Are you the Reason Employees are Leaving?

BY C. Lee Smith
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On a recent Manage Smarter show, Clint Pulver, the founder of The Center for Employee Retention and the lead researcher on The Undercover Millennial project, shared his thoughts on what managers need to change in the new normal. We’re not talking about the post-​vaccine era; we’re talking about the mass resignation era. Are you the reason employees are leaving your organization? Read on to find out.

The Reason Employees Are Leaving

It’s never comfortable to have the finger pointed at you when employee turnover increases. You might be feeling particularly stressed this year if you’re a typical sales manager. That would be because our just completed Voice of the Sales Manager survey for 2021 shows that sales department turnover has jumped significantly in the past two years and now stands at 44%.

Is there anything you can to do stem the outflow of talent from your department? You can start by figuring out if you need to change your management style. Pulver divides managerial styles into four quadrants. Only one of those quadrants represents the style that retains employees. Let’s take a look.

Sales Manager Styles

Buddy managers. We’ve all had one of those. They “want to be everybody’s friend.” These excellent connectors build loyalty to a degree. But they often don’t enforce the standards. When a rep consistently fails to make enough calls or update the CRM, the buddy manager is uncomfortable about addressing the situation. They wish for the situation to improve on its own. In fact, what happens is a building resentment among other staff members who know one of their peers isn’t being held to the same standards.

Another kind of manager only cares about getting the job done. Think of a shift supervisor on the factory floor, walking the aisles and making sure team members are keeping pace with the machines. They view each employee as a cog in a wheel. Their attention generally goes to fixing process problems. Employees respond to this kind of management style by seeing what they can get away with.

If you’ve appointed a “removed manager” to run your sales department, you’re probably paying your reps for their draw and not much else. That’s because the manager is checked out. They haven’t bothered to form emotional connections with their team members, and they aren’t following up on problems and clearing roadblocks for them. Likely, few reps are closing deals. Leaders who don’t address this kind of sales management problem won’t have an organization for very long. Between people leaving and sales going nowhere, the organization loses momentum.

The Mentor Manager

On occasion, organizational leaders promote individuals with exactly the right stuff into management positions. These managers are as “high on their ability to connect as they are on their standards.” Employees will feel this manager is their mentor. Unfortunately, reports Pulver, only about 20% of employees claim to have worked for a “mentor manager.”

Pulver’s research reveals several common characteristics in mentor managers. They possess credibility, which means their team members believe they’re capable, honest and trustworthy.

Once you’ve established that type of relationship with your team members, you can focus on what they need. These kinds of managers are very perceptive about what each employee is good at. But that’s just the start. To bring a person to their full potential, a mentor manager puts together a plan to help employees grow. 

Pulver’s research shows similar outcomes to the work done by Hongyun Tian and a team of researchers who published their findings in Frontiers in Psychology. Those researchers distinguished the differences between transactional leadership and transformational leadership and their impact on small and medium-​sized businesses. 

  • Transactional leadership tactics are all about getting the job done with no attention going to individual employee strengths or interests. 
  • Businesses devoted to transformational leadership, researchers reports, experienced “idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration,” and benefited from better employee performance and retention.

Secret Power

Pulver also believes that every employee possesses a secret power. Too many managers, feeling overwhelmed by daily responsibilities, put up roadblocks for their employees. They’ll decide that a younger person can’t be a first-​line manager because, in their experience, all millennials are lazy or whiny. Instead of making these kinds of assumptions, you can learn the truth about your team members and their powers by asking them to take psychometric assessments. Once you empower your employees, you’ll see higher productivity. You'll no longer be the reason employees are leaving. In fact, they might not leave at all.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels