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Economic recovery leads to higher attrition, study finds

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If the economy does recover, as predicted, HR departments could face a battle to keep hold of top performers as they start to look elsewhere for opportunities.

A recent report by Towers Watson showed a correlation between countries' GDP and employee attrition. The General Industry Compensation Survey Report states that countries in Europe with the highest wage increases have had the highest number of staff leave companies voluntarily.

Sweden, Switzerland and the UK had the highest attrition in Europe last year; all three also enjoyed good GDP growth – between 0.8% and 1.9% – by EU standards.

These results are repeated across the globe, with countries in the Middle East and Africa recording similar patterns.

Darryl Davis, senior consultant in Towers Watson’s data services practice, told HR magazine that UK HR departments will find themselves with new challenges if the economic recovery does materialise.

"Before the financial crash in 2007 and 2008, we saw very high levels of attrition. This was a lot lower from 2009 onwards. Only now is it starting to increase," he said.

The fact that HR departments haven't faced this particular problem for five years, is another factor that could hamper their efforts.

"Complacency could definitely be a factor. Given that this is not an issue a lot of people in their current teams will have faced, they may have to put more thought into the problem than their predecessors," Davis continued.

Economic rewards are by no means the only factor in employee loyalty, the report suggests. Carole Hathaway, director of Towers Watson’s rewards practice in EMEA, explained: "Company culture, good communication, responsive leadership, opportunities for career development and a clear understanding of mission and values all contribute to the ‘employment deal’. All are likely to have an impact on employee retention.”