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Improved Retention begins with Building Relationships

Updated: Mar 27, 2022

Unemployment is historically low, and employers are desperately working to find workers who can meet their needs. We see "now hiring" signs everywhere as organizations fight to survive. Most often, employers are simply trying to replace employees who've quit, leading to the question, "why aren't employees staying?"

We've heard the phrase, "employees don't leave jobs, they leave managers." Perhaps never before has this statement been more applicable. Employees simply no longer have to accept poor working conditions, unfulfilling work, and being underappreciated. If we don't like our situation, we can find a different option. Considering the cost of turnover and highly competitive labor market, now is the time for employers to focus on retention.

"Employees don't leave jobs, they leave managers."

Over the last few years, I've met with hundreds of employees working for organizations dealing with retention issues. In these meetings, employees share their leadership team spends most of their time in offices and rarely makes it out to the floor. In fact, if the management team ever does leave their office…look out! Because something's wrong.

The scary part is how eerily similar these responses tend to be across organizations and industries.

Statements like, "I've been here three months and I'm pretty sure my boss doesn't know my name" were repeated. More concerning, I've had these conversations with employees from various organizations on several occasions. Maybe its an older generation thing, but millennials and Gen Zers in particular won't be accepting these behaviors.

As organization leaders, we get caught up in the day-to-day operations, quarterly reports, and troubleshooting seemingly the most important issues. We forget the most important issue we have to address is supporting our talent. Without our workforce, the organization falters.

Employee Relationship Development

Taking the time to build a relationship with our workforce is our best shot at learning about our employees' concerns, frustrations, and other issues they're managing. This means leaving our office to get on the floor. It means asking meaningful questions that require more than a "yes" or "no" response.


Which of these sound more inviting?

"How's the family?"

"I've been excited to hear how Megan did on her test. Are you and her pleased with the results?"


Including someone's name and tailoring questions to a particular topic opens discussion. Vague questions about life elicit short, thoughtless responses. In fact, vague questions aren't much better than not asking anything at all. They come across half-hearted and can reinforce for employees that their supervisor is primarily interested in work. As the only cost to this retention management strategy is a bit of our time, I'd say it's our most cost-effective and overlooked option.

We're in this together.

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