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7 min read

Understanding Regretted Attrition vs. Unregretted Attrition: Impact on Your Workforce

Swetha Bhattacharya

Last Updated: 3 August 2023

In this article:

Some employees leave their jobs with smiles on their faces, feeling content and accomplished, while others walk out the door with a heavy heart and a sense of regret. Why’s that? It's all about the difference between "regretted" and "unregretted" attrition. Let's dive into this topic to understand the impact of employee departures on your enterprise and how you can navigate these waters as an HR leader.

All About Attrition

Attrition is the loss of employees from an organization, but not all attrition is created equal. There are two types of attrition: regretted and unregretted. Both leading to higher Employee Churn rate.

Regretted attrition occurs when an employee leaves an organization that would like to keep them. This type of attrition can be a real problem because it can mean that the organization is losing valuable talent and incurring the cost of hiring plus training fresh employees. According to a recent study, the average cost of replacing an employee is 1.5 times the employee's annual salary.

Unregretted attrition occurs when an employee leaves an organization that is not sorry to see them go. This type of attrition can be for a variety of reasons, such as retirement, termination for cause, or layoffs.

Decoding Unregretted and Regretted Attrition

Picture this: an employee leaves the company, not because they despised it or had a terrible experience, but because they've achieved what they wanted or found an exciting opportunity elsewhere. That's unregretted attrition for you! These employees leave with no regrets, waving goodbye with a sense of fulfilment and gratitude for the experience they gained. 

So, what drives unregretted attrition? There's a spectrum of reasons. Some may leave because they've outgrown their current role and need new challenges, while others might chase dreams of entrepreneurship or embark on a journey of self-discovery in a different setting.

More often than not, unregretted attrition happens due to reasons beyond the organization’s control. Employees leave on good terms, like a bittersweet farewell.

Analyzing Regretted vs Unregretted Attrition

Understanding the differences between regretted and unregretted attrition is like deciphering codes to unlock valuable insights into your workforce. The key differences include:

  • Causes: Regretted attrition is typically caused by factors that are within the organization's control such as employee satisfaction, management and leadership, compensation and benefits, and diversity and inclusion, among others. Unregretted attrition is typically caused by factors that are outside the organization's control including retirement, termination for cause, and layoffs.
  • Impact: Regretted attrition can have a significant negative impact on the organization, while unregretted attrition may not have an impact or may even be beneficial.
  • Organization's reaction: The organization is typically not happy to see an employee leave for regretted reasons, but they may be prepared to manage the consequences if an employee leaves for unregretted reasons.

The Unexpected Benefits of Unregretted Attrition

While employee turnover can be disruptive, not all departures are detrimental. Unregretted attrition, where employees leave for reasons beyond your control, can sometimes offer unexpected benefits for your organization. Here are some reasons why:

Reduced Costs: When employees retire, reach the end of their contracts, or relocate, the associated replacement costs are significantly lower. This can free up valuable resources for other areas like training existing employees or investing in new technologies.

Fresh Perspectives: New hires bring fresh perspectives and ideas, fostering innovation and challenging the status quo. This can be particularly beneficial in industries facing rapid change or requiring continuous improvement.

Improved Team Dynamics: Sometimes, unregretted attrition can help break up stagnant team dynamics. New team members can bring diverse viewpoints and skills, leading to more creative collaboration and a renewed sense of purpose within the team.

Right-Sizing the Workforce: In certain situations, unregretted attrition can help an organization adjust its workforce size to better align with changing business needs. This can lead to improved efficiency and resource allocation, ultimately enhancing overall profitability.

It's important to note: unregretted attrition doesn't negate the importance of maintaining a positive work environment and employee experience. However, acknowledging its potential benefits allows for a more nuanced understanding of employee turnover and can inform strategic decisions for building a sustainable and adaptable workforce.

Measuring regretted and unregretted attrition

Calculating regretted attrition rate is like being an HR math magician. You count the employees who left but wished they could stay if the stars aligned perfectly. These folks might've voiced concerns about their job or the workplace before walking away. On the flip side, unregretted attrition rate is like measuring the number of employees who left on their terms. 

By comparing and interpreting these rates, you can gain valuable insights into the inner workings of our workforce. If regretted attrition rates are soaring, it might signal underlying issues like poor management practices, a lack of growth opportunities, or a less-than-stellar work culture. On the other hand, low regretted attrition rates might be a pat on the back for a job well done, indicating a great work environment and happy employees.

The Cost of Regrettable Attrition: Why You Should Be Concerned

Regrettable attrition, when employees leave due to factors within your control, poses a significant threat to your organization's success. Here's why you should be deeply concerned about it:

Financial Impact: Replacing a departing employee comes with a hefty price tag. Recruitment costs, onboarding expenses, and lost productivity during the transition period can significantly impact your bottom line. Studies estimate the cost of replacing an employee can be between 16% and 212% of their annual salary.

Loss of Knowledge and Expertise: Every employee brings unique skills and knowledge to the table. When an employee leaves due to preventable reasons, you lose their accumulated expertise and institutional memory. This can hinder project continuity, decrease efficiency, and impact overall performance.

