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How Can Managers Assess Their Impact on Retention?

HR Question:

I’ve heard the saying – “people don’t leave companies, they leave managers.” I recognize my managers can play a key role in the success of my organization, but how do we assess our manager’s impact on retention in our organization?

HR Answer:

As employers continue to wrestle with the challenges of attracting and hiring staff amid low unemployment numbers and continued COVID concerns, many organizations may feel the pressure to re-invigorate and re-evaluate their engagement and retention strategies in order to keep the talent they have on staff. To do so, companies are looking inward to assess their managers first and foremost.

In her article, 20 Employee Engagement Ideas That Work, Kiely Kuligowski explains that “today’s employees are no longer interested in just showing up, performing their tasks and going home – they want to be invested in and enthusiastic about their work, and to feel connected to and valued by their company.” Unfortunately, further research from Gallup has shown that only 36% of employees feel that sense of “engagement” at work. And to take it a step further, managers can account for up to 70% of the variance in employee engagement and can adversely or positively impact employees’ commitment to their work and the company.

You’re right…we do often hear the saying, “people don’t leave companies, they leave managers.” So, in this period of heightened focus on retention, how can companies empower their individual managers to boost employee engagement?

One simple action is to consider incorporating an Engagement Self-Assessment and Action Planning worksheet. By guiding managers through a self-assessment of high-impact engagement drivers, managers have the opportunity to reflect on their contributions to the retention of their employees, while sharing additional ideas and strategies that they may not have incorporated in their management style in the past.


Want a copy of our Manager’s Engagement Self-Assessment Worksheet?

Download it here!


Managers can consider incorporating these high-impact engagement drivers into their management approaches in order to further improve their team’s retention.

Clarify performance expectations

By identifying key performance expectations for individuals, team members can feel confident in knowing how their performance will be assessed. Further, by communicating and reaching an agreement on expectations, employees will feel empowered that they have a say in how their role is measured.

Provide fair and accurate informal feedback

Ongoing feedback, particularly in an informal setting, can help correct and reinforce the behaviors managers need from their employees, without the stress and pressure of a formal review. Keeping it fair and in line with the agreed-upon performance expectations can help remove feelings of discontent or inequity across team members.

Emphasize employee strengths in discussions and performance reviews

For many employees, hearing their individual strengths recognized and emphasized in conversation can be an uplifting and encouraging moment. By consciously identifying and communicating those strengths, it can improve morale while both correcting and reinforcing behavior.

Leverage employee “fit” and motivation

Create an environment that motivates and finds the intersection between what the business needs and the employee’s strengths and interests.

Help build problem-solving capacity and provide solutions to day-to-day challenges

Challenge and coach employees to solve problems. By empowering employees to meet future challenges, managers can help to break down barriers that could prevent success.

Amplify the good and filter the bad

Emotions and tensions are running high. Managers can help to manage the employees’ perception of the company by focusing on what is going right and the positive aspects of the culture. That doesn’t mean ignoring the “bad,” however. Honestly communicate challenges and discuss possible solutions to lean into transparency for your employees.

Connect employees with the organization and its success

Provide context and help communicate how an employee’s work connects to the company goals, and how their hard work contributes to the success of the business.

Instill a performance culture

Hold employees accountable to meet performance expectations; follow up and address any performance issues quickly and fairly.

Connect employees with talented co-workers

Help employees get exposure to other talented employees and build internal networks that help them to learn new skills and perspectives, complete projects, stay informed, and develop new ideas.

Demonstrate a “credible commitment” to employee development

Be sure to follow through on development plans intentions. Use stretch assignments to encourage growth and new skills in your team members – emphasize that growth and development occurs every day, not just through formal training.  Encourage participation in webinars and brown bag sessions.

For more support, download our Manager’s Engagement Self-Assessment Worksheet today!

Do you need more information or training on the strategies outlined in the engagement assessment? We’re happy to help! We can partner with you to bolster your Employee Relations efforts, developing an engagement and retention strategy to help you maintain your most important resource – your people.


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