You're Struggling to Retain the Best Talent - Is Undermanagement the Cause?

Bruce Tulgan
April 10, 2019

Bruce Tulgan

Founder of RainmakerThinking, Inc. and Top Expert on Leadership Development and Generational Issues in the Workplace

Attracting, recruiting, and retaining the best talent is one of the biggest challenges facing organizations today. For employers of all sizes, in every industry, it is getting harder to get the great candidates they need to come in the door. The people they do manage to hire are less likely to stick around for very long. And, on top of it all, senior leaders are retiring, floods of new young workers are coming in, and managers are stuck in the middle with little to no support.

Maybe you have noticed that, despite your best efforts, the tried-and-true tactics for attracting and retaining top talent just aren't doing the trick anymore. Or, the opposite is true, and despite revamping your flexibility and benefits, hiring and retention haven't improved.

If either of these sounds familiar, undermanagement could be the cause.

 
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Employees Want Strong Leaders

It's important to remember people are coming to work for you so that they can earn, for themselves and their families. Employers have a huge responsibility to help people earn, succeed, and earn more. The problem is that roughly 90% of the management happening in the workplace today is simply not enough to support employees' growth. The first sign of undermanagement that employers typically notice is an increased turnover among the most promising high performers. Those are the employees who are least likely to put up with a low-support leadership culture.

When an organization is in this situation, a good place to start is to simply rethink the meaning of employee retention. Employee retention is not about making sure everyone stays. Employee retention is about making sure that the high performers stay, and the low performers go. Of course, the only way to make that a reality is to be in charge of who is staying and who is leaving.

How do you achieve that?

 

1) Turn Every Manager into a Chief Retention Officer

This may be a more symbolic move than anything, but it helps to make sure every leader in your organization understands their role in retaining top talent. Remind your managers that most people want a manager who guides, directs, and supports them. People are coming to work to earn, and part of the manager's job is to help them earn.

 

2) Turn the Reasons People Might Leave into Reasons They Stay

Most often people leave a job because it is no longer working for them in some way, whether they are not getting the flexibility, career opportunities, or benefits they need. The only way to make custom deals for employees is to know their individual wants and needs. Get managers involved in this process. Have them ask, directly and specifically, what their team members are looking for from their job.

 

3) The Prestige Factor

A big part of retaining the best is to send the message that it is an honor and privilege to work for your organization. When managers shine the bright light of scrutiny on themselves as leaders and on every single person they manage, they hold everyone to a higher standard. By setting up a loop of constant feedback, challenge, and evaluation, they help everyone meet that higher standard. Having supervisors who practice the fundamentals of highly-engaged management is one surefire way to boost prestige.

 

4) Push Out the Low Performers

You want low performers to go - one hopes of their own volition. The surest way to make this happen is to have managers who are highly-engaged, monitoring and measuring performance every step of the way. When faced with this level of scrutiny, most low performers will simply grow uncomfortable enough to leave on their own.

 

5) Prevent Downward Spirals of Performance

Employees rely on their managers to provide them with the direction and support they need to accomplish their tasks and responsibilities. Whether it's providing a resource, coaching on a new skill, or advocating for something on the employee's behalf, it's important that managers are involved enough to provide this basic level of support. Otherwise, managers risk their employees falling into a downward spiral that they are powerless to prevent on their own.

 

6) Start an Upward Spiral Instead

It's not just enough for managers to prevent downward spirals - they also have to help employees improve. In order to do this, managers have to be engaged enough to build the momentum required to start that upward performance spiral. Employees feel much better about a job when they feel they are winning as opposed to losing. The problem is that you cannot make them feel that they are winning just by telling them they are. You actually have to do the hard work of helping them start winning.

 

7) Do Even More for Your Most Valuable Talent

With limited resources available, it is only fair to prioritize rewards for the people working hardest for you. Differential rewards only work when someone is sufficiently keeping score, measuring expectations against actual results, and making sure that the rewards provided are of real value to the person receiving them.

The bottom-line is, if you really want to retain your very best superstars long enough to grow and develop them, someone has to make concerted efforts to surround them with highly-engaged managers. The question every leader and manager in your organization should ask is: What roles can I play in this process?

 


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