What Is Attrition in the Workplace?

by Chris Miksen; Updated September 26, 2017

Attrition is not a word many companies want to hear, unless it’s associated with their competitors. Attrition is essentially the slow decay of a company. If management doesn’t take action to stop attrition, the workforce will shrink, production will stop and the company will likely go out of business.

Definition

Attrition occurs when employees leave a company. Attrition can quickly deplete a company of its best employees and drastically thin its workforce, leading to slow production or even stoppages. Attrition can cause current employees to take on additional workloads, leading to stress and worsening the situation. Even if a company replaces its lost employees, it must then spend the time and money training new workers.

Employee Relations

Poor employee relations may cause attrition. Employees who feel that they’re treated poorly, paid wages lower than industry standards and offered little to no benefits may seek employment elsewhere. Examples of poor employee relations include forcing employees to work long hours constantly, berating employees and refusing to acknowledge their contributions. The company may not be able to replace employees who leave, because of recruitment issues or because of the company’s reputation for poor employee relations. To stop attrition caused by sub-par employee relations, management must overhaul the way in which it treats employees. By respecting its workforce through communicating in a friendly manner, offering better wages and benefits and empowering employees, companies can stop employees from exiting en masse.

Company Health

A company whose financial health dwindles may result in employees seeking new opportunities elsewhere. Many employees choose to be proactive in job searches and would rather secure a job with a healthy company than be caught blindsided by a company that terminates its workforce due to financial problems. Companies that experience attrition resulting from poor financial health often find it difficult to stem the tide, because to improve the company, it needs high performing employees. For example, suppose Company A has seen sales plummet for the past three years. With no sign of a change, employees will begin looking at the company’s competitors for job security.

Recruitment

A company that’s experiencing problems keeping employees can help the situation by recruiting more employees. Even if a company's employees leave for other opportunities, it can keep operations going by hiring new workers. To improve recruitment, companies must advertise for open positions through numerous avenues, including job boards, social networking and newspapers. A company should focus on the benefits candidates will enjoy by joining the company. By making a consistent effort to recruit, a company can at least replace its exiting employees.

About the Author

Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.