Do you know the number one reason employees leave a job? It isn’t because of their title, salary or workload. They leave because of their managers.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. It makes sense, and we have the research to prove it.
Multiple surveys have confirmed a manager can make or break an employee’s experience. A study by employee engagement firm TinyPulse identified various behaviors impact retention, such as micromanagement and a lack of opportunities for development. Gallup found “at least 75 percent of the reasons for voluntary turnover can be influenced by managers.”
Compensation, culture, colleagues, and balance all play a role—but the crux is the person who holds the role of supervisor.
When Good Intentions Lead to Bad Management
Bad managers aren’t uncommon; most people have survived at least one. But bad managers aren’t bad people; more often than not, they just don’t have the skills they need to be effective or to recognize warning signs. Consider this:
Skilled workers aren’t automatically great managers. Companies often promote internally, rewarding skilled employees with a move to management. Moving some into management can be a solid strategy, but you can’t ignore the corresponding need for professional development. Before you promote an employee, you need to vet them carefully and provide access to appropriate training. Without that, new managers feel like they are expected to “wing it” and to learn as they go. And, over time, the bad habits that arise from inadequate training can cause real problems.
Enthusiastic managers can overwork good employees. “If you want something done, ask a busy person,” Benjamin Franklin once said—and it’s true that good employees often work more efficiently, produce more, and take on more than required. Instead of rewarding above-and-beyond contributions, however, some managers push for more by consistently turning to the best people on their team. This can leave top performers feeling taken advantage of and burned out, spurring them to leave for a job that respects their time and dedication.
Positive working relationships must be a priority. People spend much of their waking hours at work. Managers are responsible for helping their teams be productive, and for improving morale and developing each team member’s skills. Employees who are boxed-in or feel unsupported will stop producing at the same rate, and they may leave entirely.
Anyone can handle a bad management situation temporarily, but… A good employee won’t hang around for years. Employees need to feel appreciated, challenged, and supported in the workplace. Good management doesn’t just help the individual, it helps the team, department and organization succeed.
Treat Employees Well Without Sacrificing Business Goals
Unfortunately, many managers miss the warning signs. And then? It can be too late. According to HR consultant Bill Rehm, managers often fail to think about retention until the moment someone hands in a resignation notice. They’re often so focused on the battle for recruitment that they miss the internal weaknesses. Then, they write off the departure as something with an external cause.
To build and nurture strong teams, you need to start with each manager. You can reduce turnover rates and eliminate the number one reason for talent loss by encouraging sound management techniques. Where do you start? How about by:
Getting to know the person, not just the worker. What someone writes on a resume or does on the job isn’t their full biography. Take time to get to know team members; ask about their motivations, hidden skills, and outside interests. Learn what the company can do to support their professional growth.
Finding the right talent—for management and your team. Good recruiting finds the right employees to fit a company’s corporate culture and leadership. According to Smashfly,* of the 2015 Fortune 500 companies, 57 percent share employee stories as part of their strategy to attract great candidates. Use employee advocates and authentic stories to help build teams who will work well together.
Embracing a culture of transparency and engagement. Engage employees in decision-making discussions and give them context for the work they do every day. A deeper level of understanding can be a motivating factor and may present an opportunity for innovation.
Celebrating good work. As often as “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” a good job deserves attention, too. Plus, celebrating it may offer more benefits than drawing attention to errors. When employees do well—go above and beyond, or take initiative—recognize their work with verbal praise and earned rewards.
Remembering that change is good. Companies need constant innovation and new thinking to gain or keep a competitive edge. Employees who feel stifled or unchallenged won’t contribute to that evolution.
Providing ongoing feedback. Annual performance and engagement reviews are falling by the wayside, replaced by regular surveys and reports. Company leadership should consider continually offering employees both data-driven and personal feedback about their performance.
Companies need strong managers—and strong leaders. Be a strong leader. Invest in your management team. You’ll not only encourage innovation and growth—you’ll keep your employees happy and eliminate one of the key factors that can have them heading for the door.
*Smashfly.com is a TalentCulture client but the views expressed in this post are my own.
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A version of this was first posted on switchandshift.com.