Attrition is infectious: how to deal with it

People quit for several reasons. However the herd mentality can be dangerous

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Employees usually subscribe to a social group in an organisation. It could be a senior they look up to or just peers who hang out with each other during breaks. Such groups keep employees glued to their positions in a company. What happens when this favourite person or a colleague from the group suddenly quits? The employees often feel abandoned and at sea, wondering what life at work would be like with no one to converse with. At times, this leads to the person quitting, and a pattern sets in with some others following suit. And before long, the organisation loses not just the first employee who quit, but a few more as well.

This is a very common phenomenon in several offices. Happiness at work is derived from many things including camaraderie with colleagues. If a valued teammate leaves, the loss can disrupt the community. What exactly prompts them to leave one after the other?

“Salvage the star performer leaving quickly. Address the issues in the first 48 hours of resignation. If the employee is adamant to leave, best will be to let go and invoke the notice pay with cash, if that option is available. This way, the Company will insulate the spread of the fire even while upholding the culture and the policy. The longer a star stays, the more is the damage likely to happen”

Rajesh Padmanabhan, HR leader & CEO, Talavvy

Mexican wave

Debjani Roy, chief HR officer, Mind Your Fleet, compares the phenomenon with the Mexican wave observed at stadiums during a big game or an event. She feels that employees look for some affection and attachment in an organisation. That’s culture building. “When an organisation grows in terms of profitability and numbers, its culture starts becoming impersonal. The employee moments get diluted as the organisation grows in size and business. When that happens, the glue factor, which keeps employees embedded in the organisation, thinking this is where they belong, starts thinning. Slowly and steadily, the loyalty and belonging factors start eroding. They are anyway misnomers today, and require a great deal of effort,” she reasons.

How to tackle it

How can organisations stop attrition of such nature? Paramjit Singh Nayyar, CHRO, Bharti AXA General Insurance, believes such a herd mentality certainly exists because humans are social animals and have social circles. “As an organisation, to make sure it doesn’t get critical, we shouldn’t hire people from one source at a time. For instance, one should be wary of hiring a leader who wishes to bring along his own team. If such a leader leaves, the entire team will leave with him. It is essential that one cross-pollinates talent so that the loyalty to the organisation remains stronger than the loyalty to an individual,” he explains.

“When a person is helping one’s cause, one is fine with the herd mentality, but the moment that person decides to leave and others follow, one is disturbed about it. Therefore, rather than banking on a particular individual completely, one should equally distribute bandwidth, time and values, and develop a personal relationship with everybody. That way, the herd mentality can be subdued over a period of time”

Paramjit Singh Nayyar, CHRO, Bharti AXA General Insurance

Alternatively, Nayyar adds here, this phenomenon also occurs because at times managers don’t do enough. Everyone has strong relationships with other individuals. Often, one banks on a certain individual to influence others. Anyone who gets an opportunity like that will naturally leverage it. “So, when a person is helping one’s cause, one is fine with the herd mentality, but the moment that person decides to leave and others follow, one is disturbed about it. Therefore, rather than banking on a particular individual completely, one should equally distribute bandwidth, time and values, and develop a personal relationship with everybody. That way, the herd mentality can be subdued over a period of time,” elaborates Nayyar.

Steps to not lose after a star

When a star employee leaves, it triggers emotions, reactions and thoughts and the grapevine buzzer is set on. Other employees start viewing the departure through different a lens, but the one that will have maximum impact on the organisation is that it sets the jungle on fire with respect to all fast trackers. They see that there are good opportunities available and they too will be tempted to leverage the option. Rajesh Padmanabhan, HR leader & CEO, Talavvy, lists out a few steps that an organisation can take to deal with the likely exodus.

“Salvage the star performer leaving quickly. Address the issues in the first 48 hours of resignation. If the employee is adamant to leave, best will be to let go and invoke the notice pay with cash, if that option is available. This way, the Company will insulate the spread of the fire even while upholding the culture and the policy. The longer a star stays, the more is the damage likely to happen. It is important to ensure that all leaving employees are company ambassadors for life and treated well,” he says.

“When an organisation grows in terms of profitability and numbers, its culture starts becoming impersonal. The employee moments get diluted as the organisation grows in size and business. Slowly and steadily, the loyalty and belonging factors start eroding”

Debjani Roy, chief HR officer, Mind Your Fleet

Padmanabhan further adds that it is important to reach out to all other stars through the managers and emphasise on their learning, growth and experience. Leadership should stay committed to addressing all grapevine queries and discussions. They should be unified in messaging and communication on vision next and future of talent. This should be business driven and not be seen as another HR initiative.

Communication is the key

Roy believes that the key people need to be protected. Easing them out of the system should be a very humane process. It cannot happen in a way that will set off a kind of precedent. That would have created tremendous reputational harm to the company. Simple touch and feel elements, reaching out to the employees, making sure the experiences remain the same as earlier – those are the strategies that organisations should focus on. Communication, thus, plays a vital role here.

It’s only human for a person to follow his or her peer when the latter exits an organisation because there’s a comfort level. It needs to be addressed with humane solutions rather than through aggression.

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