Best practices

Attrition, Turnover and Churn: Are They The Same?

Connie ByersDec 16, 2021

Employee attrition, employee turnover, and employee churn are three HR terms that are closely linked, and often used interchangeably. And, though these three terms are closely related, they are not the same.

Attrition, turnover, and churn all represent the loss of a team member, however, each term represents a different scenario, and each one can impact your company in different ways. So, what differentiates the types of employee departure, what do they mean for your bottom line, and how can they be controlled?

Understanding what employee attrition, employee turnover, and employee churn are and how to manage them can help you run your business more smoothly. Let’s look more closely at each one to gain some clarity on these important HR terms.

What’s the Difference Between Attrition, Turnover, and Churn?

Employee attrition, employee turnover, and employee churn all refer to an employee’s departure from your company. For the first two, the difference between them lies in the context, in other words, in the reasons for the employee’s departure. Employee churn refers to the total number of attrition and turnover combined.  

Defining Employee Attrition

For an employee’s departure to be considered attrition it must meet two criteria:

  • The employee’s departure must be voluntary 

  • The company must make the decision not to rehire, or re-fill the position. 

In other words, employee attrition refers to a company’s strategic decision not to replace an employee who leaves voluntarily. If you terminate an employee involuntarily and decide not to backfill, that is considered restructuring. 

Layoffs and restructuring events aren’t voluntary, and therefore can not be counted as attrition. If an employee leaves voluntarily and you decide to replace them, that’s considered a turnover. Since attrition happens voluntarily as opposed to a lack of job satisfaction, it’s not normally thought of as a negative, but rather a normal part of the employee life cycle. Common reasons for employee attrition include:

  • Making a career move or change

  • Life events such as retirement. 

  • Moving to another town or state

  • Passing away

  • Returning to school

  • Starting a family 

  • Downsizing 

To measure attrition at your firm, compare your employee total at the beginning of a year, quarter, or month to the total number at the end of that period. 

For example, if you started the quarter with 100 people and ended it with 90, that quarter’s attrition rate is 10 percent.

Defining Employee turnover

Employee turnover is directly related to the job satisfaction of your workforce. To be counted as turnover, there are a few factors that must be considered concerning an employee’s departure:

  • Consider whether the employee left their position for what they considered a better job with another company or if they were terminated.

  • Whether or not the decision has been made to replace the employee. Only positions that vacate and are subsequently refilled can be counted as turnover. 

Turnover can be more accurately described as the rate at which an organization replaces departing employees over any given time period. Whether they are voluntary or involuntary departures. Unlike attrition, a high employee turnover rate can indicate problems within an organization. Some common reasons for employee attrition include: 

  • Poor employee fit or bad hire

  • Hostile work environment

  • External promotion

  • Skewed work/life balance

  • Lack of opportunity

  • Termination

To measure turnover within your company, divide your year, quarter, or month employee departures by average headcount. Then, multiply the result by 100 to get a percentage. 

For example, if you averaged 100 employees over a one-year period and 15 employees left, your annual turnover rate is 15%. 

Defining Employee Churn

Employee churn refers to the combined numbers of an organization’s attrition rate and turnover rate. Churn rates can be comprised of both voluntary and involuntary departures. It is important to monitor your company's employee churn rate because it impacts productivity, business performance, and growth. 

A company's churn rate can be calculated by dividing the number of employees who have left by the total number of employees remaining during a year, quarter, or month then multiplying by 100 to get a percentage. 

For example, if four employees quit the organization, and there are a total of 200 employees remaining then their monthly churn rate is 2%. 

Preventing Attrition and Turnover to Reduce Churn

There are preventable forms of attrition, and nearly all types of employee turnover can be prevented by creating a positive work environment and a company culture that encourages employees to stay long-term. 

Make Great Hires

The first step in reducing turnover is increasing the quality of your hires. Take time during the hiring process to ensure that each candidate you hire has the necessary skills to perform the job well and will make a strong contribution to your team. 

Offer Growth Opportunities

In a recent survey, we discovered that 38% of respondents listed training and development as a top factor in job satisfaction. Most employees aspire to increase their skills and move up the career ladder. If left to stagnate in one position for too long, it’s likely that they will begin searching for a new position at a company where they can find advancement. Providing employees with a clear career path allows them to see a future with your brand and helps to build long-term loyalty. 

Create a Culture of Recognition and Rewards

Studies show that employee recognition is a key factor influencing employee engagement. Few things will send a top performer to your competitors’ career pages faster than feeling unappreciated and undervalued. Establish a regular practice of recognizing and rewarding great work. Create programs within your company that quality employees know that you recognize their contributions and are willing to reward them for top performance. 

Offer Work-Life Balance and Flexibility

40% of respondents in our 2022 hourly candidate survey listed flexibility and flex scheduling as top job satisfaction factors. Providing employees with flexibility gives them the peace of mind that they will be able to meet both work and life needs and may help encourage them to stay with the company rather than look elsewhere for flexibility.  

Final Thoughts

When studying your organization’s churn rate, it’s important to note that regardless of why employees leave, it’s in your best interest to manage employee attrition, minimize turnover and reduce churn each year. But, before you can focus on retaining top talent, you’ll first need to attract and hire top talent. 

Here at Seiza, we’ve helped companies around the world to create efficient high-volume hiring processes to help them make quality hires at scale and provided them with the shortcut to recruiting success. With our platform, you can target leads you won’t find anywhere else, quickly transform leads into candidates, and keep 90% of the leads you receive engaged in your hiring process.  

Contact the experts at Seiza today to learn how your organization can take a proactive approach to hire in “fast motion” or click the link below to schedule a free trial of our proprietary candidate lead generation system.

Connie Byers