Decoding Attrition – The Other Side of the Story

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By Guest
4 minute read ● December 21, 2016
Decoding Attrition

“Losing people to the competition could lead to a dip in the company’s market share and increased revenue for the competition.” – Shailja Dutt, Chairperson, Stellar Search, Business Today, December 18, 2016.

“Companies need to find out why people are leaving and how they can prevent attrition.” – Amit Nandkeolyar, Assistant Professor, Indian School of Business, Business Today, December 18, 2016

Voluntary attrition is always painful for the company barring exceptional situations. The intensity of pain is directly proportional to the contribution-potential of the employees, who quit for a variety of reasons.

This blog attempts to match the probable implicit reasons with the actual expressed reasons of attrition. There are a few underlying assumptions here:

  • Situation analysis of the employee does not match with that of the reporting manager in most cases.
  • Employees change companies as long as the actual/ perceived benefits of quitting are significantly higher than the actual/ perceived cost of continuing.
  • An employee is more willing to take risks in the early stages of career in quest of faster growth in salary, title and job content.
  • As India has a 'high context' culture, Indian professionals tend to communicate more implicitly, indirectly and through nonverbal clues.

Overall, the propensity to quit is directly proportional to the intensity of the employee's personal and professional concerns and aspirations at any given point of time and inversely proportional to the timeliness of the reporting manager’s intervention.

The challenge is now more complicated as we have more than three-four generations at work and each generation has a distinct set of aspirations and concerns at different stages of their respective careers.

Disclaimer: Each probable implicit reason could have linkage with more than one expressed reason.

Expressed Reason - Moving to hometown or closer to hometown | Probable implicit reasons and demographics:

  • A young, unmarried urban professional, who is the only child, quits for his/ her parent's health or demise.
  • A professional, who strongly believes in parental care, is a probable victim of attrition, especially in the early stages of career.
  • A senior employee, with well-settled children, yearns to return to his/ her roots.

Expressed Reason – More/ better compensation | Probable implicit reasons and demographics:

  • A young employee, who had joined at lesser salary (by 20% or more) than his/ her expectations. Hard salary negotiations in most cases backfire. The employee either quits earlier or refrains from giving his or her best.
  • An employee, who has a strong sense of marginalization mostly uses compensation as a reason for moving out.
  • An employee, who has had frequent changes of reporting managers in a short span of time and consequent inconsistency in his/ her direction.

Expressed Reason - Better title or designation | Probable implicit reasons and demographics

  • An employee in his/ her career’s early phase jumps even with marginal salary hike, as he/ she is yet to grasp the relationship between job title and job content.
  • An employee without promotion for three or more consecutive years and who believes that the reporting manager is playing nepotism.
  • An experienced employee with enlarged/ enriched job with a moderate rise in compensation, but without the expected title.

Note: India has always had a hierarchy-based patriarchal society and therefore, titles or designations do matter a lot here.

Expressed Reason - Better job content | Probable implicit reasons and demographics:

  • An employee, whose performance is rated 'Excellent' over two-three consecutive years, but is not given new assignments/ tasks.
  • An experienced employee has developed a fatigue as his/ her job content has improved only marginally over the last two-three years.
  • When the reporting manager fails to develop rapport with the employee in the first four-six months.

Expressed Reason - Further education/ sabbatical | Probable implicit reasons and demographics:

  • An academically brilliant young employee (generally) with well-to-do parents had taken the job solely as a stop-gap arrangement to enable him/ her prepare for further studies.
  • An experienced senior employee wants a career-break for pursuing an academic assignment or a passion ignored for a long time.

Expressed Reason - Spouse unwilling to join at the new location or wanting to move back | Probable implicit reasons and demographics

  • A recently married employee, whose spouse is unwilling to join at his/ her location of working for social or occupation-related reasons.
  • An employee, who tried settling down without spouse, but could not in the first six-eight months.
  • An employee's qualified spouse is unable to obtain a good assignment in the new location.

Expressed Reason - Environmental incompatibility | Probable implicit reasons and demographics:

  • A young employee, who cannot cope with either the dietary customs or climate of the new location.
  • An employee, regardless of seniority, concludes that the climate of the current location is no more suiting his/ her health or the spouse's health.
  • An employee, who had a long stint (generally more than seven-eight years) with the previous company, finds the work environment of the new company unnerving (and receives a welcome-back call from the previous company).
  • An employee from tier 1/ 3 towns finds the overall environment of the metro or a large city too overwhelming in the first four-six months.

Expressed Reason - Own venture/ self-employment | Probable implicit reasons and demographics:

  • An employee, who is an only child, and the father, who has a thriving business, requires son/ daughter to join him for business expansion or due to his health issues.
  • An experienced employee, who has reasoned out that he could excel in a profession, intellectually and financially, if he/ she turns independent.

Expressed Reason - Marriage and children's education | Probable implicit reasons and demographics:

  • A woman, whose spouse and in-laws are located at a different place.
  • A woman, whose spouse has a transferable assignment and she is sole child of her parents.
  • An employee wanting the best education for his/ her children has reasoned out that the current location does not have suitable options.

The underlying purpose of this blog is to highlight the importance of effectiveness of HR systems/ processes including recruitment, selection, induction, performance management, communication, training, rewards, etc., and their role in arresting attrition.
Each implicit reason has a linkage with at least one HR process/ system.

If a penny saved is a penny earned, then an attrition averted is a definite addition to the bottom-line.

This blog is written by Ketan T. Bhatt. He is a management graduate (IRMA-92), and over 20 years, has gained inclusive experience and expertise in HR and OD domains. Since February 2014, KT is an independent HR professional.

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