Employee attrition refers to staff members who leave a company.
Retaining staff has become an ongoing issue in recent years, with more than 3.98 million workers quitting their jobs each month.
In this blog post, Drive Research dives into what causes employee attrition, how to reduce employee turnover and absenteeism, and strategies to help.
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- What causes poor employee attrition
- Strategy #1: Employee surveys
- Strategy #2: Don't rely on hearsay
- Strategy #3: Ensure employees feel heard
- Strategy #4: Discuss compensation and benefits
- Strategy #5: Keep employee engagement top of mind
- Strategy #6: Promote healthy communication
- Strategy #7: Prioritize professional development
- Strategy #8: Shift to a more flexible mindset
- Strategy #9: Evaluate feedback from employee exit interviews
Typically, when human resources (HR) leaders talk about this employee attrition, they are referring to those who leave the company to join a different employer, rather than those who simply retire or stop working.
There are several reasons why employees look for a new job.
Some are due to factors that are outside the employer’s control. But, mainly the causes of poor employee retention are things that can be avoided and prevented.
Based on our research, common reasons for a high employee attrition rate include:
- Poor compensation
- Poor benefits
- Lack of paid time off (i.e., sick time, vacation)
- Poor working relationships between coworkers
- Bad working relationships between workers and their supervisors
- Job security fears
- Sub-par work-life balance
- Industry changes
- Regulation changes
Whatever the reason, the cost of losing good employees is high. For context, it costs companies an average of 33% of an employee's yearly salary for their exit.
Leadership teams and human resource representatives often have assumptions about why employee retention is low, but an employee survey is the best vehicle for identifying the exact causes.
When surveying employees, organization leaders can specifically design a custom questionnaire that helps them achieve their unique goals and objectives.
For instance, when searching online for ways to reduce employee attrition, you'll find many of the strategies are very generalized.
They'll tell you your low retention rates could be due to your lack of communication, intimidating company culture, no room for growth, or other common pain points.
While these are good starting points, the answer to why staff members are leaving your specific organization can only be found by conducting an annual employee survey.
Common key performance indicators (KPIs) for an employee survey may include:
- Rating the importance of specific job-related factors
- Employee net promoter score (eNPS)
- Reasoning for eNPS
- Word association(s) about the organization
- How satisfaction has changed at the workplace in the past 12 months
- Comparison to other employers in similar industries (i.e., previous jobs)
- Employee benchmarking questions
- Any other custom-created question or question set based on the goals and objectives of the organization
Benefits of measuring eNPS
Similar to net promoter score (NPS), employee net promoter score measures how likely staff members are to recommend their employer as a place to work to industry colleagues.
Here’s an example of how eNPS could be asked in a survey.
How likely are you to recommend [insert employer] as a place to work? Select a rating with 0 being "Not at all likely" and 10 being "Extremely likely."
Then, the response options of eNPS are calculated to create three groups.
- Promoters. Those who rate an employer a 9 or 10. Promoters are most likely to actively spread positive awareness of their employer.
- Passives. Those who rate an employer a 7 or 8. Passives are likely to say positive remarks about their employer, but only if asked.
- Detractors. Those who rate a company a 0 to 6. Detractors are likely to spread neutral or negative remarks about the employer.
The results of eNPS create a score ranging from -100 (meaning all employees rated the employer a 0 to 6) and +100 (meaning all employees rated the employer a 9 or 10).
On average, eNPS results usually fall between 0 to +25.
Watch our video for more information on calculating eNPS.
Keys to success when conducting employee surveys
To make sure you are seeing quality results, here are a few best practices our employee survey company recommends implementing.
1. Partner with an employee survey company
It is critical to use a third party for employee surveys.
It ensures employee feedback will be kept confidential and anonymous, which is the crux of getting true and unbiased feedback from employees.
The more accurate data you have, the better your organization will be able to increase employee retention.
2. Include benchmarking questions
The second tip is to include survey questions that can be benchmarked to competitors, industry standards, and your own results for future survey iterations.
Categories for employee benchmark survey questions typically include:
- Career development
- Work engagement and motivation
- Relationship management
- Work environment
To make employee survey benchmarks as effective as possible, we suggest keeping the questions exactly as written to compare the results directly year over year.
Editing the question text can cause misinterpretation and prevent the use of benchmarking data.
For example, here’s a benchmark question.
Please rate your level of agreement with the following statement: “I get excited about going to work.”
Changing the question to, “I like going to work”, while similar, has a different tone than the benchmark question which was asked as written to employees in the past.
Ultimately, the results of this question will no longer be a direct comparison to the benchmark data set.
3. Share the feedback with leadership teams
Studies show, there is a 16% decrease in retention rates for employees who aren’t comfortable giving upward feedback.
Therefore, an appropriate next step is to meet with those in managerial or leadership positions to dive into some of the issues raised by employees - knowing most employees won't provide direct feedback themselves.
