What is Attrition?

Meaning & Definition


Attrition, in the context of human resources and workforce management, refers to the gradual reduction in the size or strength of an organization’s workforce due to the natural departure of employees. It is often used to describe the process of employees leaving the organization voluntarily or involuntarily over time, resulting in a decrease in the overall headcount. Attrition can occur for various reasons, and it is a common occurrence in the job market.

Key points about attrition

  • Voluntary vs. Involuntary

Attrition can be classified into two main categories:

  • Voluntary Attrition

This occurs when employees choose to leave the organization on their own accord. Reasons for voluntary attrition may include retirement, finding a new job, pursuing higher education, dissatisfaction with the current job, or personal reasons.

  • Involuntary Attrition

This refers to employees leaving the organization due to factors beyond their control, such as layoffs, termination, or job elimination.

  • Natural Turnover

Some level of attrition is considered natural and expected in any organization. Employees retire, move, or change jobs as part of their career progression, and this gradual attrition is a normal aspect of workforce management.

  • Attrition Rate

Organizations often calculate their attrition rate to track and measure the rate at which employees are leaving the company. The attrition rate is typically expressed as a percentage and is calculated by dividing the number of employees who left during a specific period by the average total number of employees during that period.

  • Impact

Attrition can have both positive and negative effects on an organization. It can reduce labor costs, free up positions for new talent, and help the organization adapt to changing business needs. However, if attrition is high and the departure of key talent is frequent, it can result in a loss of institutional knowledge and increased recruitment and training costs.

  • Talent Management

Managing attrition is a critical part of talent management strategies. Organizations may implement measures to retain top talent, such as offering competitive compensation, professional development opportunities, and a positive work environment.

  • Succession Planning

High attrition rates, especially among key positions, may necessitate succession planning to ensure that there are suitable replacements for departing employees.

Attrition is a natural aspect of the labor market, and organizations must adapt to changes in their workforce. Effective talent management and employee retention strategies can help mitigate the negative impacts of attrition and maintain a skilled and productive workforce.

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