Employee attrition refers to staff members who leave a company.
Typically, when human resources (HR) representatives talk about this topic, they are referring to those who leave the company to join a different employer, rather than those who simply retire or stop working.
Retaining staff has become an ongoing issue in recent years, with more than 3.98 million workers quitting their jobs each month in 2021.
When it comes to reducing employee attrition, certain factors must be in place to reverse the trend.
Ultimately, employee surveys are the only sure-fire approach to identify what specific areas an individual company needs to improve in order to increase retention rates. However aside from conducting this type of market research, there are many other strategies to consider using.
Article Contents 📝
In this blog post, Drive Research dives into what causes employee attrition, how to reduce employee turnover and absenteeism, and strategies to help.
Click a title below to navigate to a section you are most interested in or just continue reading.
- What Causes Poor Employee Attrition
- Strategy #1: Employee Surveys
- Strategy #2: Promote Healthy Communication
- Strategy #3: Ensure Employees Feel Heard
- Strategy #4: Tips When Discussing Compensation
- Strategy #5: Keep Employee Satisfaction Top of Mind
- Strategy #6: Improve Communication Between Employees and Leaders
- Strategy #7: Improve Professional Development Growth Efforts
- Strategy #8: Shift to a Reinventing Mindset After a Crisis
- Strategy #9: Employee Exit Interviews
- Next Steps to Consider After an Employee Survey
There are several reasons why employee attrition occurs. It’s also important to consider reasons why someone leaves an organization may be due to factors that are within and outside the employer’s control.
Based on our research, common reasons for a high employee attrition rate may 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
💡 The Key Takeaway: The list above are just some of the drivers of employee attrition. Leadership teams and human resource representatives often have assumptions about why employee retention is low, but an employee survey should be used to truly understand those causes.
Wondering the best way to combat a high employee turnover? Hello, employee satisfaction surveys!
When surveying employees, organization leaders can specifically design a custom questionnaire that helps them achieve their unique goals and objectives.
For instance, many strategies for reducing employee attrition you'll find online are very generalized. They'll tell you your high 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 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
eNPS stands for employee net promoter score. Similar to net promoter score (NPS), eNPS measures how likely employees are to recommend their employer as a place to work to industry colleagues.
Here’s an example of how eNPS could be asked.
Question: 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."
The response options of eNPS are grouped to create a score.
- Those who rate an employer a 9 or 10 are called promoters, who are most likely to be actively spreading positive awareness of their employer.
- Those who rate an employer a 7 or 8 are called passives, who are likely to say positive remarks about their employer if asked.
- Those who rate a company a 0 to 6 are called detractors, who are likely to be spreading 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). eNPS results usually fall between 0 to +25.
Watch our video for more information on calculating eNPS.
Two Keys to Success When Conducting an Employee Survey
The first is using a third party for employee surveys.
Teaming up with a third-party survey company to conduct employee surveys is critical.
It ensures employee feedback will be kept confidential and anonymous, which is the crux of getting true and unbiased feedback from employees.
The second key is to use survey questions that can be benchmarked to different industries (i.e., technology, consumer goods and services, government, healthcare, healthcare providers, industrials, manufacturing, non-profits, professional services, and small professional services firms), organization size, and region.
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, which allows us to compare the results directly.
Editing the question text can cause misinterpretation and prevent the use of benchmarking data. Typically, benchmark data is refreshed every 3 months to reflect the latest changes in the industry, location, and size comparison groups.
For example, here’s a benchmark question.
Question: “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 a related industry, geography, or organization size.
Ultimately, the results of this question will no longer be a direct comparison to the benchmark data set.
💡 The Key Takeaway: Surveys can help in reducing employee attrition. Four key reasons to invest in employee surveys include: 1) ensuring employees feel heard, 2) the results of the employee survey are actionable, 3) employee turnover is reduced, and 4) it encourages critical thinking about employee retention throughout the organization. Learn more about the reasons to invest in employee surveys.
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 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.
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.
💡 The Key Takeaway: 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.
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.
This follow-up helps show initiative, and the value in responses, and sets the tone for leadership effectiveness and employee engagement initiatives–thus cutting down on the employee attrition rate.
Report findings can seem long and too in-depth for someone who was not close to the study.
It's why many reports include an infographic. Adding an element of data visualization is great for showcasing key results or highlights from the study.
In similar studies, clients have adapted the infographic to make it shareable across all employees, sent a thank you email to all employees featuring a few of the key findings, and/or discussed how the results would be used in staff meetings.
It is also important to reaffirm the results were confidential and reported in aggregate.
💡 The Key Takeaway: Ultimately, the discussion should communicate that the employer is appreciative of feedback, listening to the feedback, and (most importantly) taking action on the results. 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.
In some organizations, supervisors work with employees 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.
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, and paid parental leave.
