Why retention starts with well-trained managers

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Managers rely on their employees to deliver results.

They realize there is a never-ending war for top talent and count on their HR partners to bring in candidates who are qualified and, ideally, passionate about the organization or brand.

Working in concert with HR, managers screen the brightest and hire the best with the promise of tapping into that passion.

New employees look forward to putting their passion to work and developing new skills and capabilities. For the new hires, day one is full of possibilities and opportunities for a bright future.

Add a manager who is eager to bring on a much-needed and talented team member to a new employee who is excited to contribute, and you have a recipe for success. Right?

Unfortunately, some new employees’ eagerness doesn’t last long. They soon lose that initial passion and end up leaving—within their first 90 days.

Why? What happens to disrupt things so quickly? Did HR select the wrong candidate? Did the manager overlook something in the interview process? HR and managers are left wondering what went awry and trying to figure out how they can hire the “right candidate” next time.

Experience tells us the right candidate was hired. Often, new employees leave because of their managers. Don’t assume, though, that your organization is brimming with bad managers. In most cases, managers are constantly trying to do the right thing—just like their front-line counterparts.

These managers arrive at work committed and full of passion and excitement. They want to be great managers who engage their employees and connect them with the business. Yet they fall short because they simply don’t have the tools and support to make that happen.

Managers + training ≠ investing

For managers to engage and connect with their employees in a way that heightens their passion and garners the greatest contribution, they must have the tools and the time. Research proves that managers simply don’t have either.

A Progressive Business Publication study revealed that 52 percent of companies only trained their managers once a year or less. Without the right guidance and support from the leadership team, managers can’t do their jobs well and are doomed to fail as mentors, coaches and team leaders.

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Instead of supporting new employees, managers often thrust them directly into the work, partially or completely bypassing onboarding, training and ongoing coaching, yet with expectations of greatness.

Without taking the time to invest in their employees’ development, managers often end up micro-managing. Or perhaps team members think they’re doing their work properly, only to find out later that it fails to meet their manager’s expectations—because the manager didn’t properly set up the project and outline the expectations from the start.

Managers begin asking people to take on tasks instead of projects or initiatives, and employees find their ideas for how they can best contribute to the organization falling on deaf ears. The end result? All parties quickly become frustrated.

When managers don’t have time or resources, they can become jaded and neglect the development of their employees, because they’re just struggling to get through the day. Team members become disengaged and unmotivated, feeling abandoned by the manager they had once trusted. They’re left wondering what happened to their dreams, passion and excitement.

The first three months are crucial

Our experience tells us that the first 13 weeks of an employee’s tenure are pivotal. Once you squander someone’s passion, or once an employee fails to trust his or her manager, all the time, effort and money spent recruiting that person have been wasted.

Keeping people engaged, inspired and contributing over that period is essential. Because of those challenges (and others), managers are unsure how to stem the tide of high turnover, so they come to expect they’ll lose their best and brightest.

They often feel as if they are, or are labeled as, “bad managers.” In many instances, it’s not their fault. They lack the resources to support their success or weren’t properly trained in the first place.

The 2015 study, “America’s Workforce: A Revealing Study of Corporate America’s Most Neglected Employee,” told us that 57 percent of respondents believe their manager training programs aren’t supported by senior leaders.

This is a major missed opportunity. Other studies have shown that companies with senior leaders who coach, develop and hold others accountable for coaching and development are three times more effective at producing improved business and talent results.

Fomenting disdain

If leaders aren’t investing in their own people, why would anyone else?

This key failing results in managers who haven’t been invested in, which leads to employees who feel unsupported and, therefore, become disillusioned. If that’s the problem, we must look at partnerships between managers and the leaders of the business.

Even the best managers need time for training and coaching their employees. They need the investment outside their regular responsibilities to build the skills needed to engage a team. Managers need the tools to continuously develop their teams—and themselves.

They need to know what to say so they are consistently involving their teams in relevant topics across the business. That responsibility falls largely on the leadership team, including HR partners.

Do great employees leave great companies that have bad managers, or do great employees leave companies that fail their managers?

Gary Magenta is the senior vice president of Root. A version of this article originally appeared on Business2Community.
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