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Corporate Team Building

Managers: the First Line of Defense

If you believe the overwhelming data in Gallup's study of over 80,000 managers in 400 companies, then you know that people don't leave companies...they leave managers. It makes sense. The person (or persons) who have the most direct impact over day-to-day work interactions will naturally be the most accurate indicator of employee satisfaction.

Some organizations view managers' roles as so important to retention, that they have established clear responsibilities and goals in this regard, including tying variable compensation to retention rates, but also rewarding managers who help good employees leave their groups for other jobs in the company, rather than holding them back and thus eventually losing them to outside firms.

The companies with the best retention track record capitalize on the relationships their managers have with their teams, and keep them focused on their role as a talent catalyst. They're given the training and tools necessary to select good people, set expectations, motivate in the way most appropriate for each individual, and develop that person's skills.

Does your organization support its managers so that they can maximize their talent pools? Some firms are conducting employee culture surveys as well as company-wide "stay interviews" in which managers let people know how important they are to the company, and ask what kinds of things will keep them.

Salary increases and benefits packages are not always under a manager's control, but some things are free:

  • Good managers create a sense of camaraderie among their people, a psychological and productivity advantage.
  • Good managers realize the importance of celebrating birthdays, weddings, and sharing meals, from time-to-time.
  • Good managers are flexible about the small things.
  • Good managers communicate regularly with employees, making them feel included and respected.

While key retention strategies often center around employees aspirations (career development, recognition and rewards) as well as the aspirations for the organization (mission and core values), the one universal truth is that employees are more likely to stick it out in tough times when they feel they are being treated with integrity.

In an August 2003 study by Accenture, 48% of U.S. middle managers surveyed said they were looking for another job or planned to do so, when the economy recovered.

Nearly 47 percent of companies surveyed indicated that they do little or nothing to reduce employee turnover.

SHRM did a study that discovered the top three reasons employees voluntarily leave a company:

  1. to advance their career with greater opportunities for training
  2. a better compensation and benefits package
  3. poor management