Attrition: An Effective Way to Reduce

April 08, 2021 • Karen Dooley

Attrition: An Effective Way to Reduce

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.  

Karen Dooley is a senior HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Karen an email at

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Tagged: Employment, Staffing, "Teacher resignations", "Teacher retirement"