Employee RetentionIn the midst of the Great Resignation, HR and company leaders are desperate to improve employee retention. Although there is no magic wand that instantaneously improves retention, improving the daily experience of employees certainly contributes to better retention. 

Many employers are increasing compensation and offering financial incentives to improve employee retention. These are definitely nice but compensation and job perks are only part of what drives job satisfaction.

Managing in the time of the Great Resignation is high-stakes. More than ever, managers need to get it right. However, the answer as to how to get it right might surprise you. Managers themselves play a vital role in employee retention. And to be successful. they need to boost their coaching skills.

Perks Don’t Drive Employee Retention

Many organizations have sought to improve the employee experience by “over-perking” as Ben Brooks put it recently. However, perks are never the core of the work experience. They can be a distraction for a short period but they don’t address what is actually broken in the employee experience. Over-perking is like gifting champagne to employees who struggle every day with a cumbersome IT infrastructure. The employees have to create workarounds and waste time in rework and double data entry. The daily frustration will not disappear with a glass of champagne!

Here are some interesting data points: only 16% of employees surveyed by Pilot
 identify “cool workspace, free food, and game rooms” as important to their work experience. 58% of respondents also define the employee experience as being empowered and trusted by their management.

Managers Underestimate Their Impact on Employee Retention

Despite the turmoil since March 2020, the drivers of attrition haven’t changed: employee experience is at the heart of employee retention. “People join companies but leave managers” Marcus Buckingham famously pointed out in First Break All the Rules (2016).

Managers have a lot to do with employees’ feelings towards their job and their organization. Few people have a bigger impact on an employee’s work schedule, workload, and overall job satisfaction than their manager. If people don’t feel that their manager treats them fairly, communicates honestly, takes their interests into account, and appreciates the value of their work, they will seek employment elsewhere.

Managers Are Ill-Equipped to Succeed

Less than half of managers are rated as proficient at their job by their direct reports. The State of the American Manager published by Gallup finds that only 18% of those in management roles demonstrate a high level of talent for managing others. Another 20% show a basic talent for it.  

This is not surprising. Very few managers get to their position based on their ability to inspire a team, create trust, admit when they’ve made a mistake, and set up others to become their best selves. People are promoted to management as a reward for being good at the technical aspect of their job, for their personal drive and self-confidence. What’s more, there is very little training following a promotion to management.

Manager As Coach

In a knowledge economy, the command-and-control approach to management has limited effectiveness. Managers need to inspire a team, create trust, admit when they are wrong, and set up others to become their best selves. Managers need to act more like a coach. Coaches are essential to success in sports. A coach helps athletes better themselves. In the business world, coaches are not cheerleaders. They help employees find the answers within themselves. 

Leaders tend to think of coaching as an expensive effort often part of a last-ditch Performance Improvement Plan to fix a problem for an employee on their way out the door. Even if a leader believes in the value of coaching, they tend to think these benefits are likely to only last for the duration of the coaching relationship. 

Most of us have never actually seen high-quality coaching in action or experienced it personally. Coaches help us realize what we already know, what we may not realize about ourselves, and where we need more knowledge. The best coaches challenge us to take action and be accountable to ourselves. This takes trust, patience, and active listening.

For more on this topic, check out my previous blog on how to equip managers to address the root causes of the Great Resignation.