Negative Impact on Morale: Unhappy employees leaving sends a strong message to others. It can damage morale, foster distrust in leadership, and create a ripple effect, leading to further departures.

Employer Brand Damage: Word travels fast. Employees who leave due to negative experiences can spread their dissatisfaction, leading to a tarnished employer brand. This can make it harder to attract and retain top talent in the future.

Focusing on minimizing regrettable attrition is crucial for any organization striving for long-term success. By addressing employee concerns, fostering a positive work environment, and investing in their development, you can create a culture that keeps your top talent engaged and thriving. By doing so, you'll not only save money but also build a resilient and successful organization.

Strategies to Minimize Regrettable Attrition

Now that we know the difference between regretted and unregretted attrition, how do we tackle the former? Let's roll out the red carpet of retention strategies and welcome our employees with open arms!

  • Identifying Red Flags and Early Warning Signs
    Being proactive is the name of the game! Early detection of dissatisfaction can save the day and prevent regrettable attrition. In fact, Harvard Business Review reports that 33% of new hires look for a new job within their first six months — known as infant attrition — which is directly correlated with their onboarding experience! 
    Generative AI-based chatbots are perfectly suited to ensure every employee has a smooth transition. For instance, Amber’s Tenure module inspires honest conversations on autopilot with personalized conversations on important checkpoints like days 15, 30, 60, 90, and so on. 
  • Implementing Effective Employee Engagement and Retention Programs
    Invest in employee development, recognition programs, and wellness initiatives. Engaged employees are like glue - they stick around and pour their hearts into their work. This is where pulse surveys and unprompted feedback from employees are key. However, as your business grows, it becomes difficult to do this manually.
    Amber can help you here! Amber uses conversational AI and people analytics to help you understand how employees really feel, uncovering the real sentiment and gaps, especially for the top talent. Amber’s Pulse has been able to uncover hidden gaps in an organisation’s remote culture, and teams. Now, more than ever, culture comes first.
  • Enhancing Leadership and Managerial Skills
    Train your managers to be supportive, empathetic, and approachable leaders who champion open communication. Equip your leaders with honest feedback from their team members. A great way to get candid opinions and constructive feedback is from employees who are leaving the organization. 
    Amber’s Exit survey uses conversational AI and visually impressive charts to help senior leaders identify the root cause of attrition across demographics and unmet expectations. Amber helps you and enterprise leaders build a data-driven strategy to tackle attrition.
  • Creating a Positive Work Culture and Fostering Employee Well-being
    A happy workplace is like a magnet, pulling employees closer and making them stay. Rather than waiting for employees to reach out to your during key transitions, you can initiate a conversation using Amber’s Moments-That-Matter (MTM) module. It makes it easy for HR leaders like you to listen to what their employees have to say about any important change in their work such as moving to a new location, a change project or role, an upcoming or past appraisal, and a switch in managers.
  • Highlighting Organizations That Effectively Manage Attrition Rates
    Remember: The most successful organizations have strategies that retain top talent. Analyze success stories of organizations that have mastered the art of managing attrition. Learning from their strategies and adopting their best practices can give us the edge we need!

Understanding the difference between regretted and unregretted attrition rates is the key to unlocking the secrets of your workforce. With Amber by inFeedo, you can build a scalable strategy that empowers your employees and enables your organization!

Managing Attrition: How Employee Engagement Platforms Can Help

Employee turnover, both regretted and unregretted, poses challenges for any organization. While some departures are inevitable, investing in an employee engagement platform like inFeedo can equip you to effectively manage both types of attrition.

Tackling Regrettable Attrition:

  • Early Warning Signs: inFeedo utilizes pulse surveys and feedback mechanisms to identify employee concerns and potential red flags before they lead to resignations. This allows for proactive intervention and addressing issues that could cause regrettable departures.
  • Data-Driven Insights: inFeedo provides valuable data on employee sentiment and engagement levels. This data can be used to identify trends and implement targeted initiatives that address employee needs and improve overall satisfaction, leading to lower regrettable attrition rates.
  • Improved Communication: The platform facilitates open communication channels between employees and management, fostering transparency and trust. This allows for clear expectations, timely conflict resolution, and a more engaged work environment, ultimately reducing regrettable attrition.

Optimizing Unregretted Attrition:

  • Exit Interviews: inFeedo facilitates structured exit interviews, allowing you to gather valuable feedback from departing employees, even those leaving for unregretted reasons. This feedback can be used to identify potential areas for improvement within the organization, leading to better retention strategies for future talent.
  • Improved Employer Branding: inFeedo can help cultivate a positive work environment and employee experience, even during unregretted departures. Positive exit experiences can contribute to a stronger employer brand, making your organization more attractive to future talent.
  • Succession Planning: The platform can assist in identifying and developing high-potential employees, ensuring a smoother transition when unregretted departures occur.

By investing in an employee engagement platform, you can cultivate a positive work environment, address potential issues proactively, and gain valuable insights into your workforce. This empowers you to minimize the negative impact of regrettable attrition while optimizing the opportunities presented by unregretted departures, leading to a more engaged, resilient, and adaptable workforce.

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