What is Employee Attrition: Causes and Solutions

employee leaving workplace symbolising employee attrition

In this article, we explore what employee attrition really means, why it happens, and how it differs from employee turnover.

What is employee attrition?

Employee attrition refers to the natural process of losing employees through various means and is an inevitable part of running a business. It happens when employees retire, resign, or leave for personal reasons without being directly replaced.

Attrition reduces the workforce size and can impact the company’s operations if not managed properly. It differs from layoffs, which are often employer-driven decisions to reduce workforce for strategic or financial reasons.

Attrition vs. turnover

While both attrition and turnover involve employees leaving, they aren’t the same. Attrition occurs when employees leave naturally and are not immediately replaced. This could be due to retirement, health issues, or personal choices.

On the other hand, turnover happens when employees leave or are let go, and new employees are hired to fill the vacancies. Turnover is often a sign of deeper issues within the company, like poor management or unsatisfactory work conditions, and it requires active steps to recruit and train new staff.

Types of attrition

Each type of attrition affects the company differently, and understanding these can help in crafting better employee retention strategies.

Useful Read: Employee Retention: Definitions, Tips, and Strategies

Voluntary attrition vs. involuntary attrition

Voluntary attrition happens when employees choose to leave on their own. This could be for better job opportunities, higher education, or other personal reasons. For example, an employee might resign to move to another city with their family or switch careers.

Involuntary attrition, however, involves situations where the company decides to part ways with the employee due to performance issues, restructuring, or economic downturns, such as a team member being let go during a company-wide downsizing.

Functional vs. dysfunctional attrition

Functional attrition can be seen as beneficial or at least neutral for the company. It occurs when employees who are underperforming or not fitting well with the company culture leave on their own accord. This can open up opportunities to bring in new talent that better aligns with the company’s goals and needs.

Dysfunctional attrition, however, is problematic as it involves losing highly skilled, productive employees who leave because they are unhappy or feel undervalued. This type of attrition can significantly disrupt operations and reduce overall productivity.

What's the difference between positive and negative attrition?

The terms "positive employee attrition" and "negative employee attrition" refer to the effects of employee departures on an organization, viewed from a strategic perspective.

Positive employee attrition

occurs when employees whose departure benefits the organization leave. This might include employees who are underperforming, not fitting well with the company culture, or those in roles that have become redundant due to technological advances or restructuring.

Positive attrition can help streamline operations and reduce costs, and it often opens up opportunities to hire new talent that may be a better fit for the company’s evolving needs.

Negative employee attrition

happens when the departure of employees harms the organization. This typically involves high-performing individuals or those with critical skills leaving, which can lead to a loss of institutional knowledge, decreased morale among remaining staff, and potential disruptions in service or productivity.

Negative attrition often forces a company to spend time and resources on recruiting and training new employees and can damage the company's reputation if it indicates a pattern of dissatisfaction among staff.

Statistics and trends in employee attrition across various industries

In 2023, employee turnover in the US showed a marked decrease, dropping to an overall rate of 17.3% from 24.7% the previous year, signaling significant shifts in workforce dynamics.

The breakdown between voluntary and involuntary turnover highlights that 17.3% of employees chose to leave their roles, while only 4.8% were let go by their employers.

Turnover rates varied widely across different sectors. The retail and wholesale sector experienced the highest voluntary turnover at 32.9%, whereas sectors like chemicals and energy, which typically offer higher salaries and require more specialized education, saw much lower rates of 11.7% and 12.3%, respectively.

These figures suggest that better compensation and job security can contribute to lower attrition rates.

Additionally, turnover rates differ significantly depending on the role within the company.

Executive roles reported a lower voluntary turnover rate of about 5.1%, in contrast to higher rates in more junior positions, such as customer service, which saw an 8.9% turnover rate.

How to calculate employee attrition rate ?

Calculating employee attrition is a straightforward process that helps organizations understand how many employees are leaving over a specific period. Here’s a basic method to calculate it:

  • Determine the period: Decide the timeframe for which you want to calculate the attrition rate (e.g., annually, quarterly).

  • Count the number of employees at the start: Find out how many employees were working at the organization at the beginning of the period.

  • Count the number of employees at the end: Determine how many employees were at the organization at the end of the period.

  • Count the number of employees who left: This includes all employees who left the organization for any reason—resignation, retirement, termination, etc.

  • Calculate the average number of employees: Add the number of employees at the start and the number of employees at the end, then divide by two. This gives you the average employee count for the period:

    Average Number of Employees=(Number of Employees at Start+Number of Employees at End)/2

  • Calculate the employee attrition rate: Divide the number of employees who left by the average number of employees, then multiply by 100 to get a percentage:

    Employee attrition rate (%)=(Number of Employees Who Left/Average Number of Employees)×100

This formula provides the percentage of the workforce that has left the company during the specified period, giving a clear picture of employee turnover. This calculation helps businesses gauge their stability and the effectiveness of their retention strategies.

