Part one of this topic examined the main reasons for employee turnover and how much it's costing organizations; it also concluded the root problem was poor leadership and briefly touched on how improving leadership will improve employee retention. Let's continue this discussion by elaborating on how effective leadership positively affects an organization and improves employee retention, as well as how to acquire these types of leaders.
Effective Leadership is a Team Effort
It's important to understand that leadership at every level of an organization is responsible for shaping the workplace culture and fostering a positive work environment. From the C-Suite to the team supervisors for projects, leadership sets the tone and either positively or negatively impacts the attitudes of those working under them.
What this means is effective leadership is a team effort; the attitudes of top leadership will affect lower levels of leadership. Essentially, effective leadership starts at the top, which means organizations shouldn't solely blame middle management for employee retention problems.
While middle management is often the reason for employees leaving ostensibly, organizations must consider the failures of upper management as well. For instance, are they training and preparing supervisors to be effective leaders?
This is relevant to the discussion, as employees often leave because of ineffective (bad) managers. For instance, an article on Chron shares the results of a Florida State University study which asked 700 people in various jobs how they felt about their supervisors:
Thirty-nine percent of workers in the study said that their managers failed to keep promises, while 37 percent reported that their bosses didn't give them credit for hard work. Thirty-one percent of responders in the survey claimed their supervisors even gave them the silent treatment, while 27 percent reported their supervisors made disparaging comments about them to other managers and employees. Twenty-three percent of the people polled said their supervisors blame them to cover up their own mistakes.
These type of feelings from employees eventually lead to costly turnover issues, yet what upper management must ask is:
- Are they training their supervisor leadership well enough?
- Are they leading by example?
- Are they assuming middle management has the skills needed?
- Are they underestimating or overestimating the importance of soft skills?
- Are they promoting the right people?
- Are they giving middle management too much responsibility?
Ultimately, the fault for employee turnover lies with upper management and their failure to foster effective leadership. With a more proactive leadership role, upper management can detect and focus on improving weaknesses with middle management; by proactively taking steps to remedy these weaknesses, upper management can avoid the negative effects they bring such as high employee turnover.
This is key for improving employee retention, as an article on Forbes explains:
They say, 'people don't leave jobs, they leave managers,' and a survey by B2B marketplace Approved Index confirms that this adage is true. In its survey of 1,374 employees in the U.K., nearly half (42%) of them have left a job because of a bad boss and almost a third of them feel their current boss is a bad manager.
Essentially, solving employee retention problems is up to the upper management of an organization. Their ability to proactively manage their supervisors and construct an environment for leadership growth will determine the effectiveness of middle management and subsequently the satisfaction of the employees working under them.
The Challenges of Developing Effective Leadership
Improving the leadership of an organization is both challenging and rewarding. The challenges include:
- acquiring leaders with both technical and soft skills
- making difficult decisions with promotions and demotions
- managing professionals while understanding social dynamics
- detecting personality conflicts within the workplace
- developing synergy within teams
- fostering leadership that inspires productivity
- finding leaders that don't get offended easily
The Positive Impact of Effective Leadership
While finding and developing effective leadership takes time, patience, resources, and discernment, the benefits of effective leadership are worth the effort and cost:
- satisfied employees who feel recognized stick around
- team cohesiveness streamlines projects
- improved productivity when personality conflicts are resolved
- workload pressures turn into exciting challenges for employees
- gossip and fear turn into encouragement and confidence
- a general feeling of fairness negates resentments
- creativity is sparked when fear of harsh criticisms are eliminated
Basically, when an organization has effective leadership at all levels, employees retention will cease to be an issue. As part one of this topic explained, employee retention issues go beyond pay and benefits, they center around relationship building and improving the overall workplace culture.
Effective Leadership Centers Around Building Positive Relationships
The intangible factor with effective leaders is their ability to build positive relationships. The challenge for upper management is to promote and hire middle management with both technical and soft skills. According to thebalancecareers.com:
Soft skills are the personal attributes, personality traits, inherent social cues, and communication abilities needed for success on the job. Soft skills characterize how a person interacts in his or her relationship with others.
Soft skills are what effective leadership needs to build positive relationships, yet this doesn't mean the most social person in the workplace is the best leader. Without leadership skills, soft skills can easily be the cause of contention within a team.
For instance, say upper management hires a manager because they're very social and confident in the hiring process (have good soft skills), yet when supervising employees they are easily offended, play favorites, and spread gossip – this is exactly why employees leave.
The solution for upper management is to promote and hire managers who:
- don't get offended easily
- are motivated by fairness and equality
- are willing to take a secondary role if necessary
- aren't afraid of confrontations
- are able to put personal opinions aside when evaluating performance
- focus on the positive attributes of employees
- can discern and resolve underlying relationship issues within a team
Essentially, effective leaders are both humble and selfless, yet confident and able. Indeed, this type of leadership is hard to find, which is partly why employee retention is such an issue. Yet, if organizations focus on developing this type of leadership, the benefits would be worth the cost and effort.
Developing Effective Leadership with Training
Whether promoting from within or hiring externally, organizations can implement an effective program for leadership training at all levels. This is a proactive approach upper management can take to optimize the effectiveness of their leadership and reduce employee turnover.
While there's no one solution for fostering effective leadership, regular leadership training is an integral part of the overall solution. Training will enhance a leader's positive attributes while addressing and remedying their weaknesses; with the right type of training, leaders will be prepared to build positive relationships and reduce employee turnover. If interested in learning more about leadership training, please contact NexaLearning today.
If your organization is aware of the tremendous cost associated with turnover, and you realize you are losing some of your best people, it is important to assess the symptoms and address methods for enhancing employee retention. Download a copy of our whitepaper Techniques for Retaining and Engaging Your Workforce.