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Focus on Managers to Build a Better Workplace


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Investment in talent is a top priority for CEOs in 2021-2022. CEOs recognize that having the right people in place to execute on their business objectives is more important than ever, and they’re looking to their HR leadership team to align the workforce with the company’s business goals. The question is, what’s the most efficient way to achieve alignment and build employee loyalty in a tight labor market?  

Focusing on management and empowering managers to improve employee happiness are the most effective ways to retain talent and keep employees motivated over the long haul. This is because managers have the most direct influence on the employee experience. Since happiness is a key factor in building a cohesive and productive workplace, managers need actionable tips on how to create a positive experience.   

As a company leader, you can equip managers to increase employee happiness and prepare managers to be more effective leaders so that they consistently maximize the value of the employee lifecycle and create a high-performance workplace culture.  

 Leaving the Boss, Not the Company  

Employee churn is costly in terms of revenue, morale and performance, and it’s directly linked to management quality. According to Gallup research, at least 75% of the factors cited by employees who voluntarily quit their jobs were influenced by their manager. Many organizations have managers who focus exclusively on numbers and don’t seem to take an interest in employees as people. This is not a surprise since many companies promote people to management roles based on how they performed in a non-management job rather than how well they engage, motivate and inspire others.   

Research by Unit4 indicates that only about 15% of organizations spend more than seven hours on leadership training over the course of the employee lifecycle, which is simply not enough.  Employees need regular coaching, and managers who provide coaching get better results. But unsurprisingly, managers who haven’t been trained and equipped to mentor fall short. Managers need the right tools and adequate training to become successful leaders at their organizations.  

It’s also important to give employees the opportunities and feedback they’re looking for, and managers who effectively use their tools and training can ensure that the employees who generate the most value for your business stay on board. Small improvements in hiring, onboarding and talent management can pay huge dividends for the business by maximizing the value of the employee lifecycle.  

 Mandatory leadership training can introduce new managers to crucial people management concepts and help existing managers pick up the skills they need to become the most effective leaders they can be.   

It’s also important to stop selecting employees for promotion to management roles based primarily on performance in a non-management job. People management is an entirely different skillset, and technical competence in another role doesn’t necessarily indicate the capacity to support, engage and empower staff. So, senior leaders who are choosing people for management roles should be intentional about selecting for leadership skills.   

Giving Employees a Reason to Stay  

Along with developing managers’ leadership skills, it’s important to provide actionable guidance on improving employee happiness so that workers feel they have a reason to stay. There are a variety of ways to do that, but one great way to start is to conduct an employee engagement survey and empower managers to follow up with action that responds to the survey results. Following up is critical because it signals managers are listening and take suggestions seriously.    

Providing personalized lifelong learning programs is another way your company can keep good employees onboard. A learning platform allows employees to continuously improve their skills and grow professionally.   

More frequent performance reviews can also improve the employee experience. With the accelerated business cycle and evolving economic priorities, yearly objectives don’t make sense anymore, so consider migrating to a quarterly objective-setting schedule if your company hasn’t already made the shift. This builds more flexibility into the process, provides managers with an opportunity to correct course more frequently, and gives high-performing employees a sense of accomplishment.  

Avoiding the “Great Resignation” with Better Management Practices  

The pandemic has had a significant impact on companies and fundamentally changed the way work gets done. As we move further into the second year of a disrupted business environment, it’s becoming clear that the pandemic changed employees in fundamental ways too. Managers can help your company evolve to accommodate those changes.  

Millions have re-evaluated their priorities and intend to quit their current jobs — a phenomenon called the “Great Resignation.” The competition for the best and brightest individuals is fierce, and winning that battle is crucial in an environment where the ability to deliver a great customer experience is the best predictor of success for a brand.   

Companies that adapt quickly can gain a competitive advantage, and that means improving the employee experience through better management practices. Policy changes such as implementing hybrid workforce options may make your workplace more attractive, but keep in mind that managers administer policy, so focus on improving the quality of your management team and giving managers the tools, they need to engage employees. An effective manager is the best way to improve employee lifetime value and build a better workplace.  

Written by Heike Wiesner.

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