dividing the number of employees who voluntarily resign during a specific period by the average number of employees for that period, then multiplying the result by 100 to get a percentage figure. For example, if a company starts the year with 100 workers but ends it with 90, and 20 workers leave during that same year, the average number of workers would be (100+90) ÷ 2 = 95. The turnover rate is then calculated by multiplying (20 ÷ 95) * 100, which approximately equals 21.05%. This calculation helps companies understand their workforce stability and address any issues contributing to high employee turnover. By monitoring labor turnover, organizations can identify trends, improve retention strategies, and create a more stable work environment.

How to Calculate Labor Turnover Rate

Calculating the labor turnover rate involves a few steps that help quantify how often employees leave an organization within a specific period. This calculation provides key insights into employee retention and overall workforce stability.

1. Identify employee departures

This is calculated by the number of employees who left the company in a given period. This entails all types of departures such as resignations, retirements, terminations, and layoffs. For instance, if a firm lost 20 employees in one year, this number will be used to compute the turnover rate.

2. Calculate the average number of employees

Determine the average number of employees during the same period. This involves adding the number of employees at the beginning of the period to the number of employees at the end of the period, then dividing by two. For example, if the company started the year with 100 employees and ended with 90, the average number of employees would be (100 + 90) / 2 = 95.

3. Compute the turnover rate

Divide the number of employee departures by the average number of employees, then multiply by one hundred to get the percentage. Using the previous example, the turnover rate is calculated as follows: (20 / 95) * 100 = 21.05%. This labor turnover rate informs companies about the strength or weakness of their labor pool over a specific time frame.

Example calculation:

Number of departures in a year: 20

Employees at the start of the year: 180

Employees at the end of the year: 160

Average number of employees: (180+160)/2=170

Turnover Rate: 20/170×100=11.76%

Accurately calculating turnover rates helps organizations monitor their turnover trends and evaluate the effectiveness of their retention efforts. A high turnover rate indicate problems with workplace conditions, remuneration, or other factors influencing employees’ decisions to leave, while a low turnover rate generally indicates a stable and possibly more satisfying workplace environment.

What is Labor Turnover in the Workplace?

In the workplace, labor turnover refers to the movement of employees into and out of an organization. This turnover impacts team dynamics, workload, and overall morale. Here’s how each aspect is affected:

1. Impact on team dynamics

Labor turnover disrupts existing team dynamics and affects how employees work together. For example, if a key member of a development team leaves, the remaining members struggle to maintain previous levels of productivity and cohesion until a new member fully integrates. These disruptions lead to temporary inefficiencies and a loss of teamwork.

2. Increased workload for remaining staff

When employees leave, their duties are often redistributed among remaining staff until replacements are hired. This increased workload leads to burnout and lower job satisfaction. For instance, in a customer support department, if several representatives quit, the remaining staff will have to handle more calls, leading to longer wait times for customers and reduced service quality.

3. Recruitment and training costs

High turnover rates lead to increased costs associated with recruiting and training new employees. The process of advertising vacancies, interviewing applicants, and conducting background checks consumes time and resources. Additionally, new hires require training, which takes several months. For example, a sales firm with high turnover will continually spend on onboarding new sales representatives, affecting its budget allocation.

4. Reduced productivity

New hires often take time to reach the productivity levels of their predecessors. During this adjustment period, overall team productivity suffers. For instance, a new software developer needs months to familiarize themselves with the company’s coding standards and project requirements, delaying project timelines and reducing team efficiency.

5. Impact on morale

High turnover rates decrease motivation among remaining employees. They feel insecure about their jobs and overwhelmed by extra duties, leading to a stressful work environment. For example, if an organization frequently loses key employees, those remaining lose faith in the company and become less loyal, further increasing turnover.6

6. Damage to organizational reputation

High employee turnover damages an organization’s reputation, making it difficult to attract top talent. Potential candidates often research a company’s work environment before applying, and high turnover rates deter them. For example, companies with high turnover struggle to recruit professionals because this suggests a lack of job security or satisfaction. In contrast, companies with better retention rates and greater employee contentment will likely attract more applicants.

7. Opportunity for innovation and growth

While high turnover is generally seen as negative, moderate turnover rates are beneficial. New employees bring fresh perspectives, ideas, and skills that drive innovation and growth. For example, marketing agencies that regularly hire new talent benefit from diverse creative approaches and strategies, helping them remain competitive.

Why is Labor Turnover Important?

Labor turnover is crucial for several reasons, impacting various aspects of business operations and strategy:

Operational costs

High turnover results in significant operational costs due to frequent recruitment, onboarding, and training. For example, a company with high turnover in its customer service department will continuously spend on job advertisements, interviews, and training, impacting its overall budget.

Office productivity

Workplace productivity decreases when employees leave, disrupting operations within the team and across the organization. For example, if a key project manager leaves, it take longer to find a suitable replacement and train them, delaying project deadlines and reducing overall team output.


Mass exodus within a department leads to reduced morale among remaining employees, increasing turnover rates. For example, if an organization repeatedly loses members of a department, those remaining could feel disheartened and pressured, leading to a cycle of further resignations.

Talent management

Understanding labor trends is crucial for developing effective talent management strategies. Organizations need to identify why employees are leaving to improve recruitment processes and offer better employment terms. For instance, if employees leave due to a lack of professional growth opportunities, creating formal development programs address this issue.

Corporate culture

Frequent turnover hampers organizational culture by disrupting team composition and collaborative processes. For example, a company known for its teamwork-oriented approach struggles to achieve long-term goals if top performers frequently leave, affecting overall productivity.

Reputation and branding

High turnover rates negatively impact a company’s reputation and employer branding. Potential candidates often research a company’s work environment, and high turnover rates make the company less attractive. For example, companies with high turnover struggle to recruit new talent, while companies with better retention rates will likely attract more applicants.

In summary, labor turnover measures the health of the workforce. Understanding its causes and impacts enables organizations to refine their people strategies and foster an environment where employees are satisfied and committed to their roles.