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Employee retention should always be of utmost importance, but requires awareness as to why employees leave to begin with. A Gallup poll of more than 1 million employed U.S. workers concluded that the #1 reason people quit their jobs is a disconnect or poor relationship with their boss or immediate supervisor. “People leave managers not companies . . . in the end, turnover is mostly a manager issue,” Gallup wrote in its survey findings.

In other words, the responsibility rests primarily on leadership’s shoulders to engage, mentor and retain employees.

Establishing mutual commitments is the key to a meaningful relationship. This is true for personal relationships, relationships with clients, and relationships with employees. The bedrock of a meaningful relationship is trust, and trust is solidified or broken based on reliability in the form of honoring our commitments. We have all heard expressions like, “his actions spoke so loud, I could not hear his words” or, “she says what she will do, and does what she says.” Spouses, friends, co-workers, and our employees do not have a rule book for correct behavior by either themselves or by us unless we get one from them, give them one, or co-create one.

Leadership Expectations

The easiest way to create this blueprint? Solicit feedback from the team! They are your audience of judges, and they will give you the answers to the test. Ask questions and be open to receiving feedback:

  • Who would you say is the best boss you’ve ever had (present company excluded, of course)? What characteristics or qualities did they have that stand out?
  • What would you replicate from previous companies or departments in which you’ve worked?
  • What do you most appreciate about the leadership of our organization/team?
  • As leaders, what are we not doing that we should be?
  • If you became CEO tomorrow, what is the first thing you would change? Why?

From that feedback, come up with a list of five or ten expectations to which you know you can be held accountable. Make the expectations quantifiable, so that issues will not arise with relativity. Do not commit to something in which you will likely fall short; this should be set in stone on both sides and waver only for special exceptions or with permission from the other party. The key is that you cover what your team can count on from you in your professional relationship, and that what they can count on are things that matter to them.

An important aspect of employee retention is an understanding of why employees leave to begin with. With the Gallup Poll pointing to the disconnect between employee and his manager as the #1 reason, we’re armed with valuable information to make positive change. In this post I focused on leadership expectations and getting feedback from your team. In part two of this post, I’ll cover setting expectations and how to make that an aspect of your corporate culture to boost morale and improve employee retention.

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