For most frontline managers, quelling attrition is not an unfamiliar struggle.
One recent study found that professional industries have notably lower turnover than frontline-driven industries, and a recent commentary revealed annual turnover rates of 100% or more are not uncommon in frontline jobs.
Essentially, every year, many organizations lose valuable capital due to the fact that they have to replace the equivalent of their entire workforce.
While employee attrition is a common problem in all industries, the extreme rates dealt with by those who manage employees in frontline jobs - like call centers - make it a vital discussion point. SHRM suggests that it costs employers approximately six to nine months of an employee’s salary to find and train a replacement when a staff member is lost. This hit to a company’s staffing budget is making employers step back and take notice.
Leavers, Stayers, and Job-Hoppers: The Effects of Attrition on Employees
We’ve written before about some of the more common causes of employee turnover, explaining in most cases, employee attrition is the symptom of a larger, systemic problem. However, understanding attrition isn’t necessarily a simple task.
A commentary published in Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice examines in more detail the impacts of the employee attrition rate on frontline workers. The researchers discuss three types of employees who affect the attrition cycle.
How "Stayers" Affect Employee Attrition Rate
The “stayers” in high-turnover industries often feel overworked and undercompensated, and may have a desire to leave, themselves. Unfortunately, as turnover occurs, more work is piled on top of these capable workers, without any additional compensation. The workers who remain may have to take on extra work left by the "leaver", compensate for new hires who are underskilled, or take the time to train new workers. This leads employees to feel overwhelmed and underappreciated, and this change in attitude can affect the entire dynamic of a workplace.
Employers often find themselves attempting to fix this situation by filling positions as quickly as possible. This does little to address the real problem. These new employees may or may not be effective and when they join the team they are influenced, fairly or not, by the frustrations of senior employees, potentially contributing to the perpetuation of the attrition cycle.
The Impact of “Leavers” on Employee Attrition
Some attrition can prove helpful to an organization. For example, in terms of call center work, the departure of an underperforming or unreliable employee can open the door for recruitment of high-quality talent, leading to positive call center attrition. This isn’t the case for every “leaver,” in every frontline position, however.
When an employee leaves, especially for what co-workers perceive to be a better opportunity, this can crush morale, leading to a ripple effect on the workers who stay. Because turnover is so great in frontline jobs, this constant leaving leads to more opportunities for the “leavers” to negatively influence the “stayers.” While a “leaver” may not have been productive, they may still have had a positive influence on co-workers, providing social cohesion to the group and leading to decreased work-performance by the “stayers” once this person has left.
The Role of “Job Jumpers” in Employee Attrition
Another consideration for frontline employers is the “job jumper,” essentially a professional trainee. This is an especially prevalent problem when it comes to attrition in call centers or contact centers. In contact center jobs, training can last up to four months, so it is not uncommon to encounter employees who undergo training and leave before their initial evaluation period is over. By doing so, they can avoid reliance on commissions or the pressures of consistent performance.
A company’s culture can influence the number of “job jumpers” and “leavers” they have. Organizations with a well-established hiring strategy and a strong commitment to employee satisfaction often see this reflected in their bottom line.