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What is Employee Attrition – Meaning Explained!

20 min read

Employee attrition can be defined as the situation where employees leave an organization for reasons undisclosed over time. It is usually a measure of employee turnover. It is represented by a figure usually a percentage or number of employees voluntarily or involuntarily leaving the firm to hunt for other opportunities.

Organizations use employee attrition to analyze the reasons behind their decisions and track the affected productivity metric of the firm and the hidden costs the firm incurs in the long run. Managing attrition is one of the crucial responsibilities of the HRM function. They address these issues by implementing new strategies like competitive compensation packages, career development, and reinforcing a positive work culture. Proper management of employee attrition helps retain and maintain a talented and motivated workforce that leads to higher business productivity and growth.

Types of Employee Attrition

Employee attrition can be classified under the following five categories:

1. Voluntary Attrition

It’s a common type of attrition, and it occurs when employees willingly leave the organization to explore other possibilities. A few sub-types are:

  • Resignation

It is when the employee voluntarily leaves the organization by formally notifying the employer of their decision to leave the firm. This occurs due to factors like

  1. Better Job Opportunities
  2. Dissatisfaction with the current job role
  3. Relocation to a different geographical location
  4. Personal career changes
  • Retirement

It is when employees are willing to leave the organization after reaching a particular age or criterion. It can be of the following types:

  1. Age-based retirement – Reached the eligible age limit.
  2. Early retirement – Before reaching the limit due to other factors.

2. Involuntary Attrition

It’s when employees unwillingly leave the organization due to factors beyond their control. It can be further classified as:

  • Layoffs

It happens when organizations are forced to reduce the size of their workforce due to unforeseen situations like:

  1. Organizational restructuring
  2. Workforce downsizing
  3. Cost cutting measures
  • Termination

It is when the employer abruptly ends the employment contract of an employee due to reasons like:

  1. Poor Performance
  2. Violation of the Code of Conduct policy
  3. Disciplinary action for serious misconduct

3. Functional Attrition

Functional Attrition is seen when employees of a specific team or department leave the firm at a greater scale. It helps in providing insights into the following areas:

  1. Effectiveness of leadership and management strategies
  2. Workload and stress levels within the department
  3. Career progression and developmental opportunities
  4. Team dynamics and work culture

4. Skill-based Attrition

When employees with specialized skills that are critical to the organization’s success leave, it is known as skill-based attrition. It’s of two types:

  1. High skill attrition – Departure of employees with specialized skills.
  2. Low-skill attrition – Departure of employees with lower expertise.

5. Tenure-based Attrition

It is a type of attrition when employees leave the organization based on their length of service or tenure. It can be of two types:

  1. Early-career attrition – It happens when employees leave the organization early in their career.
  2. Mid-career attrition – It happens when employees leave the organization after gaining a certain level of experience.

Why should you care about Employee Attrition?

Employee Attrition is a significant concern for the organization due to the following reasons:

  • Cost Implications

Employee attrition is costly for organizations as the cost of recruiting, onboarding, and training new hires is relatively high. So high attrition leads to a rise in the hidden costs, negatively impacting the budget and organization’s profitability.

  • Business Performance and Productivity

Loss of employees leads to workflow disruptions, knowledge and expertise gap and impact team bonds. In addition, the loss of skilled employees leads to decreased productivity and efficiency, reducing overall business performance.

  • Impact on Morale and Engagement

High attrition creates a sense of uncertainty in the employee’s mind that leads to reduced morale and productivity, which boosts the feeling of disengagement from work and the organizations, and they start seeking alternative work opportunities.

  • Customer Impact

Attrition also affects customer relationships. Clients who share a good bond with the departing employees might seek an alternative solution provider as they no longer feel connected to the organization. It can impact on the company’s reputation in the long run.

  • Organizational Culture and Stability

High employee attrition often suggests many hidden problems, the most prominent being the toxic work environment with limited growth opportunities. This can oppose any organizational change or sustaining strong employer-employee relationships in the longer term.

Reasons for Employee Attrition

The most common causes of employee attrition are as follows:

1. Lack of growth and employment opportunities

Most employees hate being stuck in a job role for a long time and wish to advance on their career map. When organizations fail to deliver a clear and consistent career progression plan to their employees, they seek alternative professional opportunities. So, the absence of professional growth and developmental opportunities is one of the main reasons behind attrition.

