Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The 'attrition principle'

Let me begin with a warning. I did not learn this this very interesting 'HR related' principle at XLRI (or from any of the other reputed sources). I came across this principle in one of the organizations that I am familiar with.

The principle is simple. It can be stated something like this.

"If one hangs around in the organization for a long period of time, most of the good people will leave the organization during that time and one will be kicked upstairs(i.e. promoted)".

If we look at the statement closely, we can deduce that there are some conditions to be satisfied for this principle to work well. They include inter alia

(1) The organization tolerates not-so-good performance
(2) The organization is not able to retain very good performers
(3) The organization is not able to attract/hire very good people to fill the vacancies
(4) The organization prefers to promote people internally even when they don't have requisite competencies
(5) The organization is doing reasonably well (so that there is no shrinkage of promotion opportunities)
(6) One is able to stay in the organization for a long period of time without doing anything very stupid/atrocious.

While this principle gave me 'hope' as an employee, it worried me as an HR professional . Allowing this principle to work is a sure prescription for mediocrity. Fortunately the conditions themselves give us a clue. We can make a good beginning in preventing this principle from becoming operational in our organizations by ensuring that the first four conditions listed above are not met. This calls for effective performance management, rewards, career development & staffing systems - i.e. the basics of good people management.

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