Decoding Attrition - A Perspective From The Other Side

Posted by - Ketan Bhatt

Whether voluntary or involuntary, attrition of an employee is always 'painful' for the HR Manager and the organization. The more senior the employee, the higher is the degree of pain. In many instances, the looming danger is visible, but nothing can be done, i.e. the likely attrition is known well-in-advance, but the HR Manager is not in a position to avert it. Employed professionals quit for a variety of reasons. This short article seeks to match the probable category of employees with the 'explicit' reasons of separation. There are five underlying assumptions to this matchmaking;

1) An employee always has his 'own' analysis of the situation, which in most cases doesn't match with the analysis of his Functional and/or Human Resource Manager,

2) An employee is willing to move locations/organizations as long as the actual/perceived 'benefits' of leaving the current place/organization are higher than the actual/perceived/opportunity 'cost' of staying put in the current location/organization,

3) A single employee is willing to take more risks and many a times takes unintended/inadvertent risks in the early stages of career in quest of 'faster' growth in compensation and title,

4) A childless employee whose spouse is well-settled in employment at a good location, is in a 'enviable' position to take the risk of changing jobs at a faster pace, and

5) Since India has a 'High Context' culture of business communication, Indian professionals tend to communicate implicitly and more through nonverbal clues.

The reasons of attrition may operate in combination depending on the demographics of the employee and issues confronting him. Overall, the propensity to quit would be directly proportional to the intensity of the employee's personal & professional concerns at a given point of time and inversely proportional to his capability to absorb the stress & passion for career progress, and the timeliness & relevance of the HR & Functional Supervisors' intervention.

So, here goes the matchmaking between predominantly voluntary reasons of attrition and the category of employees.

Reason 1 - Moving to hometown or closer to hometown for reasons including parents' health or death:

1) A young single employee who is the only & more so a late child of the parents, calls it a day very quickly and in sizeable instances it is for his parent's health / demise.

2) A professional who comes from the societal culture that places a firm emphasis on the parental care, is a probable victim of attrition, especially in the early or middle years of his career and if any of the parent or even very close relative is having persistent health troubles.

3) An experienced professional, whose children are well-settled, career-wise and martially, yearns to return to his roots.

4) An 'emotional' employee who is very attached to his parents decides to quit, regardless of the length of career, for being with the ailing parents or for being with mother or father, if one of them passed away recently.

Reason 2 - Enhanced compensation:

1) A young just-out-of-the-campus employee who had joined at a lesser salary compared to other classmates. He was typically among the last few to be placed from the campus and had to opt for the job, lest he would have been 'idle'.

2) A not-so-mature employee who over 2-3 years, has developed & also acknowledged a strong sense of being marginalized by his Functional Manager and hence not being granted 'decent' rise in compensation.

3) An employee who has experienced frequent changes of Reporting Officers and consequent inconsistency in the direction, feels 'unstable' and finds compensation as the most 'plausible reason' for moving out.

Reason 3 - Better title (remember, historically India has a hierarchy-based society & therefore titles do matter a great deal):

1) An employee, especially in the early phases of his career, jumps for a better title, even with marginal or no wage rise, as he compares himself with the classmates who have 'better' titles. And if the next opportunity happens to be near or in the hometown, he is definitely in for a change.

2) An employee, who in his own analysis, is 'denied' elevation for more than 2 consecutive years for no 'rhyme & reasons' and more so if he 'believes' that the Functional Manager is playing nepotism.

3) A relatively experienced employee whose job is enlarged with a corresponding rise in compensation, but is not granted a suitable title even after the 'promised' period. It does not matter what the HR Manager had 'promised' at the time of enlargement of the job, the inner conflict had taken the roots right at that time as the 'promise' is considered a 'right'.

Reason 4 - Better job content:

1) A well-qualified young employee whose performance is rated 'excellent' over 2-3 consecutive years, but not given new assignment / tasks, finds the world 'too mundane'.

2) An experienced incumbent whose job content has improved only marginally over the years and he has developed a fatigue and a sense of hopelessness.