2. Inadequate Compensation and Benefits

Compensation plays a decisive role in attracting and retaining top talent. If an employee feels they are being unfairly compensated for their efforts and hard work, they are inclined to move towards other firms offering these benefits.

3. Poor Work-life Balance

Excessive workloads, long hours, unplanned meetings are leading causes of employee burnout and dissatisfaction. Consequently, a dissatisfied employee would eagerly look to move away from a firm that takes no measures to improve work-life balance and its employees’ mental and physical well-being.

4. Unhealthy Work Environment

A toxic environment where employees are micromanaged, their achievements go unrecognized and grievances unattended is the leading cause of employee attrition. In addition, firms with disengaged workers and improper communication channels find it challenging to maintain their attrition levels.

5. Ineffective Leadership and Management

Employee attrition is further aggravated by the instances of poor leadership by the managers, unavailability to attend to employee problems, and improper guidance from the juniors. These all lead to employees being unhappy and dissatisfied with their efforts and promote a negative image of the organization.

6. Personal Factors and Life Changes

At times, these are triggered by personal commitments of the employees like sudden shift to a new geographical location, family emergencies, health issues, or differing personal goals. Organizations cannot control these factors and they rarely contribute to negative attrition.

Predicting Employee Attrition

Predicting employee attrition is quite a challenging and complex task, and organizations can use the following methods to do it:

  • Historical Data Analysis

Analyzing past trends to identify the potential risk zones can be an effective method. Using factors such as employee demographics, tenure, job role and position, etc., can give significant insights to understand the reasons.

  • Employee Survey and Feedback

Regular feedback and survey mechanism to gain real-time insights on employee’s moods, productivity levels, and levels of engagement. An in-depth analysis of the gathered input helps in understanding the underlying causes of employee attrition and framing strategies to answer such concerns in the future.

  • Performance Reviews

Constantly monitoring employee performance metrics helps organizations identify the early signs of employee attrition. Low performers and disengaged employees are the ones most likely to leave the organization. Having data on these employees helps organizations to try and solve their problems so they don’t leave the organization.

  • Exit Interviews

Effective exit interviews with the departing employees help the organizations in identifying the common themes behind the period’s attrition and assist in framing better retention strategies for the future.

  • Predictive Analytics

Leveraging predictive analytics techniques gives organizations the edge in understanding the leading causes of attrition. For example, using machine learning algorithms on past data can help predict employee attrition triggers like poor culture, unfair compensation, poor management etc.

7 Tips to reduce employee attrition

Reducing employee attrition is one of the most essential components of maintaining a stable and engaged workforce. Here are a few critical strategies for HRs to do so effectively:

  • Competitive Compensation and Benefits

As per Gartner’s report, compensation has consistently been a top reason for employees to leave for a few years. So, regularly review and revise the compensation and benefits package to stay at par with industry standards. Attractive compensation and bonuses also help attract top talent and retain top performers for extended periods as they contribute towards improving your employee value proposition (EVP), a term coined by Gartner.

  • Find The Reason

Whether it’s a bad manager, poor working conditions, or salary issues, attrition is common. Having said that if you think the number is alarmingly high, delve into the situation to figure out the root cause and take necessary actions before it starts affecting your reputation. Conducting an elaborate exit interview is one way to find the cause of the attrition.

  • Offer Flexibility

Millennials say flexibility is more important than salary. Flexibility is an important parameter that employees closely consider while choosing a new job. Flexible work schedules help employees to better manage the work-life balance.

While flexibility is not always feasible for many businesses, it should be practiced whenever there is scope for it. Offering remote working options, flexible timing, the ability to choose days off, all help in offering flexibility. When employees can live their life outside work better, they are usually content and less distracted at work.

  • Recruit The Right Candidate

Finding the right candidate is the first measure you can take to control employee attrition. Don’t just look for the right skill and domain knowledge the person is bringing on the table, but also assess the behavior of the candidate. While doing so, be open about your own organization’s culture. It gives the candidate a chance to judge if your company is suitable for him or her.

Later, proper investment should be made in the development of employees by offering mentorship and training programs to enhance their skills and knowledge. Building a career progression and succession plan boosts employee morale and improves productivity.

  • Provide a positive workplace environment

Employees spend a lot of time at their workplace. So, nurturing a positive work environment that actively promotes open communication, transparency, mutual respect, and accountability is quite essential. Additionally, involving employees in the decision-making process and publicly recognizing their achievements. All these steps help create a sense of purpose and belongingness, leading to lesser attrition.

