Dealing with Employee Attrition

If you have worked for a couple of years in the same organisation, you would have witnessed a time when many of your colleagues left the organisation to join others or start on their own. You might have been the one who tried to convince the management that there was a problem and something needed to be fixed or you might have been the one who silently wondered whether you were doing the right thing by continuing in the same organisation. Whatever be the case, the fact remains that most organisations see a number of employees leave them every year.

Some people may see a positive light in employee attrition and believe that this gives them opportunity to hire new talent, avoid complacency, broaden perspective, etc. But, when the rate of attrition exceeds the anticipated figures, most employers begin to feel the heat.

While it is true that if you are recruiting hard you won't have problems with the number of employees, it is important to understand that head count is not the only aspect that should be taken into consideration. Many people work for a particular company because of the amazing peers they get to work with, learn from, have intellectual discussions with, etc. When these people leave, we often see a chain of exits. Also, company invests a lot in its people. If people leave the company when they come upto speed and become capable of running projects all by themselves, it in harsh words could be stated as an investment gone waste.

It is important for organizations to re-look at what makes people happy and what makes them leave.

Here are a couple of things that can be done:

Discussions before exit interviews

Exit interviews are usually the technique adopted by companies to find the reason a person decided to quit and also make note of some constructive points for the company. But if someone quits due to dissatisfaction in the workplace, an exit interview might be too late in the cycle to get the actual answers.

A lot of people will not want to spoil their relations with folk from the company lest they have to come back and work there again. They will in all probability not mention a harsh reality like “management isn't doing a good job at understanding what the people really want” or “this isn't a great place to work if we want to improve your technical skills”, etc. These reasons can only be understood by talking to the person before a formal exit interview.

Also, it cannot be only the folk from HR or other Operations role that talk to the people who quit. It should also be some peers who they can vent out to and who will help company correct its course from the feedback they receive. Companies should strive to have more people who can do this.

Understand the real reason

In a lot of exit interviews, people might cite the reason for their exit as “wish to work in a startup”, “higher studies”, “wish to move abroad”, etc. Even though these could be the real reasons, most of the times, there are not.

For example, a person might be dissatisfied with a lot of things in the organisation like her salary, her work, etc. There will, in most cases, be multiple reasons. Due to this, she will look for better opportunities elsewhere. She might decide to work for a startup because she feels that it would be more fulfilling. Now, in the exit interview, she will cite the reason for exit as “her will to work in a startup”. This statement by itself is true. But this is not the real reason she decided to leave. This is a consequence of her decision to find better opportunities. The reason is her salary, work, etc. It is important for us to understand this difference in order to know why exactly people leave our company.

Find the real reason for employee exit

Metrics to take informed decisions

When we know the reasons people quit our company, we can find some trends and use them in our decisions.

For example, if a lot of people quit because of their desire to work abroad, we could relook at our onsite travel or transfer policies and find some areas which could be improved.

If a lot of people quit because they feel they are not given good salaries, but we as a company know that we are giving salaries above industry average, then we could decide there isn't much to do in this space except informing the employees of the true statistics.

Such informed decisions and actions will make the employees trust the management more and companies might find retaining their staff easier.

Understand what motivates employees

It is useful for companies to know what makes their employees happy, what motivates and satisfies them. Frequent discussions with the people working on ground could be a great way of knowing what drives people. In these discussions, one might realise some unexpected things like it is not salary or technology but the impact that the project causes on general public that is a big driving force of the employees. The management can then try and find more such high impact projects. This will make the employees feel satisfied and happy employees will take good care of the company and its clients. Everyone will benefit from this.

Inspite of doing all these and much more, some people will quit. But, doing these will help us know the real reasons people decide to move on, help us correct the course to improve our company and help prevent an unexpected flood of exits.

A few people in some of our offices are working actively on these areas. We are already seeing some positive light due to these activities in those offices. We will keep you posted on what worked best for us soon.

Thanks to Gurpreet and others for their valuable inputs.