It is also a great time for idea generation to make strides to reduce employee attrition and improve eNPS.
How often you should survey employees
It is vital to reassess employee satisfaction every 12 to 18 months.
Even with a good eNPS, organizations need to make some changes to boost scores higher and push satisfaction levels upward.
If no changes are made, employee and customer satisfaction are likely to shift downward, leading to high employee attrition rates.
Additionally, keeping the pulse on these metrics frequently with continuous performance measurement and tracking lets you understand where gains have occurred.
All successful organizations set up ways for employees to bond with one another.
It could be through daily IMs, lunchroom conversations, or happy hours.
Unfortunately, when it comes to why an employee leaves an organization it is often hearsay and unreliable sources.
Someone says one thing, that gets passed to another, and by the time (or if it makes it to HR), it’s gone through 14 cycles of the game of telephone.
If you make changes to your culture based on this hearsay strategy, your change management method will likely be based on inaccurate drivers to employee attrition.
On top of that, making decisions to change policies on one-off cases (i.e., Pam left because she wanted more vacation time) is not a good strategy, either.
Through a more controlled outreach like a survey, you may find that 99% of your employees are already happy with the vacation policy.
So, adding 3 additional days of personal time because of Pam was unneeded.
Getting a true measure of your organization’s differentiators and improvement areas is crucial to reducing employee attrition.
- It’s not about what you or your management team thinks is the reason people are leaving your organization. ❌
- It’s about getting to the source to uncover those problems, quantity them, and make corrections. ✅
In short, make sure you understand the true reason behind employees that leave your company.
Going off of what others tell you isn’t often accurate, and can lead to additional misunderstandings in the workplace.
The only thing worse than not reaching out to your employees to collect feedback is reaching out and doing nothing with the feedback to make changes
Therefore, ensuring employees feel heard is a crucial second step after an employee survey project is complete.
This discussion should thank all who took the time to offer feedback and share a few high-level findings.
Sending a follow-up email helps...
- Communicate that the employer is appreciative of feedback
- Prove their feedback is both heard and acknowledged
- Shows actions for change are coming
- Set the tone for leadership effectiveness
All of which help cut down on the employee attrition rate.
Keep in mind, findings can seem long and too in-depth for someone who was not close to the study.
It's why many employee survey reports include an infographic.
Adding an element of data visualization is great for showcasing key results or highlights from the study.
In similar employee survey studies conducted by our team, clients have adapted the infographic to make it shareable across all employees.
It is sent alongside a thank you email to all employees featuring a few of the key findings and how the results will be implemented in the future.
It is also important to reaffirm the results were confidential and reported in aggregate.
In some organizations, supervisors work with their teams to develop smart and measurable goals.
This may include:
- Company revenue goals
- Key performance indicators (KPIs) for the specific position
- Tracking the progress of other tasks/responsibilities
The supervisor and employee need to discuss these criteria and come to a decision on creating engaging goals and how it relates to potential compensation increases or bonuses.
For example, creating a company revenue goal, sometimes referred to as profit sharing, can be a great way to build performance bonuses for the whole team.
This solidifies teamwork and rewards the entire team when the company does well. This type of comradery is great for reducing employee attrition.
Other benefits to discuss and potentially customize for employees may include:
- Offering a flexible schedule
- Unlimited paid time off
- Healthcare insurance
- Dental insurance
- Vision insurance
- Life insurance
- Retirement accounts with a company match
- Paid parental leave
Creating a roadmap for pay increases
Additionally, to retain more employees, employers should show how staff members can meet and exceed expectations for a role, with a road map for increased compensation.
For instance, employee pay increases are often linked to promotions. But, compensation and benefits should support employees' individual goals and specializations.
Knowing not all employees will be a manager or leaders, these employees should be rewarded for improvement.
Therefore, supervisors should find ways to create levels of growth in existing employee roles.
Especially for long-term employees, who want to be paid based on their situation and contributions rather than their seniority level.
Employee engagement and satisfaction is a great indicator of someone being fulfilled and happy in their current role.
Tips to improve employee engagement include:
- Focusing on engagement throughout the entire organization
- Selecting the right managers
- Coaching leadership and holding them accountable for employee engagement
- Defining employee engagement for the organization in realistic, everyday terms
Additionally, research studies show a strong correlation between employee engagement and client satisfaction.
In fact, Gallup found organizations with highly engaged and satisfied employees outperform other businesses in customer loyalty/engagement, profitability, and productivity.
Did you know, companies and organizations that communicate effectively are 4.5x more likely to retain the best employees?
It's why many attrition reduction strategies center around open communication.
Suggestions to optimize communication between employees and leaders include:
- Defining expectations for individual employees and teams
- Defining outstanding performance
- Discussing ways employee work aligns with the organization as a whole
- Frequently providing formal and informal feedback to help employees reach goals
Discuss the company's future (and often)
Another study by Gallup revealed that 22% of employees strongly agreed organization leadership had a clear vision for the future.
