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Poor Retention & Your Management Problem

poor retention

Research shows the old adage is still true: Employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers. In other words, it could be that your poor retention is a management problem.

Earlier this year, The Workforce Institute at UKG reported new research on just how important an employee-manager relationship can be. For nearly 70% of the employees who participated in the global study, managers impacted their mental health the same as their spouses and more than their doctors or therapists.

If those findings are surprising to you, you’re not alone.

“While 9 in 10 HR and C-suite leaders believe working for their company has a positive impact on employees’ mental health, only half of employees agree. In fact, 1 in 3 say their manager fails to recognize the impact they have on their team’s mental wellbeing, and 7 in 10 would like their company and manager to do more to support mental health,” the study authors write.

Why does this lead to poor retention? Because workers just aren’t taking it anymore. More than 80% of employees would rather have good mental health than a high-paying job. The sentiment is the same at all levels. About 40% of the C-suite says they will likely quit within the year because of work-related stress. We told you about a similar study from Deloitte back in 2022 that supports these findings. According to that survey, 70% of executives were considering leaving their current jobs for ones that might better support their well-being (in comparison, 57% of employees said the same). 

Where is the disconnect? We’re finding that poor retention due to management problems can come from two primary sources: a lack of training and a lack of emotional support, both of which can lead to burnout and affect retention down the line. Think of it as the manager needing to “put their oxygen mask on first” before they can help others. Many of these managers aren’t bad bosses, they’re just drowning in one way or another.  

Poor Retention Cure 1: Better Management Training

A West Monroe Partners study found 59% of managers who had one to two direct reports had received no managerial training at all, which was also true of 42% of new managers of three to five people. About 42% of new managers developed their management style through observing a previous manager, rather than through formalized training. 

“Many of these new managers admitted that they developed their style by mimicking a previous manager,” says Eva Majercsik, Chief People Officer for customer experience solutions provider Genesys. “There is an expectation that once an employee reaches a certain level, they will understand how to properly and effectively manage someone. But that doesn’t set anyone up for success.”

Poor Retention Cure 2: Support, Support, Support

When it comes to emotional support, take a moment to review our previous article on C-Suite burnout. In it, we introduce a study that shows a positive team climate made possible through effective leadership is the magic recipe for fostering employee psychological safety. This, in turn, can improve poor retention.

The HT Group Executive Advisor Heather Ball recommends calling a coach to administer critical tools, including C-suite burnout assessments and employee satisfaction surveys, that will help you uncover your organization’s management problems in these areas.

“It’s been my experience that organizations bring in a coach to help them do that later than they should. It should be done at the first signs of C-suite burnout; the symptoms of stress that are no longer easily overcome,” Ball explains. 

The HT Group advisors are available for more guidance and to help pinpoint your organization’s specific managerial triggers that could be leading to poor retention.