Who is responsible for retention or attrition of employees — line managers or HR?

There can be many reasons for a person to leave a job


People leave their bosses and not organisations,’ goes the familiar saying. If this holds true, then line managers are to be blamed for the bane called ‘attrition’. However, it may not always be the case. There are other reasons for people to call it quits, for instance, bad work culture. In that case, the onus is on the HR team. So, who is to be held responsible for retention and attrition? HR leaders share their point of view.

Emmanuel David, MD, Grid International India

During exit interviews, the most common factor employees talked about was how the quality of their relationship with their managers influenced their decision to move on. The second common reason was their inability to learn anything new or contribute to their current job. At a distant third was another reason — family circumstances.
People never cited low salary as the reason for exit. In my view, there are three types of contracts at the workplace and the employment value proposition is an amalgamation of all three — professional contract, cultural contract and economic contract.

Therefore, I can say that people leave organisations primarily because of incompetent managers who fail to engage with their team members.

Jayant Kumar, CHRO, ACC & Ambuja Cement

I believe employees leave organisations because of managers who fail to engage with them. This ultimately leads to attrition. For instance, if the managers know their team members well, acknowledge their uniqueness and leverage their individual strengths, then chances are that outcomes, satisfaction and retention will be maximised.

It is true that there are a variety of other reasons for people to exit, including people management policies. However, even with the same policies, a few managers may contribute towards high retention of their teams while others may not. All well-meaning managers attempt for high engagement and high retention of the team. It is the organisation’s focus on building people- and team-management skills among managers that makes the difference. If long-term retention of people is a critical part of the business model, then the companies will have to design or re-design and implement their HR policies well. This will help reduce the gaps between managers and employees.
Suboptimal design or execution will adversely impact retention.

Sarma Chillara CHRO, Skoda Auto Volkswagen India

Employee retention is a collective responsibility of the manager, HR and management. However, we often start judging people who have left or are leaving the organisation. People who decide to move on for career progression-related reasons and leave behind a strong relationship with the incumbent organisation, can act as brand ambassadors for the kind of training and values the organisation has imparted to them. There could be specific reasons for people to choose to move.

Personal growth is one of the most prominent reasons, for people may be drawn by an interesting new role or an exciting organisation that they wish to be part of. At times, the feeling of career stagnation and unmet aspirations are difficult to deal with, which leaves ‘moving on’ as the only possible solution. The decision to leave can also be related to compensation though it’s not always the case in mid- and senior-level roles, where it is more about overall satisfaction. A few people may also opt to move if there is a mismatch of personal cultural values with organisational values — this may include aspects related to expectations, such as appropriate recognition, coaching, feedback and work-life balance.

This article first appeared in the monthly print magazine of HRKatha. 


  1. Organisation work culture and immediate bosses are the main reasons for employees to look for a change! Progressive work force look for a congenial work atmosphere and opportunities to grow and learn on new things. They are quite eager to get involved in decision-making process and contribute well as part of core team. Immediate bosses have a major role to encourage and support all subordinate staff with equality and involve them in key tasks with adequate responsibility and authority.

    Satisfied employees look for a healthy and challenging atmosphere to perform and get the necessary recognition/rewards. HR needs to set the right guidelines for the seniors to protect right good work culture based on the set organisation policies and future goals. It needs to act as a catalyst and ensure the best relationship between mangers and subordinates to get productive results.

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