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Attrition: An Effective Way to Reduce

Exterior of a school

Budget preparation is in full swing, and districts may be struggling to find needed resources to support or improve student learning while sustaining a competitive compensation plan.

Personnel costs are 80 to 85 percent of a school district’s budget and locating funds for cost savings and district priorities typically must come from this area. Attrition provides a simple and effective way to make gradual but intentional reductions in staff numbers through employee retirements and resignations. 

What Is It?

Reducing through attrition occurs when an organization deliberately evaluates each vacancy to determine the need to post and fill or absorb the position allocation. Because vacancies are not filled it results in a decrease in the workforce. It is a less disruptive way to eliminate positions compared to a reduction in force.

Attrition is a voluntary action where positions are reduced based on current vacancies. While not hugely devastating to an organization’s morale, reducing through attrition still may have a negative impact if it increases remaining employee workloads or decreases promotional opportunities and other staff movement.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Attrition has pros and cons, and leadership must make appropriate decisions when choosing to reduce in this manner. Awareness of the advantages and disadvantages can make management of the process easier. 


  • Reduces organizational costs
  • Cuts expenses
  • Is considerate, amicable, and cordial
  • Occurs over a period of time


  • Diminishes workforce strength
  • Depletes remaining employee interest and loyalty
  • Increases remaining employee workload
  • Heightens worksite stress

Managing Reductions

Following are some simple steps to manage reduction of staff allocations through attrition:

  • Communicate: explain to staff the problem and the solution sought
  • Be transparent and ease fears: keep an open door, listen to staff, and answer their questions
  • Share the vision: let staff know what the organizational goal is and the timeline for accomplishing the goal
  • Keep staff focused: encourage staff to move forward and do their part to support the organizational decision
  • Reward often: a creative approach to provide verbal compliments, small recognitions, and other perks can make the whole process palatable


Implementing change is never an easy task and may be messy and challenging. When facing a reduction of staff through attrition it is important to determine which allocations can be reduced and those that must remain. In a school environment, safety of students and staff and the impact of reductions on student learning must always be considered. 

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Karen Dooley
Karen Dooley
HR Services Assistant Director

Karen Dooley joined HR Services in 2016. She provides oversight to a team of consultants providing staffing services, HR reviews, and other projects. She provides training and assists school districts with their HR-related needs. Dooley is a seasoned administrator with more than 17 years of HR experience in Central Texas districts as a coordinator, director, and assistant superintendent. She also worked as an assistant principal, counselor, and teacher, and holds a superintendent certificate.

Dooley received her master’s degree from Prairie View A&M University and her bachelor’s degree from Texas State University.

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TASB HR Services supports HR leadership in Texas schools through membership offerings in specialized training, consulting, and other services.
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