Employee Turnover Vs. Attrition

Any time an employee leaves your business, it costs you, both in the time and money it takes to recruit, interview, hire and train a new staffer. However, there’s a difference between employee attrition and employee turnover. You don’t have any control over attrition, but turnover is another matter.


Attrition refers to employees who leave their jobs due to normal life circumstances; turnover refers to people who quit their jobs because they don't like them. Both cost you money, but with a few tweaks, you can reduce your turnover rate.

What Is Employee Attrition?

Attrition is the normal life cycle of employment. Employees who move, retire, pass away or leave the company to raise a family or attend school represent the usual ebb and flow of staffers through a business. In other words, when it comes to attrition, employees are leaving not because they have a problem with your company or their jobs – it’s a matter of life unfolding. Attrition tends to be higher in companies located in transient cities and in organizations that hire older employees as a matter of practice.

What Is Employee Turnover?

Employee turnover is a term that applies to employees who leave the company due to termination, taking a better job, or because they felt there was no room for growth, or worse, that they were dealing with a hostile or discriminatory work environment. A turnover rate says more about a company than it does an employee. A high turnover rate typically means working conditions are not optimal, pay is below market average, or staffers are not well trained. Concurrently, a low turnover rate is indicative of a work environment where staffers feel appreciated, work as a team, have room to move up the corporate ladder, and are satisfied with their jobs.

How to Decrease Turnover

Preventing people from abandoning a job all starts with the hiring process. Write detailed job descriptions before recruiting or interviewing a candidate for a position. This will help ensure you know what you’re looking for in an employee and make you more likely to hire the best person for the job. Here are eight more ways to curb a staff exodus:

Ask for referrals

Seek referrals from existing staffers and trusted colleagues when you hire a new person. This increases your chances of getting a top-notch candidate.


Take time to train and onboard each newcomer, so they have a complete understanding of your company, their responsibilities, and their role in your organization. Attrition can occur when staffers don't feel they fit in or fully understand their role.

Give feedback

Provide feedback by conducting regular performance reviews. Focus on what they’re doing right, and use constructive means to focus on areas that need improvement.

Set ambitious goals

Help staffers identify and set reasonable professional goals, so they feel challenged and fulfilled.

Be present

Periodically check in with staffers in an unofficial capacity to ask how they are, if they’re enjoying their work, and if they have any questions or concerns you can address.

Resolve problems quickly

Many office conflicts, when left unchecked, have the potential to lead to increased turnover. Maybe it’s rampant gossip, an unclean workplace, infighting about job titles and responsibilities, or a lack of respect among colleagues. Encourage employees to come to you with issues and work proactively to address and resolve problems before they become irksome enough that staffers are willing to quit.

Provide room for advancement

It can be hard to have a tall corporate ladder in a small business, but keeping good people means creating opportunities for them to grow professionally. Offer mentoring, job shadowing and professional development opportunities for qualified employees. Ask them what direction they want their careers with the company to take, and if you can, help them achieve their goals. Even if you can’t give out big pay raises and promotions, sometimes a change in title or the chance to spearhead a new initiative is enough to keep a key staffer content.

Pay competitively

Keep an eye on what other businesses in your industry pay their employees and make an effort to stay competitive with wages and benefits. The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook is a good reference. If you can’t match a competitor’s salary, think of other ways to reward employees, such as offering flextime, work-from-home options or extra vacation days.

When an Employee Won’t Stay

Even with your best efforts, employees are going to leave your business. Consider conducting exit interviews to learn why they’re leaving, and if you see patterns, make adjustments accordingly. Ask this question at the conclusion of every exit interview: “Is there anything we could have done to make you want to stay?” The results will be invaluable.