Managing 24/7

How to Decrease Turnover in Your Shiftwork Operation

“I just felt like a zombie.” “I was getting no sleep.” “My wife was sick of me sleeping through the kids’ activities.” Turnover in 24/7 industries is a major issue – and often, the best reason given in exit interviews is “I just couldn’t handle the shift schedule.”

Unfortunately, shiftwork and turnover seem to go hand-in-hand. According to Shiftwork Practices 2007, turnover is almost three times higher at shiftwork facilities than the U.S. average.

In a CIRCADIAN survey, 400 managers and supervisors from a variety of shiftwork industries in North America were asked to estimate the cost of replacing an employee (including recruiting and training costs). The result: the average replacement cost was $24,100 per an employee.

So what can you do to lower turnover rates at your operation? Below we’ve listed some of the best practices companies can implement to reduce turnover.

Best practices for reducing turnover rates:

1) Provide shiftwork lifestyle training to new hires. It’s funny that companies don’t think twice about spending thousands of dollars on training workers to operate complex machinery, but often fail balk at spending much less on shiftwork specific training. But evidence shows that shiftwork training is very power tool for reducing turnover.

In fact, more often than not, it’s the inexpensive shiftwork training course or publication, such as a guide or monthly newsletter, that will make the difference in determining whether a new shiftworker adapts to the schedule and stays, or doesn’t adapt and quits.

If you’re from one of the companies that doesn’t provide shiftwork training, you’re not alone. Approximately 80% of shiftwork operations provide no training for their workforce. Don’t allow your operation continue to not provide shiftwork training. It’s an inexpensive way to show your workforce that you understand the challenges they face and to help them become healthier and happier employees.

Need more convincing on the benefits of shiftwork training? According to CIRCADIAN data, companies that provide shiftwork training to their workers and families, have nearly half the turnover rate of companies that provide no training at all.

2) Shift schedule selection method. Not surprisingly, an employee’s attitude toward their work schedule plays a significant role in determining their morale level and likelihood of leaving.

So what’s the best shiftwork schedule that will help lower turnover rates? Simply put, the best schedule is the one the most employees want to work. This means that the schedule one plant might love, another plant might hate. A good schedule all depends on the issues that are specific to that location and its workforce.

One piece of data we have seen that consistently supports this fact is with how facilities select their schedules. There is a significant difference in the performance of facilities that have management mandated schedule versus facilities that involve employees in the work schedule selection process.

The data shows that facilities where schedules are mandated by offsite (corporate) managers on the average have the highest turnover rates, followed by schedules mandated by on-site managers. On the other hand, facilities where the workforce is actively involved in selecting the work schedule tend to have lowest turnover rates and other positive attributes like improved morale and increased productivity.

At CIRCADIAN, a key part of our shift schedule optimization process is to actively involve the employees in the schedule selection process. Our goal is to have the employees truly own the schedule they work. When an employee feels he or she owns the schedule and had input into whether they work 8’s or 12’s and how often they rotate, they tend to have a much more positive view of their work schedule.

3) Overtime.  CIRCADIAN’s overtime data reveals that when overtime rates climb above 20%, there is significant decrease in morale and productivity and a spike in absenteeism and turnover rates. Therefore, companies must be careful to monitor average overtime rates for their workforce and take caution when overtime rates start to creep into the high teens.

In addition to predicting turnover, high overtime levels can indicate that staffing levels need to be increased and/or production need to be expanded to 24/7 (if it is not already). For companies concerned about high overtime rates, CIRCADIAN has developed a novel mathematical model to help company’s determine the “cross-over point” at which it becomes more cost-effective to hire additional employees rather than rely on existing staff to put in overtime hours.

Another important issue related to overtime is how it is selected. Is it mandatory or voluntary? Our data shows that turnover is lowest when overtime is all voluntary and highest when it is all mandatory. Coming in the middle is when overtime is voluntary and then mandatory if necessary.

In many regards, this reflects a growing trend in our society for workers to have more control over their work schedule and free time. It also allows for people to pad their paycheck. If you use a voluntary overtime system, just be sure to look out for overtime hogs – the 10% of your workforce that does 60% of the overtime. They can become dependent on the OT paycheck and put themselves (and co-workers) in dangerous positions.

Next Steps

  • Shiftwork training course on Managing a Shiftwork Lifestyle
  • Working Nights Newsletter – monthly newsletter dedicated to improving the health, safety and quality of life for shiftworkers
  • Contact one of our consultants at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 1-800-284-5001

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Phone: 1.800.284.5001
Local: 1.781.439.6300


Circadian Headquarters
2 Main Street, Suite 310
Stoneham, MA, 02180, USA