Attrition 101: Why Do Agents Leave?

It’s no secret that attrition is a common concern for call centers worldwide. In fact, most experience a whopping 30-45% turnover rate. And, as you know if you work in this industry, attrition issues impact all aspects of your organization. So, if you’re looking to improve your employee retention rates, we get it. And a good place to start improving your numbers is knowing why your agents are leaving in the first place. 

Below, we’ll go over different types of attrition and what to do about each kind in your organization.


The first type of attrition we’ll cover is retirement. A lot of people don’t consider retirement as attrition, but it is a way by which your employees leave your organization.

As far as call centers go, if your goal is to keep employees around for as long as possible, this is the best kind of attrition. Employees that stay with you until retirement are truly committed to supporting your company and mission. 

Another benefit? Retirement is easy to schedule, plan for, and strategize around as an organization. It’s safe to say that most of your agents won’t work at your company all the way through retirement, but if you have any that do, they’re highly qualified for what they do and likely bring tremendous value to your organization.

This isn’t necessarily a type of attrition you want to avoid—once an employee is finished working, there’s not much you can do to avoid it. If your attrition numbers are created by retiring employees, that’s a good reason to celebrate!

Internal employee attrition

Internal employee attrition is another “good” type of attrition. It means that your agents have been promoted or switched roles within your company. 

This kind of attrition doesn’t really ever signal a problem for most contact centers. In fact, this is what you should strive for—leveling up employees that you already know are a great fit to your company and know your processes, etc. It’s much cheaper to promote an employee than hire a new one, and, more often than not, more effective, too.

So how do you keep momentum going with this type of attrition? Language testing is a great way to give employees a clear path to growing in their role, measure their growth, and help them qualify for more responsibility. 

Keeping employees engaged and helping them feel valued will really help you improve your internal attrition.

Involuntary Attrition

Involuntary attrition happens when you choose to let an employee go. There are many reasons for involuntary attrition, but, most of the time, it happens when you and your employees have misaligned expectations that can’t be reconciled. It’s painful to intentionally let agents go, but to keep your standards high, it’s necessary to deal with employment issues as soon as they arise. 

One of the reasons involuntary attrition is discouraging is because hiring, vetting, and training candidates requires so many of your resources. Luckily, there are measures you can take to reduce involuntary attrition in your organization. 

Your hiring process is a great area to focus on if this is something you struggle with. For example, screening candidates well from the start helps you weed out people that aren’t a good fit for your organization. 

At Emmersion, we focus on language testing and help many companies hire faster, and hire better-qualified candidates that are more likely to stay.

If you can focus your efforts on finding the right employees the first time, it’ll go a long way toward reducing your need to let underperforming agents go.

Voluntary attrition

Voluntary attrition means your employees choose to leave their positions on their own. Voluntary attrition is always a big challenge for employers, but we’ve definitely seen a big uptick in voluntary attrition as part of The Great Resignation.

Like involuntary attrition, most of the employees that leave for this reason do so because of a difference in expectations. Some of the more common reasons for voluntary attrition are employees aren’t feeling a sense of purpose, they feel their compensation is lacking, they’re overwhelmed with their tasks, and they’re not growing or developing in their role. 

This is another type of attrition you can try to influence in your organization. While it’s ultimately a candidate’s decision to leave their position or not, you can make it more enticing to stay by prioritizing the things that truly matter to them and make them want to continue working for you.

day dreaming agent

A lot of companies are surprised to learn that language testing can help with voluntary attrition, too. Employees that feel they’re in the right position, doing the work they’re expected to do, and that they have the skills to be successful in that work, they’re usually happier in their positions and much more likely to stay with your organization. 


We hope this brief overview of attrition types and our suggestions for addressing them have given you a useful place to start as you take steps to reduce harmful attrition in your organization.

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