QI Tips: 8 Strategies for Surviving Team Turnover

QI Tips: Team TurnoverTeam member turnover is unavoidable. People leave organizations, go on maternity leave or have periods when they downgrade their participation to focus on something else. Yes, it is stressful, but it doesn’t mean your improvement work comes to a halt. You can set your team up to survive member transitions with these eight strategies.

Ongoing Strategies

  • Spread the load. An improvement effort cannot be one person’s responsibility alone; it must be a team effort. If a team is fully engaged, it is better equipped to deal with turnover, not to mention busy periods, holidays and vacations.
  • See the system. Make the functions of your team more systems-driven (e.g., automated and less dependent on individual people) to help lessen the impact of one person leaving a team.
  • Document processes. Be sure to keep processes and functions well documented to avoid losing team memory and knowledge when turnover occurs.

Strategies During a Turnover Period

  • Hold your gains. Be kind to your team during a turnover period. It is not the best time to increase improvement work or embark on a completely new improvement effort. Instead, hunker down, plan for what will occur once the position is filled and make sure you don't lose the gains you've accomplished.
  • Clarify your focus. Make a plan about what the improvement team is going to do until the position is filled and how can you stay focused and effective while the recruitment process is happening.
  • Embrace the opportunity. Team turnover can be a great opportunity to identify new leaders and bring new ideas to your improvement team.
  • Honor the exit. There is always a social side to turnover. Some team members may worry that the turnover will leave new tasks to fall on them. Others may feel relief because now they will be able to try out ideas that were stifled by the person who is leaving. Regardless of the spectrum, there is a human reaction to any turnover that should be acknowledged.
  • Offer an onboarding process. Orient a new member to the team’s aim, goals and measures before their first team meeting. Be sure to review the data so far and what it means. Review the sequence of PDSA cycles that have been run and what has yet to be tested. Also, share the social norms and ground rules of the group. Make sure to make the new member welcome by providing an introduction and icebreakers at their first couple of meetings.

More QI Tips are available in the Resources section of the NICHQ website.