For instance, Gallup suggests employers bring more than pay to the table when discussing compensation and benefits. Employers should show how employees can meet and exceed expectations for a role, with a road map for increased compensation.
Frequently, employee pay increases are linked to promotions. However, supervisors should find ways to create levels of growth in existing employee roles. Knowing not all employees will be a manager or leaders, these employees should be rewarded for improvement.
💡 The Key Takeaway: Compensation and benefits should support employees' individual goals and specializations. Especially for long-term employees, who want to be paid based on their situation and contributions rather than their seniority level.
Research studies show a strong correlation between employee satisfaction and client satisfaction. In fact, Gallup found organizations with highly engaged employees outperform other businesses in customer loyalty/engagement, profitability, and productivity.
Tips to improve employee engagement by Gallup 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
💡 The Key Takeaway: As part of regular internal meetings, organizations should develop leadership effectiveness and employee engagement initiatives based on the results of an employee survey project. It’s critical employees see the feedback provided result in implemented changes.
According to Gallup, increased communication about work expectations can lead to a 14% reduction in turnover, a 20% reduction in safety incidents, and a 7% increase in productivity.
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
Another study by Gallup revealed that 22% of employees strongly agreed organization leadership had a clear vision for the future which made 15% of employees excited to be a part of that plan.
Therefore, it is crucial for leadership teams to instill confidence and trust that the business can offer great opportunities for those team members that 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
💡 The Key Takeaway: Employees will be unhappy if leaders do not communicate clear work goals and strategies to meet those goals. Let your team know you value their role in future plans for the organization so they are more committed to staying at their jobs.
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.”
Four suggestions to foster growth include:
- Finding ways to challenge employees in positive ways
- Assessing current employees’ capabilities (i.e., look for ways to align those capabilities with long-term goals and aspirations, and co-develop short-term goals)
- Creating learning opportunities for each employee that are relevant to a larger, individual development plan
- Frequently checking in on employee improvement and discussing learning opportunities for professional growth may help employees understand how their roles support the organization as a whole and see value in new opportunities or responsibilities at the organization.
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, and create training/professional growth opportunities.
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.
Remember in March 2020 how it seemed everything was turned upside down in a matter of a few hours? It’s important to consider how leaders can position themselves as well as their employee's work-life, as a sense of stability.
For instance, Deloitte explains how leaders need to shift from problem-solving to reinventing after a crisis (such as the COVID-19 pandemic). This shift supports relationship management and also helps employees shift from a problem-solving to reinventing mindset. This ultimately helps build excitement and trust.
Communication during a crisis is important and long-lasting in employees' minds.
Consider ways to communicate transparency, flexibility, and care with employees. Two-way communication is best, meaning it’s also important that employees have the opportunity to share questions with their supervisors.
💡 The Key Takeaway: Leaders should envision the "new normal," think about how the "new normal" impacts everyone within the organization, consider new skillsets employees may need to be successful, align financial resources, and excite employees about the "new normal.” All of this can go towards reducing employee attrition.
Before an employee leaves an organization, an exit interview typically takes 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
Using a third-party market research company such as Drive Research, to ask these questions may lead to better results knowing there is reduced bias. For example, the employee will be talking directly to the research analyst rather than the employer’s human resources representative.
💡 The Key Takeaway: Consider using a third-party market research company to conduct employee exit interviews. Research analysts are trained to know how to ask questions to get the most insight and can share findings through a third-party lens.
After the survey is through, consider following these next steps to cut down on a high employee attrition rate.
1. Leadership interviews (by phone call or Zoom)
An appropriate next step is to have a third party facilitate and moderate one-on-one discussions with leaders to gather additional context from an employee survey. Similar to the survey, all leaders will be asked whether they would like to participate.
The notion behind interviews or leadership feedback surveys is to dive into some of the issues raised by employees and focus the discussion on idea generation to make strides to improve eNPS. Each interview lasts 30 to 45 minutes.
2. Reassess employee satisfaction in 12 to 18 months
It is vital to reassess employee satisfaction every 12 to 18 months.
Even with an average eNPS, the organization needs 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.
Keeping the pulse on these metrics frequently with continuous performance measurement and tracking lets you understand where gains have occurred.
3. Customer satisfaction surveys
Employee and customer satisfaction go hand-in-hand. HR leaders and research analysts know that happy employees ultimately lead to happier customers, which is just another reason why employee surveys are critical.
Customer satisfaction surveys should be conducted every 12 to 18 months.
Understanding the effects of employee satisfaction, it is essential to understand what (if any) impact this is having on customer satisfaction.
Customer net promoter score (NPS) is another key performance indicator (KPI) organizations should monitor, in addition to eNPS.
💡 The Key Takeaway: Reducing employee attrition is done best when you have a solid plan going forward. Consider using interviews with leadership, employee satisfaction reassessment, and customer satisfaction surveys to make the most out of your team.
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
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As a Senior Research Analyst, 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.