The Advancing Leadership Blog

Corporate Culture and Retention: Managers Can Be Your Best Assets

by Catherine Osler, CEO of TEC Canada

In today’s competitive business world, success comes from innovative thinking, building on the foundation of corporate culture, maximizing technology and leveraging the talents of your employees. In tough economic periods, as well as those of economic prosperity, employee turnover is always a concern for a successful business. The business world is constantly evolving. It is the job of a good leader to ensure that the organization responds and adapts to create a culture that retains good employees.


Managers are critical in retaining employees
In the past, companies have been more interested in a manager’s ability in terms of technical, project management and administrative skills. In today’s highly competitive talent markets, companies must focus on managers with additional skill sets.

“To retain employees, we need to select, develop and reward managers differently than in the past,” notes Ahlrichs. “First we need to hire managers who have excellent interviewing skills and can develop their people so they are constantly learning new skills. Then we need to make retention a very clear part of the job description and hold managers accountable for employee turnover.

“You can either spend money to keep people or spend money to constantly replace them. It always costs more to replace people because when you lose valued employees, you also lose valued customers. In the long run, hiring great managers who can reduce turnover is always more cost-effective.” When it comes to retaining employees and building a strong workforce, great managers share five essential traits:

1. Talent scouting. Great managers don’t wait for HR to bring in good people. Always on the lookout, they develop their own networks for sourcing talent. In particular, they use their own employees to identify and recruit talented people.
2. Relationship building. In general, hands-off managers do not succeed, especially with Generation X and Y employees. No one wants to be micromanaged, but today’s employees want and expect to have relationships with their managers.
3. Trust building. Nobody trusts titles or longevity anymore. Great managers first build relationships and then earn their people’s trust. The key lies in understanding that trust is always mutual. If you don’t trust your employees, don’t expect it in return.
4. Skill building. Great managers have the ability to teach employees, stretch them, recognize when they have mastered something and when it is time to move on to something new.
5. Organization brand builder. Managers are either internal brand builders or brand killers. By their words, actions and behaviours they either support the company’s values, direction and goals or they undermine them. Which type of manager do you think employees would rather work for?


The manager as coach
In many ways, the best supervisors are like coaches in terms of how they manage and motivate their employees.

According to Ahlrichs, the best coaches share several important characteristics:
• They don’t treat all players exactly the same, nor do they treat them the same every day.
• They know their players and what they need. Sometimes a player needs a pat on the back; sometimes they need a kick in the rear. The best coaches know when to use the right approach.
• They engender trust and respect by treating everyone fairly.

“In the old days, when you had 10 people lining up for every job, which is not the case today, you could make unbendable rules and treat everyone the same,” notes Ahlrichs. “Employees put up with it because they had so few choices.”

“What does this person need today? In return for your flexibility, you can demand performance. You give flexibility to get flexibility and, hopefully, a certain amount of loyalty in return.”


From the top down
Managers clearly play a pivotal role in employee retention. But the impetus to create a corporate culture that makes employees want to stay with a company for years to come needs to start at the very top. Not only do CEOs need to create the company in their vision but they must lead by example for their employees – easy to say and harder to do.

To be successful, CEOs must hire the right kind of manager and recruit the right type of talent. Executive development and mentorship can help you perfect your leadership abilities and achieve clarity of vision by acquiring new knowledge and best practices, including building the right team for your business.

The modern business environment often calls us to initiate short term tactical solutions. Developing and executing longer term strategic goals, such as affecting employee retention from the managerial level down, can be arduous at times. Making and maintaining a new commitment to organizational change on this level is greatly enhanced by taking advantage of the insights and skills of outside resources.

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