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Employee Attrition

Employee attrition can be observed in an entire organization or just in certain departments. It usually occurs when employees are replaced by automation or new technologies. For instance, in an automobile manufacturing unit, automated machines could now perform tasks like wheel attachment or windshield installation that workers previously did, reducing the need for human workforce.

What is employee attrition?

Employee attrition is a situation where an employee departs from an organization and isn’t replaced for an extended period or not at all. This leads to a reduction in the workforce of a company or a specific department, as the vacant positions are not filled.

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What are the factors that affect employee attrition?

Let’s explore five distinct factors influencing employee attrition and provide insights on determining whether your company, department, or team may be susceptible to these influences.

  • Retirement: This is a natural cause of attrition. As employees reach the end of their careers, they retire, leaving vacancies in their wake. Sometimes, instead of hiring new employees, companies might distribute the responsibilities among existing staff members.
  • Financial constraints: Economic downturns or budgetary restrictions can lead to layoffs, which increase attrition rates. Companies might also choose not to fill vacancies immediately to save on the costs of hiring new employees.
  • Demographics: The age distribution of a company’s workforce can significantly impact attrition rates. For instance, organizations with a higher proportion of older employees might experience increased attrition due to retirements.
  • Economic climate: The broader economic environment can also affect attrition. In times of economic uncertainty, companies might be more cautious about hiring, choosing instead to leave positions vacant.
  • Perks and benefits: The range and quality of perks and benefits offered by a company can influence its attrition rate. Companies that offer competitive benefits packages are often able to retain employees more effectively.
  • Job satisfaction: Employees who are dissatisfied with their jobs are more likely to leave, increasing attrition. Factors contributing to job dissatisfaction might include inadequate compensation, poor management practices, lack of recognition, or an imbalance between work and personal life.
  • Career advancement opportunities: Employees need to see a path for growth within the organization. If they perceive opportunities for advancement as limited, they might seek opportunities elsewhere, leading to higher attrition.
  • Workplace culture: The culture within the workplace plays a crucial role in employee retention. A supportive and positive work environment can help reduce attrition, while a hostile or unsupportive one can increase it.
  • Employee benefits: If employees feel that the benefits provided by the company do not meet their needs or expectations, they may decide to seek employment elsewhere.

What are the differences between employee turnover and employee attrition?

Let’s list down the key differences between employee turnover and attrition. Employee attrition and employee turnover are often used interchangeably, but they have subtle differences:

1. Definition

  • Employee attrition: It refers to the natural reduction in the workforce due to retirement, resignation, or other reasons without necessarily being replaced immediately.
  • Employee turnover: It encompasses both voluntary (resignation, retirement) and involuntary (termination) departures of employees, with replacements typically hired to fill the vacant positions.

2. Voluntary vs. involuntary

  • Employee attrition: It can include both voluntary and involuntary exits, but it often leans more towards voluntary separations like retirements or resignations.
  • Employee turnover: Encompasses both voluntary (employees leaving willingly) and involuntary (employees being let go by the employer) aspects.

3. Replacement timing

  • Employee attrition: Positions left vacant due to attrition may not be immediately filled, allowing for a gradual reduction in workforce size.
  • Employee turnover: Involves a more immediate replacement of departing employees to maintain the workforce size and meet operational needs.

4. Nature of departure

  • Employee attrition: Often associated with natural workforce changes, such as retirement or personal decisions to leave the job.
  • Employee turnover Can be influenced by various factors, including job dissatisfaction, career advancement opportunities elsewhere, or organizational restructuring.

5. Strategic considerations

  • Employee attrition: Companies may view attrition as a natural part of workforce dynamics and plan for it without immediate replacements.
  • Employee turnover: High turnover rates may be a cause for concern, indicating potential issues within the organization, such as low employee morale or inadequate retention strategies.

What are the examples of employee attrition?

We'll explore common scenarios leading to attrition and provide insights into mitigating these challenges.

