… employees are having to deal with fatigue

Rinzin Wangchuk  

The high rate of attrition is “hollowing out” financial institutions and corporate offices of their human resources even as some of these agencies are moving their services online. 

Among the financial institutions (FIs), Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Limited’s (RICBL) head office in Thimphu never had so many of its cubicles vacant. “We have been hollowed out due to a high attrition rate, RICBL’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Karma said. “This happens with key people resigning for better opportunities.”      

RICBL, which has about 450 employees across the country, saw a total of 80 employees exit from 2022 to date.  The company’s office in Thimphu alone lost 60 employees, mostly key people. RICBL has a regional office in Phuentsholing and 25 branch offices spread across the country. 

The insurance company has announced 60 vacancies to fill up the human resource gap. 

“We will not replace all of them since we are moving our services and products online such as our mobile application, MyRICBL, through which one can pay loan instalments, insurance and avail of other services,” RICBL Chief Executive Officer Karma said.

“We will reskill and upskill existing staff to assume the vacant posts,” he said. “We’ll be multitasking.” 

Karma said that the management is also aware of the risk of employees becoming fatigued. “As they multitask for a long duration, their productivity will drop and there will be the risk of making errors. So in as many areas as possible, we will use technology,” he said.

He said that since the organisations in Bhutan cannot stop people from leaving, the smart way to manage is to invest in increasing the productivity of those who remain. “Resource management is crucial in ensuring productivity.”

RICBL, the second oldest financial institution in the country, is the only multi-faceted financial service provider in Bhutan catering life insurance, general insurance, credit facilities and other social security schemes.  Incorporated on January 7, 1975, under the Royal Charter, RICBL is a public limited company with 39 percent of the total shares held by the government and the rest 61 percent by the public and private organisations and individuals.

While Bhutan Development Bank Corporation Limited (BDBL) lost a significant number of staff over one year, the bank officials said that there was not much impact on the human resource capacity. “The moratorium imposed on loans by the central bank in May last year had reduced the workload of employees. The bank caters services to in rural communities.

Of the total 576 employees, 105 employees excluding five general managers left BDBL. “If the loans were not suspended, we have to recruit the same number of employees who left the bank,” an official said.

Following a directive from the Royal Monetary Authority, BDBL suspended sanctioning loans because of high non-performing loans (NPL). NPL are loans with payments that are overdue by 90 days or more.

The attrition rate in Bhutan National Bank (BNB) is also not as high as other FIs are facing today. As of December 2022, only 23 staff resigned from the total human resource strength of 521. However, the bank lost eight employees and another eight took extraordinary leave (EOL) in January and February this year, according to BNB officials.

“As of now, the employees are multitasked to cater services and we don’t face a major challenge,” an official said.

The country’s oldest financial institution, Bank of Bhutan Limited (BoBL) saw 49 employees exit in 2022 and 21 staff in the past two months. The bank officials said that it is a bit early to comment on recruitment since the organisational development exercise (OD) hasn’t been completed.

Other agencies

People migrating to Australia, Canada and other countries have also equally impacted other corporate agencies and employees are fatigued with multiple responsibilities.

For instance, National Housing Corporation Limited (NHDCL) is facing serious challenges of not being able to do succession planning given the current trend of employees leaving in large numbers and in an ad-hoc manner. 

“Unless there are some policy level interventions, it will be next to impossible to encourage people to stay back,” NHDCL’s CEO Rinchen Wangdi said.

NHDCL has a total staff strength of 147 as of March 2 this year. In 2022, the company saw 20 employees including engineers and architects leave the company and another five resigned in the past two months.

The overall impact due to staff resigning in large numbers to the organisation, according to Rinchen Wangdi, is the additional work for those who are left behind and the difficulty in maintaining the continuity of the ongoing work especially when it is an important project. 

He said that employees leaving suddenly with one month’s notice period and some even shorter periods create great inconvenience to the office.

“When those who are looking after important and complex projects leave suddenly are the worst cases since it takes time for the new one to understand the complexity and background of the project,” Rinchen Wangdi said. “There are chances of lapses that might happen due to short overlap or no overlap between the two.”

He also said that those who agree to take up the additional work are not able to focus on their work at hand and end up working extra time on a daily basis and even sacrificing their weekends. 

“This affects their mental health,” he said adding that there are many who are contemplating resigning due to the stress from additional work.

The CEO also said that even the division heads including the head of organisation had to step in to fill the human resources gap since those leaving are mostly mid-level professionals with substantial experience. 

“Management is not able to concentrate on bigger issues and at the strategy level since they are bogged down with the minor issues,” he said.

Some agencies also find it difficult to get replacements from the open market. “It takes time and resources for the new recruit to learn,” an official said. “There are no candidates even in the market for some of the key positions like finance and project management.”

Many new employees who join the office, according to one of the corporate officials, are also in transit mode since there is no guarantee these people will not leave. There are many instances where new recruits also left the company not long after joining the office. “Unless there are some policy level interventions, it will be next to impossible to encourage people to stay back,” he said.

Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC) saw its highest attrition rate of 12.14 percent in 2022, according to an official from the human resource department. Of the total 2,415 employees in January 2022, 282 resigned and the company recruited 99 employees in the same year.

The attrition rate in January and February this year stands at 11.12 percent. 41 employees separated in just two months. As of February 28, BPC has a total staff strength of 2,191.

BPC officials said that one department lost seven engineers in one year. “Because of the loss of engineers, we are facing problems in the office to solve technical issues,” the official said.