How to: Ripple Effects of Employee Turn Over In Tight Labour Markets

31 January 2024

In today’s tight labor markets, understanding the dynamics of employee turnover is more crucial than ever. A study by the University of British Columbia offers valuable insights into how poorly managed exits can destabilize an organization and exacerbate retention challenges, leading to a cycle of more departures.

The Impact of Layoff Announcements

The study, which analyzed data from over a million employees at 1,620 retail chains over 22 months, found that layoff announcements have a strong, immediate impact. These announcements often heighten feelings of job insecurity among remaining employees, precipitating a wave of voluntary departures. This reaction underscores the need for careful communication and support strategies during such announcements.

Voluntary Departures and Their Ripple Effect

Interestingly, the study observed that voluntary departures typically result in fewer immediate turnovers compared to layoffs. However, they have a longer-lasting ripple effect. High performers, in particular, view voluntary exits as a sign of better opportunities elsewhere, which can prompt them to leave as well.

The Timing of Subsequent Departures

The timing of these subsequent departures varies. Following voluntary turnovers, it usually takes about three months for the ripple effect to manifest. In contrast, after layoff announcements, many employees tend to leave within the first month.

The Message Sent by Dismissing High Performers

A critical finding of the study is the impact of dismissing high performers without clear justification. Such actions send a negative message to other high-performing employees, often leading them to exit as well. This not only affects team morale but also opens the organization to potential legal complications.

Strategies for Employers

To mitigate these challenges, employers must approach employee exits with a strategic mindset:

  1. Consider the Long-Term Impact:

    Understand that the effects of turnover events, especially involuntary ones like layoffs, extend beyond the immediate moment. The way these events are handled can have lasting implications on staff morale and retention.
  2. Communicate Effectively:

    Clear and empathetic communication during layoffs or dismissals is crucial. Employees need to understand the reasons behind these decisions to maintain trust in the organization.
  3. Support Remaining Employees:

    Provide support to employees who remain after layoffs or high-profile departures. This can include counseling, career development opportunities, and reassurances about job security.
  4. Focus on Retention:

    Develop a strong retention strategy that addresses the needs and concerns of current employees. This includes recognizing and rewarding high performers and creating a positive work environment.
  5. Legal and Ethical Considerations:

    Ensure that all dismissals are handled legally and ethically, providing clear justifications and avoiding potential legal issues.

In conclusion, managing employee turnover in a tight labor market requires a nuanced approach. By understanding the ripple effects of layoffs and voluntary departures, and by communicating effectively, employers can better navigate these challenges and maintain a stable, engaged workforce.


  • TWIG

    Toronto Workforce Innovation Group is a non-profit and independent research organization devoted to finding and promoting solutions to employment-related problems in the Toronto Region.

How to: Ripple Effects of Employee Turn Over In Tight Labour Markets

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