How to Calculate Employee Turnover Rate

This blog post on How to Calculate Turnover Rate was originally written in 2010. Due to its popularity, it was updated in January 2020.

Why is Calculating Employee turnover important?

How to calculate turnover rate is a basic tool in every HR professional’s toolbox. Turnover tells a story about your company processes, procedures, leadership and culture. Turnover also speaks volumes about your compensation. Because employee turnover and retention are opposite sides of the same coin, you can seek the right balance between them to ensure that you’re driving the right talent to and through your organization.

From hiring to firing to replacement, losing employees can be costly. Some employee replacement costs include:

  • Time spent on sourcing (how you find applicants and how they find you)
  • Time spent interviewing
  • Hiring expenses

On-boarding costs include:

  • Training the new employee
  • Acculturation of the employee to the organization’s culture and expectations

Employee separation costs include:

  • Unemployment compensation
  • COBRA benefit continuation costs
  • Conducting exit interviews

Aside from the important issue of costs, measuring turnover also helps ensure that your talent strategy is moving in the right direction. In this piece, we’ll show you how to calculate employee turnover and interpret the results.

Before we dive into the calculation piece, it’s crucial to remember that calculating your employee turnover rate is just the starting point. There are many variables that can affect how to calculate  turnover rate and also how you choose to interpret the results of your employee turnover calculations.

The data and the benchmarks will give you a baseline and provide a starting point for further investigations. What you’ll ultimately want to understand is who’s leaving and why they are leaving. That deep understanding will help you determine what needs to be done in order to hold onto the employees who are critical to your business. With that said, let’s take a look at the different costs that roll up into the overall turnover cost.  

Analyzing the Cost of Employee Turnover Rates

Beyond just looking at your overall employee turnover rate, taking the time to look closely at certain segments of your organization will provide you even more insights into your organization’s health.

For example, you could focus on employees who leave in the first-year of employment. From hiring to firing to replacement, losing employees in the first year can be costly.

Some employee replacement costs include:

  • sourcing (how you find applicants and how they find you)
  • interviewing
  • hiring expenses

On-boarding costs include:

  • training the new employee
  • acculturation of the employee to the organization’s culture and expectations

Employee separation costs include:

  • unemployment compensation
  • COBRA benefit continuation costs
  • conducting exit interviews

the formula for calculating employee turnover rate

Employee turnover is usually expressed as a turnover rate. In other words, how to calculate turnover rate is basically just percentage math. The employee turnover rate is the percentage of employees who leave within a given time period divided by the total number of employees in the same time period.

A common way to look at the employee turnover rate is on a monthly basis. Looking at monthly employee turnover can be useful for spotting when employees tend to leave in their first year. To calculate monthly employee turnover rates, divide the number of employee separations in one month by the average number of active employees during the same month. 

Equation for calculating monthly employee turnover

We’ll say we have one site of operations. For example, let’s say we lose four employees out of 200.


That gives us an employee turnover rate of two percent. What if we repeated this employee turnover calculation to highlight the turnover rate just in the new hires, not in the whole company, over the course of a year?

Calculate Employee Turnover Rates within the First Year

Have you wondered how new-employee turnover (i.e. employees leaving in less than 12 months) impacts your business? What about on your business practices? You can learn both by calculating first year employee turnover.

To do this, divide the total number of employees who leave in less than one year by the total number of employees who leave in the same period.

Here’s what the formula looks like:

first year turnover rate formula

For example, let’s say that you have 31 employees who departed your organization within their first year at your organization in your measurement time period. You have 116 employees in total who departed your organization in the same time period.  

Now to pull numbers into our formula for first year employee turnover:

26.7% = 31 employees in first year of employment / 116 Employee turnover in a time period

So now you know how to calculate turnover rate. Once you have this number, it’s time to understand it in context.

how to interpret employee turnover numbers

Beyond just looking at your overall employee turnover rate,  looking at the data by the reasons for turnover and by employee segments will provide you even more insight into your organization’s health.

Why are your employees leaving? Is it due to performance issues, ethics violations (hopefully rare), personal or health reasons, wanting higher compensation, wanting career advancement opportunities, or something else? What percentage of employees voluntarily resign due to personal reasons versus wanting higher pay or better career opportunities? If you aren’t doing this already, make sure to collect this information during every exit interview.

Additionally, look to see what employees who are voluntarily leaving have in common with one another. Here are some questions to consider:

  1. Are the majority of these employees leaving within the first year?

If your turnover rate for new / first-year employees is high, it’s likely you have issues with your candidate screening and on-boarding processes. Consider whether these scenarios are true for your organization:

  • What questions were asked when the employee was hired? Did the questions relate to the job? If not, they may have set up the application for the job to be quite different than the job really is. If so, why was that done?
  • Did those who sorted applicants by their responses understand what skills the job required? Did they end up looking for or finding the wrong things?
  • Did the employee get an orientation? Was the employee made to feel comfortable in the organization after the orientation? Why or why not?
  • How did the employee’s supervisor interact with the employee?
  • How did the existing workforce interact with the new employee? Was it with acceptance and assistance, or with a cold shoulder? How did the supervisor react to that? Did the supervisor take any steps in response to the workforce interaction with the new employee?
  • How might the supervisor’s training have contributed to this percentage?

As a side note, effective orientation programs in the first several months after a hire have been proven to have a direct, positive impact on the employee’s choice to stay with the organization.

  1. Did many of these lost employees come from the same department?

If that’s the case, it means that this department is facing particular challenges. Can you offer support to department heads in alleviating these challenges?

  1. Did many of these lost employees report to the same hiring manager?

This is a case where the particular manager may need additional training or a reminder of the expectations that come with being a people manager at your organization. At worst, the manager could be the one that needs to go.

  1. Do they all have a specific set of skills?

Is it possible that employees with specific, in-demand skills are leaving for opportunities where their skills are compensated more than what you’re paying?

  1. Have these employees been in the same role for a long time (e.g. 3 years) without a promotion?

When people stay in their role for too long without a promotion, they may start to think that they need to leave your organization in order to grow in their careers.

  1. When was the last time these employees received a pay increase?

Compensation tends to be a common reason for why people jump ship, especially when we consider employees who haven’t received a pay increase in a while (i.e. 18 or 24 months or longer).

[Related Blog Post: 5 Ways to Avoid Losing Top Talent to a Higher Paycheck ]

By investigating these all questions, you will figure out where you may be falling short in your effort to retain good employees.

resources on how to prevent Employee turnover

Check out these related posts