When I was a child, I dreamed of a number of future professions, as children are wont to do, including but not limited to police officer, news reporter, professional writer, and plumber (fuck you, Super Mario Brothers. Not only did I learn the hard way that stomping anthropomorphic mushrooms was not a job requirement, but I was also the laughingstock of grade three on Career Day). Then I grew up, and learned that not every little kid gets to grow up to be an astronaut or superhero or prime minister. And I'm okay with that, or as much as I can be. Sadly, we've fallen on hard times, and the going is rough not only for job-seekers but those who are seeking to fill positions.

As I mentioned, times are tough, and this means even people with advanced education are needing to fall back on work for which they would otherwise be overqualified. However, there is something to be said for that old saying "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts". In this case, the "whole" is a company or industry that still needs workers despite a languishing economy, and the "parts" are individuals who realize the need to maintain steady employment but eventually discover that no amount of monetary motivation or angry letters proclaiming "third notice" or "some guys are coming" can keep them employed, particularly in the more thankless fields.

In the field of human resources, turnover is the rate at which an employer gains and loses employees. A company with a high turnover rate tends to lose employees fairly frequently. Such is the nature of sectors that traditionally draw workers with lower levels of education and work experience, such as fast food, retail, et al. 2009 saw a turnover rate of 18.9% for service industries, second only behind hospitality, which saw a rate of 31.1%*. Fast food jobs in particular see turnover rates in the 200% range, meaning simply that by the middle of any given year, all of the employees hired at the start of that year will no longer be employed there.

This might seem staggering to the general public encountering such statistics for the first time, but consider this. Actually, scratch that. This will probably only make sense to gamers, particularly those in my age group (25-35):

Remember World 8-3 in Super Mario Brothers? Remember sitting on the floor of your bedroom, most likely with a friend or sibling, crossing those final few tiny fucking blocks to the end of the level, each jump causing you both to gasp, then exhale in relief as the jump was landed? At last you make that final jump to the flagpole. You don't even give a shit that you only got 500 points for it, you fucking made it.

To put all this in context, chances are many of you (myself included, more times than I care to admit) fucked up in this, the home stretch, and lost your last life, dooming you to start over from scratch at the beginning of the game. This is pretty much what happens in high turnover rate industries when most, if not all, of its workforce quits, is fired, or fails to show up for work. What this essentially means for the company is also starting over from scratch in the form of training a whole new batch of employees, not to mention lost revenue, as training doesn't come without a price. This is especially true in low-revenue, high-turnover industries, where recouping the losses associated with training costs for even one employee could take months. For this reason, many corporations cut corners or even do away with training programs entirely in order to circumvent this expense...or so they think. Ironically, what they see as reasons not to follow through with training are all the reasons that training should absolutely happen. Employees who are well-trained and feel supported by management will feel more confident in the job. They will perform better, and as a result will be more profitable for the company.

In regards to the Super Mario Brothers analogy, this mindset could be compared to the initial heartache and controller-hurling rage experienced by the many souls who had to start over from World 1-1 following a crushing defeat so close to the end-zone (unless you're a pansy ass bitch and your only experience with this game is its inclusion in Super Mario All-Stars, which completely jacked up the knuckle-biting novelty of the classic games with its save feature). Each run through the game is like training for a new hire. Practice makes perfect, as the old saying goes. A manager or qualified trainer runs through tasks with a new hire repeatedly for practice, then sticks by their side as they try it for the first time "for real" until they feel comfortable enough to fly solo. Though, with video games as well as life, results may vary. Retaining employees for half a year is like actually making it to World 8-4. Retaining them for a full year is like making it to Bowser, where he is flinging fucking fireballs and hammers at you and chances are you are small and one hit will completely fuck your shit up once again. But proper training, communication, and support from management and trainers is like ensuring your new hire gets a Super Mushroom or perhaps even a Fire Flower when things seem their most dismal.

Sadly, even with the most diligent of preparations and the best of intentions, some industries will simply always experience high turnover, just as being big or having a Fire Flower won't guarantee you can thwart King Bowser. Whether this is due to poor training, inadequate communication, or just a plain lack of desire to work on the employee's part can be chalked up to a case by case basis, just as simply as a slip of the finger or a momentary distraction can cost one the chance at glory in a video game. All I can say is, given a choice between being a training manager in this economic climate and facing down a giant fire-breathing, hammer-tossing lizard dude, well...I might renew my childhood interest in becoming a plumber.

*Statistics are based on the U.S. job market

Sources:
http://compforce.typepad.com/compensation_force/2009/09/2009-turnover-rates-by-industry.html

http://management.about.com/cs/people/a/NEO112597.htm

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