  • Voluntary resignations: Employees may decide to resign due to personal reasons, career advancements elsewhere, or dissatisfaction with their current roles. Organizations can address this by conducting regular employee satisfaction surveys, identifying pain points, and implementing measures to enhance job satisfaction.
  • Retirements: The aging workforce often results in retirements, contributing to attrition. While retirements are inevitable, succession planning and knowledge transfer initiatives can minimize the impact of key personnel leaving, ensuring a smooth transition.
  • Lack of career growth: Employees may seek opportunities for professional development and career growth. Organizations can combat this attrition factor by implementing clear career progression plans, offering training programs, and fostering a culture that values continuous learning.
  • Inadequate work-life balance: Imbalances between work and personal life can lead to burnout and attrition. Employers can address this by promoting flexible work arrangements, encouraging time-off policies, and cultivating a supportive work environment.
  • Compensation disparity: Compensation misalignment with industry standards or market rates can drive employees to seek better-paying opportunities. Regular salary reviews, benchmarking against industry standards, and transparent communication about compensation policies can help retain valuable talent.
  • Poor leadership and management: Ineffective leadership and management styles can contribute to employee dissatisfaction and attrition. Investing in leadership training, soliciting feedback, and fostering open communication channels can enhance the employee-manager relationship.
  • Organizational culture mismatch: Employees may leave if they feel the organizational culture does not align with their values or if there is a lack of inclusivity. Creating a positive and inclusive culture, promoting diversity, and proactively addressing cultural issues can help retain a diverse and engaged workforce.

How does a company measure and track employee attrition rates?

Here’s how a company can measure and track employee attrition rates:

  • Step 1: Gather data: The first step is to gather detailed headcount data. This includes the number of employees at the start of the period, the number of new hires during the period, and the number of employees who left the company during the same period.
  • Step 2: Calculate attrition rate: The attrition rate is calculated by dividing the number of employees who left the company during a specific period by the average number of employees.
    It is usually expressed as a percentage. For example, if a company started with 150 employees, hired 10 new employees, and 15 employees left during the year, the average number of employees would be 160, and the attrition rate would be 15/160 * 100 = 9.375%.
  • Step 3: Compare with industry standards: Once the attrition rate is calculated, it should be compared with industry standards to understand if the rate is high or low. This comparison provides a benchmark to assess the company’s performance in terms of employee retention.
  • Step 4: Track changes over time: Companies should track attrition rates over time to monitor trends. Any significant increase or decrease in the attrition rate can signal underlying issues that need to be addressed.
  • Step 5: Use technology for tracking: Many companies use HR software platforms to calculate and track attrition rates over time automatically. These platforms can combine hiring and termination data to provide meaningful insights on areas of the organization that need improvement.
  • Step 6:Analyze and take action: If the attrition rate is higher than the industry average or if it’s increasing over time, it’s important to analyze the possible causes and take appropriate action. This could involve improving recruitment and retention practices, enhancing employee engagement, or addressing specific issues identified through exit interviews.

How do you calculate employee attrition?

Employee attrition can be calculated using a straightforward formula. The attrition rate is typically expressed as a percentage and is calculated over a specific period.

Here's a step-by-step breakdown:

  • Determine the time period: Decide the time period for which you want to calculate the attrition rate. Depending on your needs, it could be monthly, quarterly, or annually.
  • Identify departed employees: Count the number of employees who left the organization during the chosen time period. This includes resignations, retirements, and any other forms of departure.
  • Calculate the average number of employees: Determine the average number of employees during the same time period. This can be done by adding the number of employees at the beginning and end of the period, then dividing by 2.
  • Apply the formula: Use the formula mentioned above to calculate the attrition rate.
Attrition Rate = (Number of Employees Departed/Average Number of Employees)x100
  • Interpret the result: The calculated percentage represents the attrition rate for the chosen time period. A higher attrition rate may indicate higher turnover and potential concerns within the organization.

For example, if 10 employees left during a quarter, and the average number of employees during that quarter was 500, the attrition rate would be:

Attrition rate = (10/500) x  100 = 2%

This 2% attrition rate indicates that 2% of the workforce left during the quarter. Monitoring attrition rates over time helps organizations assess the health of their workforce and implement retention strategies as needed.

Employee pulse surveys:

These are short surveys that can be sent frequently to check what your employees think about an issue quickly. The survey comprises fewer questions (not more than 10) to get the information quickly. These can be administered at regular intervals (monthly/weekly/quarterly).

One-on-one meetings:

Having periodic, hour-long meetings for an informal chat with every team member is an excellent way to get a true sense of what’s happening with them. Since it is a safe and private conversation, it helps you get better details about an issue.


eNPS (employee Net Promoter score) is one of the simplest yet effective ways to assess your employee's opinion of your company. It includes one intriguing question that gauges loyalty. An example of eNPS questions include: How likely are you to recommend our company to others? Employees respond to the eNPS survey on a scale of 1-10, where 10 denotes they are ‘highly likely’ to recommend the company and 1 signifies they are ‘highly unlikely’ to recommend it.

Based on the responses, employees can be placed in three different categories:

  • Promoters
    Employees who have responded positively or agreed.
  • Detractors
    Employees who have reacted negatively or disagreed.
  • Passives
    Employees who have stayed neutral with their responses.

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