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Workforce attrition, good or bad?

The employee attrition at the White House under President trump is the highest ever seen.  Forbes recently reported that during the President’s first year the administration saw a 34% turnover rate – that’s more than one in three Trump administration staffers, and it's not just any sorts of departures, a large number of these were Trump's senior-most staff, some of these senior roles have seen the incumbent replaced multiple times.

This is the highest of any recent White House, according to a Brookings Institution report that tracked departures of senior officials over the last 40 years.  I read with amusement one comment about how profitable it would be to hold the door plaque contract for the White House, they must see a constant flow of orders. 

On the other hand, I would not want to be the White House Recruiting Manager, much as it appears that it’s an honour to “serve at the pleasure of the President”, I am sure that line is running a little thin and does not see head hunted candidates leaving their current highly paid roles for a lower salary, a potential 6 month job at the most following by a high profile departure making it difficult to find a new job back in the main stream. 

Candidates are savvier nowadays and can turn to Glassdoor.com to get a “trip advisor” type reviews from past and current employees to check to make sure this is the right Company for them.  The last place they want to work at is a Company with a reputation for having a “revolving door” attrition rate.

President Trump is reported to currently be presiding over a staff in turmoil, a quick Google check is all it takes to find out the attrition statistics (or a Twitter account to find out his management style).  He has struggled to fill openings, there are “vacancies on top of vacancies”, with current employees are filling multiple roles to cover the vacancies.

Those who do come to work for him often do not last long, burning out from a volatile, sometimes cutthroat environment exacerbated by tweets and subpoenas.  This is not making the recruitment process easy.

Is a high attrition rate good or bad for Companies?  When human resources leaders talk about attrition, the concept almost always has a negative connotation.

That has changed with a new outlook on the effects of employee attrition. Companies are looking closely at the benefits of attrition, as well as the differences between desirable turnover and undesirable attrition.

Desirable attrition can actually improve the workplace as well as the Company’s productivity and profitability.  Here are 4 examples of why:

  1. Pro: Overall Employee Satisfaction

The workplace culture improves when an exiting employee takes with them their negative attitudes about work. Toxic employees have a tremendous effect on employee morale and employee enthusiasm about work.

Attrition, whether through involuntary terminations or voluntary resignations, can improve the work environment significantly, leaving only employees who are engaged and productive. This is referred to as desirable turnover, which has a positive effect on the workplace.

  1. Pro: New Talent

 Employees who leave, particularly after holding long-term positions, make way for fresh ideas and perspectives from new employees. Although employers appreciate the contributions long-term employees make, attrition, retirement and voluntary resignations from long-term team members creates an opportunity for Companies to re-engineer their sourcing efforts. 

The most effective method to plan for an infusion of new talent after an employee leaves involves revising job descriptions and performance standards and sourcing applicants whose qualifications and experience suggest they can bring a fresh perspective to the workplace.

  1. Cost Savings

Another reason attrition isn’t always bad is the potential cost-savings for employers. Recruiting candidates for vacant positions means paying starting wages, which are often significantly lower than the salary paid to a long-term employee.

Employers who benefit from paying lower wages to new employees can explore ways to pump up their benefits packages using their savings. Improving the benefits package for current employees can boost employee retention.

Savings also may fund employee recognition and rewards programs or to award greater cash incentives to employees.

  1. Employee Motivation

The domino effects of cost-savings affect the ability to retain talented employees. In many cases, employees seek opportunities elsewhere because they are looking for job challenges as well as better benefits.

New employees usually take on entry-level roles, thereby leaving opportunities for advancement among current employees. Employees who show promise and aptitude are tapped for higher level positions vacated by employees who leave the company. Management consultant and professor Frederick W. Herzberg says the most effective way to motivate employees is to assign them complex job duties and responsibilities that challenge their skills and qualifications.

Motivated employees are likely to be fully engaged employees whom employers can retain through employee recognition in the form of promotion and advancement.

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Claire Donnelly

Written by Claire Donnelly

A Business Growth and HR Strategist helping medium size companies to Scale Up using proven systems. Claire is an MCIPD qualified Human Resource professional, with 25+ years’ experience working within various industries and 10 + years’ experience of HR practices throughout the Middle East. As a HR Generalist she has held a number of senior and Board level HR positions. She is experienced in working at both strategic and tactical levels.

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