Causes of a high attrition rate and how to reduce it

high attrition rate

It’s an employee’s market. They’re more informed and empowered than ever before, the employer-employee dynamic has changed, and companies are struggling to retain their top performers. Job hopping has become prevalent, and this has been fueled by a low unemployment rate in the US – the lowest it has been since 1969.

This means that, generally speaking, employees have the upper hand in choosing where they want to work. If they’re not happy at your organization, they’ll move on to another. And, this is costing US businesses a lot of money – $1 trillion every year, to be more specific.

But what exactly is it that causes a sense of dissatisfaction in the workplace, leading to a high attrition rate?

There are a number of reasons people start looking to see if the grass is greener on the other side. Some factors may depend on the industry, the organization and of course the individual, but there appear to be a few common reasons that people quit, and these include:

Poor management

Employees look to their managers for direction, some level of guidance, inclusion and, in some cases, defense. Today’s employees desire a level of autonomy and they want to be trusted that they’ll get the job done – whether they’re on site or working remotely.

What they don’t want is to feel micromanaged, disempowered or overlooked (see more below). A great manager communicates effectively, with the appropriate level of transparency, gives regular feedback, and doesn’t become distracted by focusing on shining their own light. Instead, they encourage contribution and problem-solving input from their team, creating a respectful, inclusive and innovative environment.

If you’re new to management, you might like our blog: Top advice for first-time managers.

A lack of recognition

This is often linked to the previous point – sometimes managers are too busy to stop and give recognition; they may be distracted or feel intimidated by a high performer and take the credit for themselves. The result: employees who are overlooked by their managers or not given credit where it’s due start to feel demotivated, frustrated, or perhaps even resentful.

Driven employees want to contribute positively to the company, they want to know that they’re on the right track, they want to know that they’ll be able to advance (see our next point), and they certainly don’t want to go unnoticed.

No opportunity for growth

High performers want to grow, move forward in their careers, take on exciting opportunities and develop new skills. They’re driven by far more than a great salary; they want to master their jobs and know that they have a solid career plan and the ability to move forward at your organization.

If employees feel that these opportunities don’t exist at your company; if they aren’t made aware of growth opportunities; or if they’re blocked from moving into appropriate roles as a result of company politics or being overlooked or undervalued, they won’t stick around, leading to a high attrition rate.

Toxic work environment

This issue alone has cost the US $223 billion over the past five years, according to SHRM. A toxic workplace not only affects productivity, but it can cause damage to relationships at multiple levels. It affects relationships among colleagues and can even have a negative impact on client relationships, causing damage to your brand and potentially even prompting a loss of business.

Beyond the workplace, a toxic environment can also damage personal relationships. It’s easy to see why this is a quick way to lose your best employees.

Read more about how a toxic work environment contributes to a high attrition rate here.

Now, let’s look at how you can tackle a high attrition rate.

Finding a solution to prevent attrition

Equip your managers to lead well

If you are concerned that there’s a problem with management – the people that have to understand how to engage with and motivate employees from different generations and backgrounds – address this before matters escalate.

Host open conversations with managers, give them feedback and equip them with the tools they need to succeed as they oversee their team’s performance. Perhaps they’re overwhelmed and need some extra support, or maybe they need they need coaching or mentorship to help them refine some management skills. Like other employees, give them the opportunity to course correct and grow.

Encourage real-time feedback

Regular check ins can be a powerful retention and performance management tool. This simple act shows employees that they matter, and that their thoughts, ideas, input and work are valued. And, when people feel valued, they stay longer and perform better.

Real-time feedback is more effective and less pressured than an annual performance reviews and encourages open channels of communication. It also provides a platform where recognition can be given where it’s due and where gratitude can be shown.

Real-time feedback further allows you to catch small issues before they become huge errors or misunderstandings, allowing the employee to course correct. It also gives you the opportunity to have conversations or offer guidance to people who might not otherwise feel confident enough to ask for help.

Read more about the benefits of real-time feedback here.

Provide opportunities to advance

As mentioned earlier, employees need to know that they will have the opportunity to advance at your company. You can make this clear, and help them reach their aims by assisting them in drawing up a career map. This process doesn’t necessarily need to involve a five- or 10-year plan but it should give employees the chance to focus on the skills they’d like to develop.

Developing a culture of continuous learning and giving your employees the opportunity to develop their careers through training is a valuable retention strategy, which can be achieved via microlearning.

In today’s world, if employees feel like they’re losing ground and risk having their skills become ‘outdated’, they’ll move on. Helping employees refine their skills on an ongoing basis and keep abreast of the latest development has multiple benefits. It shows that you value their contribution, that you want them to remain a part of your organization long term, and it ultimately helps your organization remain agile and ready for the future. After all, we recently saw that over 120 million workers in the world’s 12 largest economies may need to be retrained or reskilled in the next three years.

You can also help employees innovate and develop new skills by establishing an internal gig economy. This lets employees take on stimulating work gigs in other departments and teams, fostering intrapreneurship and turnover prevention.

Create a happy, productive, inclusive culture

Modern employees expect nothing less than an inclusive, tech-savvy environment, where collaboration is encouraged, autonomy is allowed, and innovation is celebrated.

To achieve this, it’s important to focus on every aspect of the employee lifecycle – from attracting the right talent, and integrating them into the fiber of your organization, to nurturing their growth and giving them opportunities to advance within your organization – and ensuring that performance is well managed throughout.

Curb a high attrition rate with the right tools

Let us help you maintain or bring this culture to life at your organization. With our advanced tools supporting your HR strategies, you’ll be equipped to give modern employees what they want, helping you reach your organizational objectives while preventing a high attrition rate.

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