During this time of economic recession and double-digit unemployment, it may seem odd to focus on employee retention. But I contend this is exactly the right time to identify and strengthen relationships with your best managers because they determine whether your best employees stay or leave the company.
Recent research on employee retention found that people leave managers, not companies. If there is a turnover problem in your company, first look at your managers because managers trump companies. Employees may join a company because of its overall prestige and reputation, but the employee’s relationship with his immediate supervisor determines how long he will stay and how productive he is while there.
Great managers, like great coaches, focus on people first and then on the actual plays. Similarly, a great novelist often begins with characters rather than a plot. And the skill set of managers is not necessarily the same as that of leaders. It is important to look at your managers not simply as leaders in waiting, but recognize the unique managerial gifts and strengths they contribute to the organization as managers.
Organizational consultant and author Warren Bennis said that managers do things right and leaders do the right things. Leaders should be concerned with looking outward and focusing on the future for the organization, while managers should be looking inward and on the immediate details of the daily operations.
In their book “First, Break all the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers do Differently,” Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman argue that great managers do the following:
1. Select an employee not only for her unique experience, intelligence and determination, but for her talents. Knowledge and skills are competencies that can be taught, while attitudes and beliefs are talents that are difficult to teach. Talents are recurring patterns of behavior productively applied. And they can have great value to any organization.
2. Set expectations by defining the right outcomes, rather than the right steps. Great managers communicate clearly what is expected of each person in order to accomplish the organization’s goals. Rather than direct each employee on the specific way to do their job, great managers provide freedom and support to the individual to get the job done well and on time.
3. Motivate the employee by focusing on his strengths rather than weaknesses. Great managers often act as coaches by providing clear feedback on what the employee is doing well as well as not so well. The best managers help build confidence by recognizing and utilizing each employee’s unique talents. Simply stated, stress what works and minimize what does not.
4. Develop the person to determine the right job fit and not necessarily the next rung on the corporate ladder. This often runs counter to what most of us think is necessary in many organizations. The fact is many people are not suited for nor do they want to be executives in a company. Great managers determine how to recognize and fully utilize an individual’s unique talents and enable them to be successful wherever they are in the organizational chart.
According to the Gallup Path to Business Performance, sustained increase in shareholder value must begin first by identifying employees’ strengths and second by determining the right fit for them. These steps are then directly followed by hiring great managers and creating engaged employees. Without these first four, there can be no loyal customers, sustained growth, real profit increase and, finally, stock increase.
The key to excellent performance then is to first find the best match between an employee’s talents and role. Identify and cultivate those talents so that they may be best put to use in the proper role to meet the organization’s goals and objectives. Finally, make it clear in no uncertain terms what outcomes are expected and let the individual employee determine the specific steps to reach them. In this way, great managers can keep employees fully engaged and help retain the best employees in the organization.
Mark Craemer www.craemerconsulting.com