  • Effective Leadership and Management

Developing strong and capable leaders who can lead the organization in the face of distress through effective leadership programs. These programs help develop the skills of effective communication, conflict resolution and performance management in employees. In addition, ensure the immediate managers or supervisors efficiently handle all the employee concerns.

  • Improve employee engagement and well-being

It is important that your employees feel connected to the workplace if you are hoping to tackle attrition. From having regular fun activities and team bonding sessions, everything counts when it comes to keeping your employees engaged at the workplace.

In addition, organizations must encourage hybrid work arrangements to accommodate the employees’ personal needs. They should also promote physical activities like game hours or nap pods to ensure the physical and mental well-being of the employees.

Appreciating the employees for their hard work also matters a lot. Showing them that you value their good work rewards you with their lifelong loyalty.

How to Calculate Employee Attrition Rate?

Calculate the employee attrition rate with the following formula:

Attrition Rate = (Number of Employees who left / Average total number of employees) *100

For instance, A company has 200 employees at the start of the year. During this period, 25 employees left the company due to various reasons.


Attrition Rate = (25/200) *100 = 0.125*100 = 12.5%

So, the annual attrition rate of the company is 12.5%.

The attrition rate is often expressed in percentages to help measure the impact of employee attrition on the organization.

Factors Affecting Employee Attrition

Several factors can affect employee attrition and influence the employee’s decision to continue with the organization, few of them are discussed below:

  • Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction is one of the critical factors that affect employee attrition. Employees who feel their work is meaningful, fulfilling, and aligned with the organization’s mission are more likely to stay with such firms. The primary triggers are challenging work roles, engaging tasks and competitive work environment.

  • Fair Benefits Packages

Fair compensation and benefits packages are one of the most effective retention strategies of HRs. Employees who are compensated and receive benefits like paid leave, fitness programs, reimbursement and insurances are the happiest and most engaged workforce.

  • Career Progression

Employee attrition is affected by proper training and developmental programs for employees. To do so, organizations can implement practices like job rotations, career progression plans, leadership workshops, online skill enhancement courses and so on.

  • Work-life Balance

Organizations that support employee wellness programs like meditation, paid vacations, and team outings are more likely to retain employees. However, they should also include flexible work arrangements, time-off policies and a supportive work culture where employees respect and mutually trust each other.

  • Organizational Culture and Values

A culture promoting open communication, transparency, teamwork, mutual respect, and diversity curbs employee attrition. This culture can be nurtured by imbibing a feeling of belonging, trust, and alignment with organizational values.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How do you control employee attrition?

A. The methods to control employee attrition are outlined in the following steps:

  • Allow for creative flexibility among employees.
  • Provide competitive pay and perks
  • Make professional development a priority.
  • Create a welcoming work environment.
  • Choose the right leadership.

2. What is attrition vs. turnover?

A. The main distinction between employee turnover and attrition is that employee turnover covers all terminations. This includes recently filled positions as well. On the other hand, long-term vacancies and layoffs are included in employee attrition. Due to this, an organization might have a significant employee turnover rate while still expanding. However, the business might shrink if the attrition rates are continually high.

3.What is the role of HR in reducing attrition rate?

A. The role of HR in reducing attrition rate is to develop and implement effective strategies to retain employees. It includes providing competitive compensation and benefits, promoting a positive work environment, and offering opportunities for career development.

4.What is the main cause of attrition?

A. Employees may leave the organization for a variety of reasons, including both personal and professional. Poor working conditions, retirement or resignation, unfair compensation, lack of opportunity for professional advancement, and other personal concerns are a few reasons that cause employee attrition.

5. What are the 5 modes of attrition?

A. There are five types of employee attrition. They are:

  • Voluntary attrition – This is the most prevalent mode of attrition. Employees decide to leave the job they are in.
  • Internal attrition – Employees, in this case, will leave one department to join another department.
  • Involuntary attrition – In this case, the company initiates the exit, not the employee.
  • Attrition due to retirement – This could occur when a significant proportion of the workforce retires simultaneously.
  • Demographic-specific attrition – This type of attrition occurs when a particular group of employees, such as women, members of the minority, or senior professionals, leave the organization in huge numbers.

Table of Contents

    Meet the author

    Anwesha Panja

    Content Writer

    Anwesha Panja is a Content Writer at Keka Technologies. She has a passion for crafting captivating pieces around the latest HR trends. With a love for mysterious and spine-tingling things, she spends her free time exploring haunted locations. She is also a bookworm and an avid Sherlock fan.


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