In 2018, India reported an average 15 % employee turnover across key industries that make up its economy. Attrition is not a new phenomenon. It has existed since the dawn of the industrial revolution and will well make its way into Industry 4.0. While companies across sectors have been witnessing employee movements for various reasons, retention of employees is making its way into a CEO’s top priority goals. Striving for business continuity amidst churn, some purposeful and some not anticipated is an ongoing issue that needs addressing.
Attrition impacts a company in many ways. Industry calculation suggests that it takes companies one-fifth of an employee's salary to find a replacement. But worse than that is the issue of lost productivity and job knowledge. It also affects team morale. For example, if an employee is unable to forge long-term relationships with their co-workers owing to frequent exits, they will not be invested in the company either. Especially in the services industry, lack of consistency in a team can even result in customer service dissatisfaction which can be detrimental to an organizations reputation and revenues. No doubt then that CHROs are under pressure to take on the role of business leaders, who are expected to execute and measure the success of workforce plans and decisions based on business outcomes.
The issue of retention is not just with white collared employees but with the blue collared workers as well. Entry-level salaries have just not grown in accordance to the needs orchestrated by the bread line economy. According to the labour ministry statistics dated 2016, the ratio of blue collar to white collar employees is 78:22. However, with the opening up of e-commerce, rise of the shared economy and increase in on-demand services, competitive compensation and benefits are fuelling this largely migrant workforce to embrace the change. Even here the demand-supply gap is visible and studies have revealed that India will need millions of blue-collar employees to service various sectors in the years to come. But hiring them means to invest in their skilling as well.
NSDC’s data indicate that we have a labour pool trained with skills that just need to be directed to the right demand. While organizations, private and public, are working in various capacities towards skilling initiatives to help improve employability the skill-employment mismatch in the industry is quite evident.
As companies are evolving into newer ways of doing business to stay abreast with the changing times, organizations need to understand the changing expectations of a new generation workforce from their employers. Today’s workers, largely comprising of the millennials and GenZs look for more than just remuneration. The simple key to retention, lies here. If employers understand the psyche of this new gen workforce, it will help them take corrective action to retain top talent. Today’s workers are looking to join a workplace that will do more than just help pay their bills. They look for appreciation and recognition as much as remuneration. Hence, assessing their engagement levels would be a strong indicator of their workplace sentiment.
However, it is beyond the traditional function of the HR department to attempt meaningful workplace engagement and hope that would suffice in ensuring retention. The most common explanations people cite during voluntary exits are mismatch with organization culture, compensation, and benefits, issues with managers or the management and better career growth opportune or lack of it.
Especially with companies of scale that employ a varied workforce- part-time, full time, contractual blue collared and white collared employees, it is not feasible for the CHRO to closely monitor the engagement quotient of each employee. This is where technology can play a critical role. Use of data and analytics is imperative in this quest towards knowing and deciphering workforce dynamics. A recent survey undertaken by a leading job portal even suggested that 74% of CHROs believe that Artificial Intelligence and Automation will be an aid to the demanding role of CHROs.
But how can one measure quality engagement? The answer is simple. An engaged workforce is more productive. Efficiency is a strong indicator and retention is the natural by-product of a happy workforce. A very objective measurement of these facets can give employers a world of insights about the quality of their workforce engagement and its impact on employees. Increased absenteeism or its absence, decreasing productivity levels of otherwise efficient employees, all help in forecasting future attrition and indicate towards corrective measures that an employer must take to address it.
In addition to rewards and recognition, upskilling and reskilling is also an important action item. Recently a skilling organization suggested that India's 20,000 strong Learning & Development (L&D) community is directly responsible for upskilling the IT workforce of about 4 million with estimated spends of $5 Bn . That’s good encouraging investment. But we cannot have a one size fits all approach to L&D and skilling. With the power of Cloud and AI infused into workforce management, today, one can even get customized suggestions on career advancing options, mentoring and training modules that can help employees grow at the workplace personally and professionally. This apart, organizations must continue to invest in management training and development to mitigate the risk of losing high performing workers as a result of poor management.
If one has to deep dive into possible issues that are contributing to attrition in large numbers, we will have to change our ways of delivering value to this talent pool. If we fail to engage them, they will choose an employer who is willing to invest more in their career aspirations.