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Thought leadership

Attrition; how can we make a difference?

As a business, we intentionally work with organisations that recognise their people hold the key to unlocking future growth, and that the people function, and the CPO are central to this. Over the last 12 to 18 months, we’ve experienced a recruitment market not seen for the best part of a decade with attrition and hiring at an all-time high. Businesses are doing all they can to combat attrition to ensure hiring is centred on growth, rather than replacement. However, what we tend to see is businesses failing to look at this holistically.

A debate centred on attrition and alongside that, to what extent can HR leaders impact attrition in their business, typically starts with the most obvious method and probably the most used, remuneration and recognition. This has underpinned the debate and still to this day is most widely used by organisations trying to stem the flow of leavers.

But does it work? We have seen from investment banks, law firms, and other sectors that increasing salaries invariably means a higher cost base, but it doesn’t mean that people decide to stay as a result. Much has been discussed around ‘the great resignation’ and it would have been remiss not to talk about flexibility and the importance of this to the current workforce. We have seen this become a key component of any offer package but also importantly one of the main reasons for resignations. If organisations are not willing to shift their remote working policy to reflect the changing attitude of the workforce, it is increasingly difficult to engage and retain individuals over the longer term. Another important, but less spoken about piece is manager capability. We often see people promoted to management roles who are ill-equipped to have effective conversations with their reports and team.

Naturally, this leads to higher levels of attrition as people become disengaged with their lack of development and support from their manager. Closely linked to this is the content and clarity of job roles and within this is a balance of ‘play and purpose’. Those in our network have suggested that employees that are in roles they enjoy and are well suited to their skill set, tend to have higher engagement and are more likely to want to develop a career within the business. These factors, alongside a clearly defined career path, are key components to creating an engaged workforce, therefore leading to increased retention. One of the harder to define aspects of retention vs attrition is a defined culture, along with a clear purpose for the organisation. The organisations that thrived during the pandemic period were often those who had a clear DNA and purpose that their employees felt a part of. Regular ‘litmus testing’ via employee surveys can provide a strong indicator of whether your workforce believes the organisation has managed this effectively and has generated that sense of belonging with employees. What is clear is that the topic of retention vs attrition is a complex, multi-faceted subject and is something that all organisations are dealing with as we witness a generational shift in attitudes towards the workplace and our expectations from it. The topic of attrition was debated as part of our Future CPO 2022 series and we’re looking forward to our next session later this month.

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