This vision made 15% of employees excited to be a part of that plan.
Therefore when looking for ways to reduce employee attrition, be sure leadership teams are instilling confidence and trust that the business can offer great opportunities for the future.
Doing so makes team members more likely to stay committed to the organization.
Suggestions to improve trust between employees and leaders include:
- Create a compelling and authentic employer brand
- Use employee engagement surveys as a critical source of improvement
- Motivate employees through performance management
- Improve retention by customizing benefits to the unique needs of employees
- Allow employees to work from locations besides the office
- Encourage collaboration by creating custom workspaces that also honor privacy
- Streamline communication for employees who work on multiple teams/departments
Most importantly, let your team know you value their role in future plans for the organization so they are more committed to staying at their jobs.
In addition to the company's future, employees want to feel confident in their own professional growth.
A workplace survey report found that 94% of surveyed employees responded that if a company invested in helping them learn, they would stay longer.
Professional development is most impactful when...
- Employees have a say on how the organization and its managers set goals
- Evaluate progress to meet those goals
- Create training/professional growth opportunities
Job growth and advancements can take many forms.
For instance, finding a better way to do a job, taking on additional responsibilities, mentoring other team members, and learning a new skill are all examples of how to improve professional development growth within your organization.
Consider how progress in a role distinguishes a career from employment that is “just a job.”
Suggestions to foster employees' professional growth include:
- Finding ways to challenge employees in positive ways
- Assessing current employees’ capabilities and looking for ways to align those their aspirations
- Co-develop short-term goals to achieve long-term goals
- Creating learning opportunities for each employee that are relevant to a larger, individual development plan
- Frequently checking in on employee improvement
- Discussing learning opportunities for professional growth
All of these suggestions will help employees understand how their roles support the organization as a whole and see value in new opportunities or responsibilities at the organization.
Additionally, when creating goals, it’s important the supervisor aligns employee goals with what motivates that particular employee (i.e., consider the types of jobs/projects, specific clients, tasks, and responsibilities each employee enjoys the most).
💡 The Key Takeaway: After a supervisor learns more about what an employee is interested in, they can set them up to grow in areas that are of interest and most motivating to that specific employee. Options to consider may include conferences, training sessions, certifications, and company-wide training sessions.
Each of these has taken off post-pandemic. That's because COVID-19 forced both employers and employees to reshape how they worked.
Many employees were able to take advantage of flexible work environments that provided benefits such as reduced stress, more time with loved ones, less time and money spent on commuting, and more.
However, now that we're living in the "new norm" it begs the question - should employers still offer hybrid or fully remote workplaces?
Companies demanding employees work in person at an office are likely to see higher employee attrition rates.
In fact, 64% of workers would consider quitting if asked to return to the office full-time.
While 100% remote work might not be a viable option for every business and industry, it is still important to remain flexible.
Whether it be offering organizational strategies to promote work-life balance or readjusting your time-off policy for more vacation days, making changes to adjust changing times goes a long way in reducing employee attrition.
Before someone leaves an organization, employee interviews typically take place with a human resources representative.
These meetings usually take between 30 to 60 minutes and cover a variety of topics, such as:
- The primary reason the employee is leaving
- Thoughts on what the company does well
- Thoughts on what the company could do to improve employee satisfaction
Taking the time to understand and make note of their feedback is a great initiative for reducing employee attrition. Here you will be able to pick up on common themes as to why employees are quitting - and if they are preventable or not.
Consider using a third-party market research company such as Drive Research, to conduct an employee exit survey in addition to the interviews with HR.
Doing so will lead to better results knowing there is reduced response bias.
For example, the employee will be sharing their feedback directly on an anonymous forum rather than the employer’s human resources representative.
When it comes to reducing employee attrition, there are many strategies organizations put in place to reverse the trend.
Ultimately, employee surveys are the only surefire approach to identify what specific areas an individual company needs to improve in order to increase retention rates.
The main reasons to invest in employee surveys include:
- Ensuring employees feel heard
- The results of the employee survey are actionable
- Employee turnover is reduced
- It encourages critical thinking about employee retention throughout the organization
However aside from conducting this type of market research, there are many other options to prevent employees from quitting.
This includes improving professional development and promoting healthy communication with leadership.
Ready to conduct an employee survey and improve attrition rates within your organization?
Drive Research is a full-service market research company with the experience and tools needed to help walk you through the process of getting employee surveys done right.
Our team of market research professionals will help you come up with effective employee retention strategies.
Curious about our other market research services? Talk to us through any of the ways below.
- Message us on our website
- Email us at [email protected]
- Call us at 888-725-DATA
- Text us at 315-303-2040
As a Research Manager, Emily is approaching a decade of experience in the market research industry and loves to challenge the status quo. She is a certified VoC professional with a passion for storytelling.
Learn more about Emily, here.