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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Tech and Innovation - People leave managers, not organizations – the important role managers play in retention

Tech and Innovation

People leave managers, not organizations – the important role managers play in retention

Dr. Dominic Mcloughlin

This widely accepted maxim has a certain truth to it. Most of us are more likely to leave a role if we don’t trust our manager, if they don’t support us, or if they don’t treat us fairly. Employee retention is critical for an organization’s success.

Retaining skilled employees is important for organisations because employee turnover can result in loss of knowledge, skills, productivity and profit. 

The decision to leave can be motivated by factors outside the control of the organisation such as needing to care for family members, moving house, or changing careers. However, there are other factors that are within the organisation’s control. Opportunities for development are very important (as learning and development professionals know). The amount of pay can be also be influential – very topical at the moment with cost-of-living pressures. 

Sometimes a manager is constrained by the organization – unable to provide increased pay or career progression for various reasons. However, managers that understand their employees are better placed to shape their workplace culture to support employee engagement and retention.

New managers are often promoted due to their knowledge, skills, and abilities in their specialty area. Once they start managing a team for the first time, they can easily find themselves overwhelmed with ‘people issues’. In addition, they are often used to working hard themselves and are tempted to immediately focus on meeting ‘their’ new KPIs, rather than enabling their team to meet them.

Seeking long-term success for the team requires different skills and a different mindset than just working harder. Learning and Development professionals also have a key role to play in helping new managers rise to this challenge, shaping the organizational culture and helping new managers to build the skills they need to manage people well. Let’s have a look at the top three that help retention.

  1. Mindset
    The manager’s role is to take a longer-term view. Managers need to think about where the team needs to be in 12 months, and consider how best to get there. New managers often feel that they have less time than ever before, yet time to reflect and consider what their new role requires is vital.

    Many new managers have achieved their success through working hard and time for reflection can seem like ‘wasting time’. However, it is vital for new managers to take time to plan ahead and to be clear about the team’s priorities and goals. Not doing so means that managers are unable to respond effectively to queries from team members. Lack of clarity and goals that are not achievable are two reasons why people leave their jobs.

    Managers need to focus much more on how the team work together, on the outcomes, rather than falling into micromanaging the work of each team member. This can be a challenge because it is often the manager’s expertise that got them the latest promotion. But a manager can’t do all the work themself. Rather their role is to facilitate the work of the team and so the focus needs to be on helping to make others successful.

  2. Start to build trust
    The long-term success of a team is built on trust. If a team trusts their manager, they will be much happier, more productive and more willing to stay with the organisation. A key mistake for new managers to avoid is the idea that because they are ‘the manager’, they have to have all the answers, that they have to be perfect.

    In reality, having all the answers is not really possible, and striving to do so can easily lead to burnout. It is much better for managers to say ‘I’m not sure, but I will find out’. When managers are prepared to admit that they don’t know, it gives the team members permission to acknowledge their own areas of weakness. The alternative is that team members fear that any ignorance or error will immediately be punished in some way. A team culture like this is sure to increase turnover.

    Other practices that can help to build trust are: taking feedback on board, reprimanding team members in private (not in front of others) and treating people fairly. Similarly, helping out when the workload is unusually high, and accepting that team members also make mistakes also help to improve retention.

  3. Understand team members
    It is vital for team members to know that they are supported in achieving their personal goals, as well as the organisation’s goals. When managers are concerned about their team members as people, they take the time to understand each person’s goals and even an individual team member’s preferred form of communication.

    All of this requires having short chats with each team member one to one on a regular basis. These informal chats are also an excellent way for new managers to learn what has worked well for the team in the past, and hear what has not worked so well. There could also be the opportunity to identify major obstacles that the team are encountering. Resolving these can give a new manager an early win that boosts their confidence and develops team loyalty.

A focus on developing managers, particularly new managers, will help employee engagement and retention. However, in the rush to achieve targets and ‘get on with the work’, these long-term issues are easily swamped by the short-term ones. Learning and Development professionals have a key role to play in helping develop a culture where employees don’t wish to leave the organization, because every people manager is trying to be a better manager.


Written by Dr. Dominic Mcloughlin.
Have you read?
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4 ways to become someone people actually want to work for by Dr. Dominic Mcloughlin.
Pick up the Phone to Boost Connection by Renée Giarrusso.
How much is a poor onboarding process costing your company by Brad Giles.


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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Tech and Innovation - People leave managers, not organizations – the important role managers play in retention
Dr. Dominic Mcloughlin
Dr. Dominic Mcloughlin (MAITD) is a People Management Specialist and author of the new book, Be A Better Manager in 5 Minutes a Day. Dominic has 20 years of experience in Leadership and People Management helping thousands to be better at managing their people.


Dr. Dominic Mcloughlin is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with him through LinkedIn. For more information, visit the author’s website.