What Managers Can Do to Retain Their Best Employees

by Dec 29, 2016Employee Engagement Training

Based upon hundreds of employee engagement training sessions and employee engagement survey feedback, we know that the consensus is still that employee engagement rests mostly on the shoulders of managers.

We’ve been told over and over that employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers. With two decades of experience behind us in the employee engagement and retention field, we believe that this is only partially true. There are actually many other reasons that employees leave.

Here is what managers can do to retain the best employees. They can:

  • Build strong relationships with their team members
    Employees who like and respect their boss are less likely to leave than those who have a distant, difficult or unfair boss. Manager behavior does impact employee engagement and retention.
  • Show that they care
    The best managers are empathetic. They listen well and are understanding when issues arise, whether personal or professional. They treat their team members with respect and a big dose of humanity. They put themselves in the shoes of the people who will be affected by their decisions.  They reach out and understand what matters most to others.
  • Recognize extra effort
    Employees appreciate being recognized for their hard work and dedication. And when there are perks attached for special successes, whether small or large, employees are typically all the more committed. As a new manager, you will know you are on the right track when your team knows that if they contribute to the organization’s success, they will be recognized.
  • Try to make the work challenging and fun
    Whenever possible, good managers look toward creating a work environment where each team member feels they are contributing in a meaningful way. You will know you are on the right track when your team is always thinking about ways to do their jobs better and feel that you are investing in them to make them more successful.

Now that you know what responsibility managers bear for employee engagement and retention, here are the other reasons employees become disengaged and leave. They are varied and multiple:

  • No path forward
    Employees want to see where they can advance in a company. If their job is a “dead end,” they are likely to look elsewhere for a position with a brighter future.
  • Lack of career development
    High performing employees need to feel that they are constantly learning and growing. They don’t want to be caught without marketable skills. Relevant, meaningful development opportunities are the cornerstone of employee engagement and career development.
  • Poor culture fit
    This is the “round peg in a square hole” phenomenon. A high performing employee won’t stay long in an organization where they are constantly fighting the current organizational culture to get stuff done. For example, an employee who needs structure to succeed will probably not last in a company that promotes decentralized decision making, has a loose or matrixed organizational structure or allows for flexible work hours.
  • Negative brand
    Employees like to work for companies that have a positive image. Whenever a company gets a black eye (think of Wells Fargo’s recent criminal investigation or Volkswagen’s emissions deception), employees are at risk to leave. To increase employee engagement and retention, employees must trust their manager to set the right course for their team and must trust senior leaders to set the right course while demonstrating integrity.

And we haven’t even mentioned compensation, although this is less of a factor in employee retention than we once believed. As long as you pay at or above market value, compensation does not significantly affect employee engagement or retention.

So employees need to “feel the love” from both their managers and their company. We cannot simply blame managers for high turnover. If you want to retain your top talent, see that both are in sync to create a setting where employees are happily and productively engaged.

To learn more, please download: The Top 10 Most Powerful Ways Leaders Can Boost Employee Engagement and Retention

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