I've been trying to think over how companies plan and manage recruitment. Comments welcome.
Companies seem to be planning their growth targets in terms of headcount. It's not rare to come across headlines in newspapers like "xyz to be 10,000 strong in India by Dec 2005." Well, having a measurable growth target of this kind is fine, really. And to measure attrition, they release another headcount -- again, in terms of numbers or percentages.
Though companies measures their personnel growth & attrition through the number of people who join or leave the company, they don't usually publish the number of person-years of experience that has been added or reduced in any given year.
Think about it this way -- let's say I run a startup with 10 people who've got about three years' experience on an average, my staff therefore has a net experience of 30 person-years. If all of these people continue to work with me for another year, the average experience of my staff increases to four years. Even if a person leaves my company, my staff's cumulative experience is still 6 years more than what it was last year, inspite of a 10% attrition.
Let's look at the other aspect. Let's say I start recruiting, and I add in another 10 people to this startup -- 10 college grads with zero experience. Yes, I've doubled my company's headcount, but have I added anything to my net experience? No. Have I added to the company's maturity? If there is a direct correlation between experience and maturity, the answer's again "No". So, what have I added? I've ensured that as these people learn in my company, I am assured of a higher net experience one year down the line! With my staff of nine, I would have had at the end of next year a total experience of 45 years. With these additional ten recruits, I've upped that to 55 years. On the other hand, if any one of my recruits was a person who'd already been in the industry for 10 years, my net experience would jump up by another ten years.
Perhaps, companies' HR teams do actually relate these two factors -- total experience and headcount and build a profile of the average experience of company's personnel. If the average experience of a company shows a gradual increase over time, it probably indicates a) steady growth, and/or b) low attrition. Sharp changes in this average-experience figure would indicate that a company's going through a) an exodus of employees or b) inorganic growth (or disintegration) of some kind. Of course, the greater a company's headcount, the easier it can absorb these shocks of changes in average-experience.