Managers Make or Break an Organisations Ability to Retain Staff

“People leave managers not companies” – I’ve seen this statement a few times now, managers may not always be the reason for leaving but there are certainly times they are.

A manager may be working within the confines of the company culture and the decisions of the senior management.  This is particularly true of larger organisations. Equally I’ve worked in large organisations under different managers and been treated very differently by each one.   

I consider myself lucky as I was starting out in my HR career, I had a manager who wanted to take on a graduate, who focused on developing her team. She coached, supported and delegated.  She was a manager who encouraged me to go and continue to develop myself, recognising leaving a positive. Developing people by supporting them to learn new skills, using the resources available doesn’t require a huge training budget for formal learning.  

A manager who talks openly about the strategy of the organisation, how their team fits within that strategy and everyone’s place in that creates a workforce who are empowered to make decisions.  These conversations enable individuals to understand how their contribution will be judged and enables them to achieve by focusing their attention on the right tasks.

The reaction an individual gets to the first suggestion or mistake they make will shape what they say in future.  I suspect most people have experienced a manager who sees suggestions as being negative or challenging, the sort of manager whose team quickly learn to keep quiet.  The problem in, in reality the team are not keeping quiet, they’re discussing their ideas and suggestions amongst themselves, probably building frustration and breeding negativity.  

Feedback is essential to knowing how we’re doing at work, it makes us feel valued (or not) and enables development.  However, feedback given in the wrong way, that the receiver doesn’t understand or isn’t complete will leave your employees feeling disheartened and negative.  This type of feedback will result in your team losing trust and respect in you, making future communication and feedback even more difficult.

As a manager trust in your team is essential, trust breads trust.  When people feel like they’re not trusted or there is a lack of consistency they’re less likely to be open about what they’re doing or thinking.  We can see the vicious circle this creates when someone feels they’re not trusted or they don’t trust how their manager will react, they close up and stop talking. As a result they look like they’re hiding something which leads to trust being eroded further.  

Trust you have recruited the right person for the job, and trust them to do the job.  We’re all human, not one of us is infallible, everyone will make mistakes and get things wrong.  It’s how we deal with those and the mistakes of others that makes us who we are.

It’s so often the case that people who are very good at what they do get promoted into management.   These internal hires are assumed to know the organisation, they walk into the job on day one with little or no support.   The skills of management and leadership are probably very different to the day job they were used to. The cost of your managers getting it wrong, reduced productivity and increased employee turnover, are so often forgotten.  Coaching, support and development for those in management roles is essential to ensure they get it right.

A manager who is managed will experience all of these things, whether they are trusted, get valuable feedback and information about the strategy will drive how they are able to manage and treat their team.  Getting it right at the top and knowing what you expect of those within management positions is key. Given the power managers have, this isn’t something that should be left to chance or something that gets done if there is time. Management is a skill and a job, done right it will add value, done wrong it’ll add cost.



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