4 July 2008

Counting the cost of turnover

In business, staff turnover is the rate at which people join and leave a company. The quicker people come and go, the higher the turnover. In some industries, where the work is seasonal or the staff base is transient, high turnover is a way of life. Travel and tourism, which often employs students, is a prime example. But high turnover can be very costly to an organisation both in terms of recruitment and productivity so most companies strive for a low staff turnover. A high figure can often be symptomatic of problems within the business.

The same can be said of guilds.

Think of it this way. A guild invests time and effort recruiting. It takes time for the new members to settle in, get to know existing members, find their place in the guild, learn the ropes. The guild invests further time, sometimes even gold and resources, on gearing up the new members, teaching them strategies and ways of working. Perhaps some of the long-established members take a step back in their progression to help out. In return for this care and investment, the new members are expected to contribute to the guild in whatever capacity they have jointly agreed.

When this agreement breaks down, productivity (i.e. progression) suffers, morale plummets, sickness and absence jumps and, inevitably, people leave.

High staff turnover can often be traced back to two simple factors: either employees are dissatisfied with their work, conditions, or compensation, or too few employees are performing to expectations.

Break these down further and you might find a dozen or more root causes, from low pay to poor health and safety. The point to remember about staff turnover, whether in your company or your guild, is that it's a warning sign — a great big flashing neon sign, a screaming siren that indicates something very serious is wrong.

If your guild suddenly starts haemorrhaging members, you need to ask yourself why. What is causing them to leave and what are you going to do to prevent it happening again? Because if you are loosing long-standing members, then chances are more recent recruits will have even less reason to stick around. As damaging as it can be to have long-standing members leave, it is much, much worse for your guild to have members come and go repeatedly, never finding their place in the ranks, never contributing, never growing as players. You will find yourself in a vicious cycle of recruit/recover/recruit/recover, your progress arrested, your underlying issues festering and spreading all the while. And every person who leaves your guild dissatisfied is liable to share their experience with friends, further reducing your potential pool of recruits.

Guilds can't weather high turnover the way companies can. If they don't act to stem the flood of members quickly, they may never recover. The survival is dependent upon the guild's ability to recognise changing circumstances and its willingness to tackle them. Successful guilds will evolve to find a new player base, a new direction in WoW; guilds that ignore the signs will simply die or fade away.


Mrs Grievous said...

This post is so great. It's cool to hear that someone else is applying real world concepts (business management) to in game problems (guilds). It seems like everyone wants to be a guild leader in this expansion pack to leech all the loot from lower members rather than building a successful team.

I never thought of this in the recruitment and turnover aspect of guilds. Very interesting. It makes me think of points systems vs. random rolls and other benefits like guild bank.

Merlot said...

I wish I could have gone into more detail on why turnover happens and how you can counter it. I'm not an expert (in either guilds or companies) but it's something I find really interesting. Payment (loot) is a big part of it, like you say, but there are also things like the importance of good leadership, communication, distribution of assignments, team work, socialising, and of course recruitment practices. It would have been too big for one post though. Maybe there's a follow up in there somewhere, if I can focus properly.