3) An employee who in the first place wanted to work for a multinational or a 'reputed' company for better job content and salary, but did not get a fortune.

Reason 5 - Interpersonal comfort:

1) An employee whose previous boss 'invites' or 'persuades' the employee to join him. The primary consideration for the switch is the interpersonal comfort accompanied by a symbolic change in the title and the compensation.

2) An inexperienced employee whose boss is not able to develop a good rapport with him over a period of first 8-12 months. He utters to the HR Manager first and if not heeded, takes the exit 'route'. Even an experienced pro will take the exit path, but over a longer period as he has matured and can persevere.

Reason 6 - "New Industry" syndrome:

1) An employee who is an 'average' performer in the eyes of his Functional Manager 'suddenly' discovers that the new company or the industry is offering more compensation, different title and better working conditions for the same set of skills, for which he is being paid 'peanuts' in the current organization.

Reason 7 - Further education/Sabbatical:

1) A young employee, who has been academically brilliant (from schooling to post-graduation) and/or has well-to-do parents had taken the job solely as a stop-gap arrangement to enable him prepare for further studies.

2) A seasoned & well-to-do employee 'suddenly' realizes that he 'deserves' a temporary career-break and should pursue an academic assignment or a passion which he has ignored for a long. This is altogether an individual decision and organization can very do very little because the reasons are beyond the realm of employment.

Reason 8 - Spouse not willing to join at the new location or wanting to move back:

1) An employee who has married recently and his spouse is unwilling to join or cannot join at his location of working, for social or her occupation-related reasons.

2) An employee who tried settling down without his spouse and children, but could not at first 8-12 months, decides to move back to his old location.

3) An employee's qualified spouse is unable to obtain a good assignment in the new place and therefore she desires to move back to his previous location where she had a stable job.

Reason 9 - Environmental incompatibility:

1) A young employee who either develops health related issues and/or cannot cope with the dietary customs of the new location and/or finds the climate of the new place unsuitable.

2) An employee, regardless of seniority, decides to move on because he believes that the climate of the current location is no more suiting his health or the spouse's health or his parents' health.

3) An employee, who had a long stint with the previous company, finds the work environment of the new organization a little 'unnerving' and receives a surprising 'welcome-back' call from the previous boss.

Reason 10 - Own venture:

1) An employee who is the only male child of the parents and the father, who has a thriving business, either wants to expand or needs backup for his health troubles.

2) An experienced employee who has reasoned out that he will be able to produce better output (intellectually and/or financially) if he turns independent

Reason 11 - Marriage and children's education:

1) A woman employee whose spouse and in-laws are located in another place

2) A woman employee, whose spouse has a transferable assignment and she is the sole child of her parents, prefers to be with her parents after marriage. Alternatively, she shuttles between her parents' house and in-law parents' house.

3) An employee who wants the 'best' education for his children and has reasoned out that his current location of work does not have befitting options

The Final Reason - Understating & Arresting Attrition

It is not necessary for every reader to agree with the author's views and some may even find the article as the 'old wine in new bottle'. But then wine connoisseurs say that "the aging or maturing or ripening of wine is potentially able to improve the quality of wine". Therefore, the 'old wine' must be the most sought after.

The objective of the article is to highlight the need for anticipating and acting proactively on attrition-prone employees. As expressed in the author's another article titled 'Prenatal, Neonatal and Postnatal Care of the Young Employee', "Lesser the attrition of young employees, lesser will be the replacement; training & other opportunity costs, better will be the function's performance and healthier will be the image of the company". If "a penny saved is a penny earned", then we can surely say that, "an attrition averted is a recruitment done".

Isn't arresting attrition is greatly comparable to the 'weather forecast'? Though the forecast could go awry (and goes wrong in many cases), the concerned scientists & officers of the Meteorological Department continue forecasting and keep going on, getting the predictions more accurate & reliable with better technology, equipments & training. After all, one 'tsunami' averted in time means many lives spared.

 

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