What Is the Definition of Natural Attrition?

David Jones/Vetta/Getty Images

Natural attrition refers to the natural reduction of a business’s workforce due to employees leaving on their own accord. Examples of natural attrition include retirement, relocation or leaving the company to pursue other opportunities at another company or in another industry.

Natural attrition, sometimes called voluntary turnover, is inevitable and uncontrollable across all industries and for all companies. On average, companies in the U.S. lose 23 percent of their workforce during a year due to natural attrition. This percentage varies by industry and company size, and is affected by an area’s economic state, general job outlook and cost of living.

Natural attrition has positive and negative effects on a company. Reduced workforce naturally means lower salary costs, which is important to a company’s bottom line. However, when a person with significant responsibilities leaves, it forces the remaining workers to add that person’s tasks to their workloads. This can breed resentment and stress among workers and damage employee morale. The best way to curtail these negative effects is to try to retain key employees. Providing opportunities for advancement providing feedback and fresh, stimulating responsibilities help workers develop loyalty to their employer. Keeping employees motivated to perform at their peak will prevent problems with reorganization and delegation when an employee does leave.