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Attrition & Informal Group:Have You Looked Inside the Sleeves?

The frighteningly inevitable nightmare that the HR leaders of today are facing in any organisation belonging to any industry is the glooming shades of attrition issues. Initially, attrition was treated as a part of the game, but today, attrition itself is Looked Inside the Sleeves?a game that parts you off. That is why big business leaders like Mr. Narayana Murthy say, "Our assets walk out of the door each evening. We have to make sure that they come back the next morning." Gone are the days when people were put at the 'liability' side of the Balance Sheet of any organisation. Now-a-days, they are valued as 'assets' and put at the 'assets' side of the annual financial statement of great organisations. Infosys follows this valuation and BHEL, long before the former one, has initiated this people valuing initiative to give an all new value proposition to the employees of the organisation.

Still, instances are plenty to substantiate the looming despair that mere formal values given to the people is not enough as an answer to a core dilemma like attrition. At this age where the talent war is defining the future of every organisation, leaders must pay a due value to the informal groups formed at every layer of the organisation.

The social identity of people, the general tendency to belong to any group or association, the belongingness hunger among people drive them to be associated with several informal groups across the organisation. Predominantly, informal groups are mostly undervalued entities. Everyone is aware of the presence of these groups inside the organisation, but perhaps it is rare that the business leaders have entrusted these groups with the strategic importance that they hold towards the critically complex organisational issues.

By nature, these informal groups act as communication hubs and gradually form motivational (or demotivational) corners in any organisation. While the leaders, on the formal front, take several schemes and policies up to make sure that the retention issues are well addressed, they somehow fail to appreciate the possible impacts of the same on the informal fronts. When the management talks about reshaping of compensation policies, career development issues, team building needs, work environment enrichment and etc. on the formal table, the issues do not get finished there. These issues are furthered carried and discussed in depth on informal tables.

This is where the importance to tap and to use the informal groups comes into being. On the formal desk, generally, any message is presented in its encoded form with all possible formal covers; but these issues, later on are decoded at the informal desks across organisational layers and this decoding has to be controlled and used by the management to make it sure that the message conveyed is equal to the message received.

To take as an example, the management might think of better career development schemes as a tool to ensure lesser attrition rate. So, on the formal desk, they create the voice and communicate the message that the organisation is aiming towards the proper career orientation of the people and hence, from then onwards, the performance appraisal modules will be reworked to identify the key performers who have the quality to go and explore higher responsibilities in the organisation.

This 'encoded' voice is then 'decoded' by the employees in the organisation. Due to the ample presence of the 'Yes-Men' in the organisation, this message, on the formal desk, generally receives, 'yes', which is customary, or they receive silence which is actually 'no', yet an 'unknown no'. But beyond the formal desk, the actual 'decoding' starts and there these 'Yes-Men' are no longer existing. The entire silent 'No's open up, and the amalgamation brings up an informal message which is paradoxically the opposite of what the formal reaction was. The informal groups do not stop by creating this opposite reaction; rather, they went ahead with spreading the negative impacts of the initiatives to be taken, which were actually positive in nature.

On the contrary, if the management talks over the issues on the formal desks and then ensures that through its informal reach, it identifies and controls the decoding of the same message across the organisation, it can have several benefits, like, getting the real picture of response, accessing the flow of the opinion stream, necessary alteration in the message, re-communication and positive consensus building. Through this, the management can have a direct and close control over the swings that any formally conveyed message is taking.

The time has come when the top management has not only to appreciate the presence of the informal groups across the organisation; rather, they also go deep and explore this presence for the betterment of the organisation by using it against issues like attrition problems, because taking decisions in isolation is the biggest management blasphemy, especially regarding your people. .

By - Aniruddh Banerjee

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