Retaining employees has always been an important challenge, but recently this has become critical. A Gallup study last year found that departing employees mostly head for the door because of internal organizational issues rather than because they were poached by competitors or offered better terms elsewhere. The good news is that organizations can take control of this problem. But what should organizations practically do? This is the million-dollar question. Here are my thoughts:
1. Career Development Within the Organization
Career progression is very important to employees who are looking to develop and broaden their skill sets. It is important for management to invest proactively early-on in building relevant development programs that are sufficiently personalized to meet diverse needs.
I. Here are some focal points for a personalized team-manager training program:
- Build a managerial vision that unifies management identity with personal values
- A manager’s role should be clearly defined and internalized
- Build effective time management that can deal with and anticipate pressure periods
- Build effective team management including delegation of responsibilities, expectation management as well as clarification of both personal and team goals
- Constant work to improve inter-personal communication between all personnel
- Tools for creative thinking and leveraging entrepreneurial action
II. Appropriate integration of personal and group development activities: Build a ‘Young Leadership’ program for up-and-coming employees with ‘promotion potential’ that may include diverse lectures, courses and workshops to develop professional skills required for a managerial position, along with a personalized career development plan guided by their professional manager.
III. Establishment of an effective mentoring program that matches young/new employees with strong/capable experienced team members. On top of promoting young professionals’ growth, such a mentoring program also benefits the mentor, providing them with a sense of being trusted and appreciated, enhancing their self-confidence and increasing their level of commitment to the organization and their sense of being meaningful to and influential with the organization.
2. Management Skills Training and Development
Poor relations between line managers and employees is a key factor in workforce attrition that needs to be addressed. Feeling connected and loyal to the organization is closely related to this dynamic. Development of management skills (both professional skills and soft skills) is vital. One of the most important skills is communication e.g.:
Coaching a valued senior team leader who had received feedback that she was rigid, impatient, overly direct and even offensive, I focused on improving her communications skills, and worked with her on:
- How to say or write things differently by analyzing texts and day to day situations
- How to convey professional messages and set boundaries without criticizing or inhibiting employees’ agency
- How to promote team cohesion through positive communication
- Practicing restraint and delay leading to more considered rational and constructive communication rather than immediate impulsive and emotional outbursts that could antagonize or alienate team members.
While working on the above, it is important also to focus on what leadership means to the manager: what sort of leader s/he wishes to be; what it means to be assertive, etc.
3. Flexible Approach to Employee Needs
Working from home during the Covid pandemic has proved effective and highlighted the need and the possibility to recalibrate work-life balances. It also highlighted the need for flexible managerial skills that are required for remote management, such as:
- Being more communicative
- Providing more supportive feedback and reinforcement
- Balancing workloads and pressures
- Communicating with empathy and sensitivity
- Maintaining employees’ connection to the organization’s core values and core activities
On the other hand, there is the risk that managers may be skeptical of team members working from home, fearing they are unsupervised and may ‘take advantage.’ For example:
I worked with a manager who was not sufficiently sensitive to a team member’s needs and although she approved requests to work from home, she did so in a skeptical accusatory manner. I worked with her on changing her perception so that when her team member next requested to work from home, she responded in a way that created a positive emotional experience and demonstrated that she is now attentive to and “sees” her team member. This kind of approach often leads to feelings of gratitude that raise an employee’s level of motivation and sense of connection to the manager and the organization.
There is a great deal that organizations can do to improve managerial skills within the organization in order to keep staff engaged, happy and loyal. The various ideas listed above provide some suggested illustrative examples of actions that an organization can consider to support and promote employee retention.
Havi Liran, Senior trainer who specializes in personal manager development processes. Has over 20 years of professional experience in senior human resource management in high-tech companies (LinkedIn, Gmail)