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Do People Leave Managers? 3 People Leaders Respond

The US unemployment rate is at an all-time low for the current workforce. There are more job openings than there are people looking for work. When it comes to winning the talent war, experts say recruiting alone will fail — you must put programs in place that retain employees, because the work environment you create will also attract talent.

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Today, we look at the leading tactic to retain top talent: good managers. According to Gallup, 70% of the variance in employee engagement is due to managers. We asked three people leaders to share their take on the age-old question: Do people leave managers, not companies?

“Managers Have the Most Difficult Job”

Poor managers. They have the most difficult job in the company. They’re personally responsible for retention and whatnot. In some ways if you weren’t empowering your managers with the right tools or the right framework, people ops can train them to talk to employees, have weekly one on ones, or do monthly check ins or quarterly check-ins. You need to be able to enable that from the top. You can’t just send them out to fend for themselves. In many companies that does happen unfortunately. We’re lucky when people ops really recognizes how they can empower managers.

You have to let managers know that you have their back and give them the confidence that they have the tools that they need to take the first step. One thing that really surprised me as a co-founder and now VP is that people look to me as a co-founder and a VP, I just think, oh gosh thanks for working and helping us with this mission, but to any manager, we’re in a position of authority, which can potentially be intimidating.

As leaders we have to take the first step to reach out to people. How much easier is it going to be if people ops can enable managers with the tools where they feel like, oh great I have my kit, I have everything here, I have my questionnaire, I’m solid, I can go into one-on-ones all day long and do my job.

We really believe “no bad managers” is possible. That’s what we try to help companies do. People ops does a lot of the hard grunt work in making sure that is set up.

– Erick Tai, Co-Founder and VP of Engineering, Reflektive

“People Love a Manager Who Makes Them Better”

I have a sticker on my laptop that says bad managers ruin lives. I do think people leave managers. I do think managers get a bad rap at times and they can be blamed for things that are organizational problems. I also believe it’s hard to be a good manager.

We put people into managerial roles without training, without enablement, without saying, here’s your toolkit. Most of the time when we’ve moved into our first time management roles, the amount of resources and training that we get prior to doing that is very limited. There’s no wonder that people make a lot of missteps.

So how do you help managers learn and grow? How do you create the right training so that they understand the place that they need to hold as a manager? They’re a leader. It’s important for them to create relationships, but also raise the bar for their talent.

Most people love a manager that makes them better. A lot of managerial mistakes are not about them being bad people, but they may be a bad manager that’s not helping that person get better and grow.

There’s many things that people look for from their manager that we can help them bring to the table. Then they just have to do it. If they don’t, then they should be accountable for that because we should not leave bad managers in roles.

If we’re talking about retaining talent and you find that you’ve got a manager who is not using their toolkit, who is not helping their team get better, who is not really creating a performance environment that makes people think, boy I’m on a winning team — if you want to keep your top talent they’ve got to be on a winning team.

If you find that you’ve got managers that aren’t doing that, then you have to act.

We do that through our engagement surveys. We have specific managerial questions. It’s not that if a manager scores poorly that we’re going to fire them, but it is time for a conversation to say, how do we change what it is that we’re doing today, because we’re not getting the results that we want.

The organization has accountability to ensuring that managers are good and capable, and able to lead their teams effectively. Managers have the obligation to use the tools they’re given, and that we all have a shared responsibility to creating a great place to work.

– Pattie Money, Chief People Officer, SendGrid

“It Takes a Village”

70% of people say that they leave because of their managers. I wonder if employees are really leaving because of their managers, or if the manager just becomes the place where all of your feelings go because that’s the person who you see most often, interact with the most, and it’s a more easy place to kind of put the blame in a sense.

I actually think that it takes a village. If you’ve got a good people ops infrastructure, a lot of the things that we talked about in terms of VPs who do skip level one-on-ones, heads of people who are really thinking about taking action and making sure people feel heard and listened to — those are the things that keep people. When they are not there, I wonder if that’s why people leave and people just kind of attribute that to their manager.

– Karsten Vagner, Senior Director of People Operations, Hired

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