Defining attrition: "A reduction in the number of employees through retirement, resignation or death"
Defining Attrition rate: "the rate of shrinkage in size or number"
Introduction: In the best of worlds, employees would love their jobs, like their coworkers, work hard for their employers, get paid well for their work, have ample chances for advancement, and flexible schedules so they could attend to personal or family needs when necessary. And never leave.
But then there's the real world. And in the real world, employees, do leave, either because they want more money, hate the working conditions, hate their coworkers, want a change, or because their spouse gets a dream job in another state. So, what does all that turnover cost? And what employees are likely to have the highest turnover? Who is likely to stay the longest?
Background of article
The IT enabled services (BPO) industry is being looked upon as the next big employment generator (Nasscom predicts 1.1 million job requirement by the year 2008). It is however no easy task for an HR manager in this sector to bridge the ever increasing demand and supply gap of professionals. Unlike his software industry counterpart, the BPO HR manager is not only required to fulfill this responsibility, but also find the right kind of people who can keep pace with the unique work patterns in this industry. Adding to this is the issue of maintaining consistency in performance and keeping the motivation levels high, despite the monotonous work. The toughest concern for an HR manager is however the high attrition rate.
In India, the average attrition rate in the BPO sector is approximately 30-35 percent. It is true that this is far less than the prevalent attrition rate in the US market (around 70 percent), but the challenge continues to be greater considering the recent growth of the industry in the country. The US BPO sector is estimated to be somewhere around three decades old. Keeping low attrition levels is a major challenge as the demand outstrips the supply of good agents by a big margin. Further, the salary growth plan for each employee is not well defined. All this only encourages poaching by other companies who can offer a higher salary.
The much hyped "work for fun" tag normally associated with the industry has in fact backfired, as many individuals (mostly fresh graduates), take it as a pas-time job. Once they join the sector and understand its requirements, they are taken aback by the long working hours and later monotony of the job starts setting in. This is the reason for the high attrition rate as many individuals are not able to take the pressures of work.
The toughness of the job and timings is not adequately conveyed. Besides the induction and project training, not much investment has been done to evolve a "continuous training program" for the agents. Motivational training is still to evolve in this industry. But, in all this, it is the HR manager who is expected to straighten things out and help individuals adjust to the real world. I believe that the new entrant needs to be made aware of the realistic situation from day-one itself, with the training session conducted in the nights, so that they get accustomed to things right at the beginning.
The high percentage of females in the workforce (constituting 30-35 percent of the total), adds to the high attrition rate. Most women leave their job either after marriage or because of social pressures caused by irregular working hours in the industry. All this translates into huge losses for the company, which invests a lot of money in training them.
If a person leaves after the training it costs the company about Rs 60,000. For a 300-seater call centre facing the normal 30 percent attrition, this translates into Rs 60 lakh per annum. Many experts are of believe that all these challenges can turn out to be a real dampener in the growth of this industry. This only raises the responsibility of "finding the right candidate" and building a "conducive work environment", which will be beneficial for the organization. The need is for those individuals who can make a career out of this.
All this has induced the companies to take necessary steps, both internally and externally. Internally most HR managers are busy putting in efforts on the development of their employees, building innovative retention and motivational schemes (which was more money oriented so far) and making the environment livelier. Outside, the focus is on creating awareness through seminars and going to campuses for recruitment.
Major Worries for the Industry
* Reckless Start-ups- a vast majority of the 310 start-ups are headed for a dead-end (according to Nasscom). Their capacity utilization is less than one of the three shifts. Many of these companies that converted their empty basements and warehouses into BPO units or firms with $10 million-20 million VC funds that ran out of cash without creating anything more than white elephants. They have driven down prices to grab business, but have failed to deliver. They were always clueless about people, processes or technologies- the three key elements of the BPO business.
* Poor Infrastructure- the industry has more to worry about than just reckless start-ups. Primary among those is infrastructure. While telecom networks are state of the art, getting a connection still takes up to three months. Unreliable power supply is forcing units to create their own back-ups. Roads are bad and airports are in dire need of repairs and upgrades.
* High Attrition-another major problem is the high attrition and growth aspirations of the workforce. At least 60,000 of the 171,000 workforce change jobs every year. About 80% of them look for better leaders. Team leaders want to upgrade to supervisors, quality professionals or operations heads. The HR problem threatens to soon become grave. Good agents are becoming hard to find and with tardy infrastructure, big moves to the much talked about smaller towns will take longer. This means costs will rise making it difficult for small VC-funded companies to survive.
Global Average 24%
18th February 2008 From India, Madras