The Seven Habits of High-Retention Managers

Employee retention continues to be a concern for many organizations as high turnover, across all industries, continues to disrupt the workplace. Unwanted turnover can be a costly problem, having negative effects on a wide range of people and business results.

What can an organization do to mitigate this concern? There is no silver bullet, but managers are a key component. According to Gallup, managers influence 70 percent of an employee’s motivation, and most sources say they are the #1 reason that employees leave. 

What’s the answer? Practice the Seven Habits of High-Retention Managers as summarized below. For more detailed information, check out my book with the same title on Amazon.

  1. Ignite purpose

We all want to feel like we are making a difference. A clear company mission unites team members around a shared cause and helps foster a larger emotional investment in their work. Managers can help communicate and inspire employees by helping to bring the mission to life – and by helping them understand how they contribute to the greater purpose of the organization. 

  1. Build trust

Trust is the foundation of retention and engagement. If you don’t have it, employees aren’t likely to stay and, if lack of trust is an issue across your organization, you aren’t likely to have any kind of sustainable success. Managers can build trust with their team by showing respect; being a person of integrity; demonstrating humility; being vulnerable and extending trust to employees by giving them the autonomy to do their jobs. 

  1. Manage yourself

You must be able to manage yourself to manage others effectively. And this starts with being self-aware. Once you are aware of your strengths, weaknesses and potential sources of bias, you are in a better position to keep your cool and choose a better response when stressful situations occur.

  1. Be a good coach

Google’s Project Oxygen found that the best managers were good coaches. They used a broad definition of coaching to include feedback, listening, guiding people toward solutions and fostering growth. Recent research indicates that people in today’s workforce don’t want managers, they want coaches. This is particularly true amongst the younger generations that now make up 50% of the workforce. 

  1. Practice accountability 

Where there is a lack of accountability, there is a lack of performance, and it will have an impact on engagement and retention. High performers don’t like it and will likely be the first to jump ship. High-retention managers hold themselves and others accountable for results using the Five C’s of Accountability:

  1. Clarity of expectations
  2. Courage to have difficult interactions
  3. Collaboration in goal-setting and problem-solving
  4. Consistency in holding employees to expectations – and in being fair and consistent
  5. Correction including counseling, discipline or termination when warranted

  1. Communicate well

The Center for Creative Leadership encourages managers to communicate relentlessly. This involves clear, concise, open and honest communication using different mediums – and typically involves over communicating because people need to hear things a lot before it sticks! Most importantly, this includes listening actively. 

  1. Show you care

Show employees that you care about their well-being (career, physical, mental, social and financial). Helpful strategies to cultivate include caring interactions; showing empathy; providing flexibility and showing appreciation.


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