David Shulkin. Rex Tillerson. Sean Spicer. Steve Bannon. These are just a few of the employees who have come and gone since President Trump took office. They're proof of a larger problem the White House is facing as a workplace: sudden high turnover.

In fact, a Brookings Institution report from February found that staff turnover during Trump's first year was at 34 percent -- significantly higher than his five predecessors. In comparison, President Reagan came in second for highest turnover at 17 percent in his first year.

Without digging into the political implications, President Trump's high turnover does pose an interesting question for business leaders: What do you do when a workplace that traditionally had low turnover suddenly can't keep employees?

1. Survey the departed.

When employees start leaving in droves, the first step is to find out why. Conducting exit surveys is the simplest way to see what departing employees have in common. Gerrit Brouwer, CEO and co-founder of the onboarding app Appical, said collecting exit feedback is an untapped source of information leaders need.

"The people who truly understand a company -- particularly its values, culture and the way it goes about its business -- are the people who have worked there," said Brouwer.

Take the time to dig into feedback from employees who are leaving. Let them know you want to make the workplace better and would like any thoughts they have on improvements. Then, compare notes from other exit interviews to see what trends need to be addressed immediately in order to halt turnover.

2. Communicate changes.

People fear change. When employees see their organization is changing in a way they don't understand, they often run. This is why leaders need to clearly communicate new initiatives and changes as soon as possible.

"Employees want to know that they will be able to continue to conduct business as usual," said Tom Moran, CEO of staffing and employment agency Addison Group.

When sharing a company change with employees, be specific about how it will affect them on an individual level. Meet with concerned employees and explain what will be different about their day-to-day. The key here is to be open and honest so they aren't left to fill in the blanks with worst-case scenarios. Also, show them how these changes will be an improvement for them and the organization in the long-run.

3. Rethink management.

More often than not, if employees are leaving, problems with management are the cause. If employees don't feel supported or valued by their manager, it won't matter how great the rest of organization is.

"Leaders need to take immediate action to fix the issues between the manager and employee because the longer they put off a solution, the more turnover the department will likely see," Eric Johnson, CEO of intelligent process automation platform Nintex, explained.

Start by finding out what employees need from their managers, but aren't currently getting. Then, communicate those needs to management. If necessary, have managers revisit their training so they can be reminded of the skills and tactics that will help them be more effective.

It's also important to find ways to track progress. Regularly collecting feedback from employees will show everyone involved how things are improving. This will help convince team members to stick around.

4. Rebuild confidence.

Even if employees decide to stay with an organization, their faith in the company's future can be shaken after seeing multiple co-workers leave. As a leader, it's your job to show them everything is alright.

"Restoring confidence throughout the organization involves giving people a believable depiction of the current state of affairs, a real assessment of what it will take to turn things around, and a well thought out plan for turning things around," said Howard Seidel, senior partner of career advisory firm Essex Partners.

Don't gloss over issues that cause people to leave. Instead, openly address them and search for a solution. After all, loyal employees deserve both an explanation and reassurance. Let them know you have a clear plan for the future. Discuss the steps that are being taken as well as a realistic timeline for those improvements.

When bumps in the road arise, don't try to hide them. Employees would rather know there was a setback than be lied to. Because when the truth does come out, it will give them a new reason to leave.

Published on: Apr 4, 2018