Manager Relationships Can Make or Break Your Talent Retention

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Why do employees leave? It's a question every HR leader contemplates and one that can affect an organization's bottom line. According to the ADP Research Institute® (ADP RI) report, Fixing the Talent Management Disconnect: Employer Perception versus Employee Reality, manager relationships that disappoint and disengage employees is the top cause of turnover. But with this information in hand, organizations have an opportunity to retain talent by promoting more engaging manager-employee relationships.

The Gap Between Organizational Perceptions and Employee Realities

Organizations simply don't realize how many of their employees are ready to walk out the door. According to the ADP RI report, nearly half the workforce – twice the number employers expect – would consider jumping ship if contacted with the right opportunity. And 47% of all employees would consider a job at another employer willing to pay them the same pay or less. Employees leave for a number of reasons, but being dissatisfied with their manager and the organizational culture are top among them.

As the war for talent heats up, retention can be a top concern for many organizations. "Employers are strongly disconnected from the actual issues that employees say will push them away, especially the impact of the direct manager relationship and culture," notes ADP RI. "They also consistently underrate the importance of the work itself and work hours."

What Employees Want From Managers

While pay and benefits are important, employees also value recognition. According to ADP RI, less than half of employees feel sufficiently recognized for the work they do, and less than half feel valued for that same work.

The relationship between manager and employee is complex and individualized. Four critical factors that drive greater employee engagement, according to HRZone, offer guidance in how to improve manager relationships. They are:

  • The work itself, which should be meaningful
  • The work hours, which should enable the employee to gain a semblance of balance between work and home
  • Flexibility, which should enable employees to work where and when they wish
  • Opportunities for development — employees are looking to be developed in their skills, so they'll be ready for the next step up

Train Managers to Foster Good Relationships With Employees

Training managers in how to more effectively retain your talent can bring lower turnover, more employee engagement and bottom-line impacts, according to The Balance. Here's what should be at the foundation of that training.

1. Clear Communication About Expectations

Employees are most engaged when they know what managers expect from them, and are given enough feedback to help them meet those expectations, according to the 2016 ADP Employee Engagement Study. "Better clarity from managers regarding expectations can lead to happier employees and greater productivity," ADP RI notes.

2. Clear Communication to Provide Meaning

A good manager helps employees understand how their work contributes to, and is aligned with, the larger strategic goals of the organization. When managers fail to do this, employees may feel their work doesn't matter.

3. Recognize Good Performance

Good managers know engagement goes beyond money. They'll seek to boost an employee's intrinsic motivation by expressing appreciation for work well done. It doesn't take a huge investment in time or money to organize a "thank you" lunch for the team after a big milestone or say "what you did meant a lot to me and the organization" when an employee goes above and beyond.

4. Support Employee Development

Managers can learn how to give effective feedback, hold coaching conversations, discuss an employee's developmental goals and help employees reach the next step in their career path. When managers leverage these relationships and development skills, they can drive employee engagement and boost performance.

Improving the ability of managers to effectively their talent may end up being the best employee engagement strategy in your HR toolbox.

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