What are the common causes of employee attrition?

employee leaving office

Understanding the reasons behind employee attrition is crucial for any organization aiming to improve retention and maintain a stable workforce. Here are some of the most common factors contributing to employee departures:

1. Economic factors:

Job market trends often influence employee decisions to stay or leave. A booming job market can increase attrition rates as employees find more opportunities with potentially better pay or benefits. Conversely, in a slow job market, employees might stay longer at their current jobs, reducing attrition rates.

Compensation and benefits comparisons play a significant role as well. Employees continuously evaluate if they are fairly compensated. If they perceive that they could earn a better salary or enjoy superior benefits elsewhere, the likelihood of them leaving increases.

Competitive compensation packages are essential to retain valuable employees and manage the organization's attrition rate effectively.

2. Workplace environment:

The management styles and workplace culture greatly impact employee satisfaction and engagement. Authoritative or unsupportive management can lead to high attrition rates. In contrast, a supportive and transparent workplace culture can help reduce attrition.

Work-life balance and job stress are also critical factors. Poor work-life balance and high job stress are common reasons why employees resign. Companies that offer flexible working arrangements and prioritize employee well-being are more likely to retain their staff and reduce attrition.

3. Career development:

Lack of opportunities for growth and advancement can cause employees to leave in search of better prospects. Organizations that invest in employee development programs and clear career pathways can enhance job satisfaction and reduce turnover.

Training and development are not just about improving skills but also about showing employees that they are valued and that there are long-term career options available for them within the company.

4. Personal eeasons:

Attrition also occurs due to personal or professional reasons outside the employer's control, such as relocation, family commitments, or personal health issues. Additionally, retirement and life changes contribute to attrition, particularly among experienced employees.

While it's challenging to control these factors, offering remote work options or part-time positions can sometimes help retain employees who might otherwise leave.

Each of these factors intertwines to influence the overall employee attrition rate within a company.

Impact of employee attrition on your organization

Employee attrition affects every aspect of an organization, from financials to team dynamics and long-term strategy. Understanding these impacts can help businesses develop more effective retention strategies and manage attrition rates better.

Cost implications:

The cost of hiring and training new employees is one of the most immediate impacts of attrition. Every time an employee leaves, organizations incur costs related to recruiting, onboarding, and training someone new. These costs can be substantial, especially when hiring for roles requiring specialized skills.

Additionally, there is often a loss of productivity and company knowledge when employees leave. Experienced employees carry institutional knowledge that isn't easily replaced. Their departure can lead to gaps in expertise and can disrupt ongoing projects and processes, affecting the overall productivity of the team.

Team and organizational impact:

Attrition can significantly affect team morale and cohesion. The departure of colleagues can lead to increased workloads for remaining staff and can dampen morale, potentially triggering a chain reaction of attrition.

Furthermore, attrition can severely impact project continuity and client relationships. When key team members leave, particularly those who manage client relationships or project leadership, their departure can lead to delays and even dissatisfaction among clients, risking those relationships.

Long-term business outcomes:

Over the longer term, high rates of attrition can impact a company's reputation and employer branding. Frequent turnover can give the impression that a company is not a stable place to work, which can deter potential talent from applying.

Moreover, high attrition rates require a company to spend more time and resources on recruiting and training rather than on product development and growth strategies, influencing the strategic implications for long-term business planning.

The ability to retain talented employees can be seen as a marker of company health and operational effectiveness, directly influencing strategic decisions and future growth opportunities.

Strategies to reduce employee attrition

Effective strategies to reduce employee attrition are vital for maintaining a stable, engaged, and productive workforce. These strategies should focus on improving the workplace environment, enhancing compensation and benefits, fostering career development, and supporting work-life balance.

Improving workplace environment:

Creating a positive and inclusive culture alongside implementing effective management and leadership training can dramatically improve employee satisfaction and reduce attrition rates. Here are some practical action points to enhance the workplace environment:

  • Regular employee feedback sessions: Conduct regular meetings where employees can speak freely about their concerns and suggestions. This can help in making them feel heard and valued.

  • Recognition programs: Develop a system to recognize and reward employees for their hard work and achievements. This can boost morale and motivate others.

  • Team building activities: Organize regular team-building exercises that are not only fun but also enhance collaboration and communication among employees.

  • Transparent communication: Ensure that all levels of the organization maintain open lines of communication about company policies, changes, and updates. This transparency can build trust and reduce rumors and uncertainties.

  • Leadership training programs: Offer training programs that help managers develop their leadership skills, focusing on empathy, effective communication, and employee engagement.

Enhancing compensation and benefits:

Providing competitive salary packages and comprehensive benefits including health, retirement, and wellness programs are essential in retaining employees. Specific actions include:

  • Regular market analysis: Regularly analyze industry standards to ensure your compensation packages remain competitive.

