How do Great Managers Retain Employees?

Direct supervisors, or managers, are the most important influence on employees’ job satisfaction. According to this article by McKinsey published in September 2020, “Relationships with management are the top factor in employees’ job satisfaction, which in turn is the second most important determinant of employees’ overall well-being. “

This is so well established that Patrick Lencioni, Organizational Health expert, wrote an entire book on the topic. In The Truth About Employee Engagement, originally published as Three Signs of a Miserable Job, Lencioni argues that next to their spouses, managers have the most influence on the level of joy or misery that someone has at any given time. He goes on to argue that there are three basic things managers can do better to help their employees *not* be miserable at work. Furthermore, these three things are essentially FREE to implement, and stand the test of time!

If managers hold this level of influence in ensuring their employees are satisfied at work, and doing so is practically free – why wouldn’t they do it?

If managers hold this level of influence in ensuring their employees are satisfied at work, and doing so is practically free – why wouldn’t they do it?

Lencioni’s book describes that the three signs of a miserable job are:

  1. Anonymity – that the manager does not really know the employee personally in any way – that the employee doesn’t matter
  2. Irrelevance – that the employee doesn’t feel his or her job matters to anyone else
  3. Immeasurability – that the employee has no empirical way of measuring for him or herself daily whether he or she is doing a good job in his/her role

Lencioni’s genius in describing the negative is that leverages our responsiveness to reverse psychology. Specifically, reading the negative tendencies makes us immediately jump to the opposite response and compels us to act accordingly. 

However, if asking all your managers to read the book and hoping they will self-motivate doesn’t sound like it will provide enough direction, we recommend that the Executive Team take the first action. Moreover, we recommend that the CEO, President, or Division Leader be the one to lead the 3 steps outlined below:

  1. Schedule a Manager Town Hall – more if you need to cover multiple shifts or will have more than about ~20 Supervisors together. You may consider doing this by level – specifically, start with your Executive Team, then their direct reports who are managers, and so on.
  2. Bring a copy of The Truth About Employee Engagement with you
  3. Prepare a 1-Pager with the following information also serving as your Agenda for the meeting
    1. Context: Hiring top talent has never been more challenging than it is now
    2. We are launching a focus initiative on Retention to keep our good people
    3. Managers are the most important influence on employee satisfaction
    4. We need your help to keep our good people – which of course includes you!
    5. I (the CEO/President/Division Leader) will be doing this with my direct reports too
    6. Use these three areas to guide you – and try to have a specific story for each:
      1. Get to know your employees personally; ask them regularly about their lives
      2. Help your employees know that their job matters to someone specific – it may even be to you! When your employees do a good job, you might be the person who is helped the most – and that is okay to admit to them
      3. Help your employees find one thing they can easily measure daily to let them know they are doing a good job. If they are in customer service, it may be smiles or appreciation on the phone. If they are an engineer, it may be tasks completed on time for specific projects
    7. Once you’ve figured out the metric, ask them about how it is going at least every week, and keep up the interest in their personal lives!
    8. Your manager will follow up monthly for three months, and quarterly after that on how it is going for you – and your own managers will be doing this with you also. Your job matters the most to your employees, and a way to know if you are doing it well is to count how many times each week you are engaging with them on one of these three areas
    9. Thank you for your help – we really could not do this without you!

It would be best if your company aligns this work with a short employee survey to get a baseline measurement on job satisfaction.  Then you can conduct the same survey three months later to gauge improvement.  

For additional ideas on how to better communicate with employees in order to retain them, review this Lunch and Learn on the topic of Communications with employees in August 2020, where Communications expert and Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) certified consultant, Robin Gervasoni, states that “Managers are the most trusted resource from a communications standpoint.”

If there are logistics, timing, or other concerns that are barriers to the survey, remember that cost of turnover is higher than you may think, you cannot afford to delay. We are here to help, contact us at AJC today.

Additionally, review our article on How You Know if Your Employees are Satisfied here.