  • Personalized benefits packages: Offer benefits that can be tailored to the individual needs of employees, such as flexible spending accounts or options for remote work.

  • Performance bonuses: Implement a clear structure for performance-related bonuses that are both attainable and rewarding.

  • Retirement plans: Enhance retirement benefits to make long-term employment more attractive.

  • Health and wellness programs: Introduce comprehensive wellness programs that include mental health support, fitness memberships, and wellness days off.

Focusing on career development:

Career development opportunities are a significant factor in employee retention. To focus on this area:

  • Clear career pathways: Clearly outline potential career paths within the organization and discuss these paths with employees to align their goals with company opportunities.

  • Mentorship programs: Establish mentorship programs where experienced employees can guide newer or less experienced staff, fostering a culture of learning and growth.

  • Continuous education: Offer tuition reimbursement or subsidize certifications and training that enhance employees' skills and knowledge.

  • Skill development workshops: Regularly organize workshops that help employees acquire new skills or improve existing ones, keeping them engaged and improving job satisfaction.

  • Leadership opportunities: Create opportunities for employees to take on leadership roles in projects, which can provide experience and exposure within the company.

Supporting work-life balance:

Supporting employees in maintaining a healthy work-life balance is crucial for reducing attrition. Actions to support this include:

  • Flexible working hours: Allow flexible working hours and remote work options where possible.

  • Paid time off: Encourage employees to take their full allotment of paid leave to rest and rejuvenate.

  • Support for parents and caregivers: Provide support for employees with families, such as onsite childcare or flexible schedules for parents.

  • Employee assistance programs: Offer programs that help employees with personal problems or life challenges that might affect their work performance and satisfaction.

  • Health days off: Implement policies that allow employees to take days off for mental and physical health reasons without penalties.

By implementing these strategies, organizations can enhance employee engagement, reduce employee attrition rates, and ensure that their workforce remains strong, motivated, and aligned with the company's goals.

Tools and resources for managing attrition

sad and fired employee leaving workplace with box of belongings in hand

To effectively manage employee attrition, many organizations turn to advanced HR technologies and software that help monitor and analyze workforce dynamics.

These tools provide invaluable insights into employee behavior, engagement, and satisfaction, allowing companies to implement proactive strategies to reduce internal attrition and ensure employees feel valued.

HR technologies and software for managing attrition:

Here is a list of HR technology and software for effectively managing attrition.

1. Deel:

Deel is a comprehensive HR management platform that is particularly effective for companies with a global workforce. It integrates functionalities such as payroll, compliance, and benefits management across over 150 countries.

The platform is known for its robust analytics capabilities, offering detailed insights that help manage and optimize employee relations and retention strategies. More about Deel can be found on their official website.

2. Paycor:

Recognized for its integrated HR and payroll management capabilities, Paycor helps streamline various HR functions including recruiting, onboarding, and employee development analytics.

This platform is particularly beneficial for automating key HR operations, thus allowing better management of employee attrition through timely interventions and support. Learn more on Paycor's website.

3. Rippling:

Rippling offers a technologically advanced HR management suite that supports a wide range of HR tasks from payroll to benefits and IT systems, making it ideal for distributed organizations.

Its capability to automate and simplify HR processes helps businesses efficiently manage employee data and reduce attrition by addressing issues promptly and effectively. Check out more details on Rippling's website.

4. Hubstaff:

Best suited for remote teams, Hubstaff provides detailed time tracking and productivity monitoring. It helps HR professionals gain deep insights into how employees manage their time, contributing to better decision-making regarding employee engagement and retention.

Hubstaff’s features support strategic resource allocation and transparent employee accountability, which are key to minimizing attrition. More information is available on Hubstaff’s website.

Employee scheduling and Time-tracking software!

Employee scheduling and Time-tracking software!

  • Easy Employee scheduling
  • Clear time-tracking
  • Simple absence management
Try for free Request a demo


Understanding and managing employee attrition is crucial for maintaining a stable and motivated workforce. By identifying the causes of attrition, assessing its impact, and implementing strategic measures to mitigate it, organizations can enhance employee satisfaction and engagement.

Tools and technologies play a significant role in monitoring and managing attrition, enabling companies to make informed decisions that support their workforce effectively. Ultimately, a proactive approach to managing attrition not only boosts the organization’s health but also contributes to its long-term success.

Topic: Employees
Rinaily Bonifacio

Written by:

Rinaily Bonifacio

Rinaily is a renowned expert in the field of human resources with years of industry experience. With a passion for writing high-quality HR content, Rinaily brings a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities of the modern workplace. As an experienced HR professional and content writer, She has contributed to leading publications in the field of HR.


Please note that the information on our website is intended for general informational purposes and not as binding advice. The information on our website cannot be considered a substitute for legal and binding advice for any specific situation. While we strive to provide up-to-date and accurate information, we do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of the information on our website for any purpose. We are not liable for any damage or loss arising from the use of the information on our website.