By Corporate English Solutions

20 February 2023 - 15:22

5 ways managers can positively influence staff retention

“People leave managers, not companies.” With today’s volatile markets, ongoing business transformations, high resignation rates and quiet quitting, managers are more crucial than ever to engaging and retaining their team members.  It’s time to consider how well you boost engagement in your team. What role do you play? We share 5 actionable strategies you can implement to foster belonging, build trust and cultivate conditions to fuel the desire to stay.


Reading time: 8 minutes

A recent survey of 2,100 UK employees found that two in five employees had left their job because of their manager. Equally worrying is the survey’s finding that over half of those employees who are considering leaving say it is due to the manager.

However shocking these statistics are, they present a timely opportunity. The opportunity for you and other managers in your organisation to reflect and consider your role in boosting employee engagement. An opportunity to make simple adjustments to your leadership to make a positive impact.  

By proactively engaging your team, fostering a sense of belonging and coaching team members through constant change, you reduce the risk of high attrition rates. 

Read on to discover 5 practical and easy-to-follow strategies to engage and retain key talent in your team.

1. Foster a sense of belonging in your team 

When an employee feels their manager cares about them and their growth, it is good for them and for business performance. Research revealed that a high sense of belonging was linked to a 56% increase in job performance and a 75% reduction in sick days.

Further research confirmed how damaging exclusion is, having similar effects as physical pain. Employees who feel excluded may not only make less effort and self-sabotage but also experience distraction which can undermine focus.

That's why, as a manager, your behaviour counts. 

Build a culture of inclusion, consciously. 

When you treat everyone fairly and ensure everyone feels included, you foster a sense of belonging and inspire others to do the same. Check that you really treat all employees equally. Incorporate inclusion reflection into a personal weekly reflective review. 

Think back and step back. 

How might an observer say you talked to each employee this week? Have you allowed one team member to dominate meetings? How have you enabled input from introverted employees who might prefer written communication to talking in meetings? Carry forward your insights.

Show the value everyone brings to the team and encourage them to self-reflect on what they contribute. Make sure each team member understands how they fit within and why they are important to the team. Devise ways to ensure everyone values each others’ contributions and support each other through challenges. 

Ensure that your team members also treat each other fairly and with respect. Make time for creative activities to build camaraderie, motivation and connection. When team members value each other, they are more likely to support each other through any challenges. 

Take time to get to know each team member as an individual. Don’t be tempted to skip 121s or focus only on tasks in these meetings. Take time to understand their strengths and challenges, both professional and personal. Be an authentic leader and deepen connection by being open about your own challenges.

2. Support your team through organisational change

It's not enough today for managers to only manage change. You need to lead change. Communicate the vision for change and the importance of change. 

Develop the skills and mindset to help your team navigate the effect of change on their emotions. Increase your own emotional intelligence, especially awareness of self and others and empathy. 

Develop a coaching management style. 

Coaching signals you value their resourcefulness, ability to problem-solve and that you listen to learn. A longitudinal study by coaching bodies identified that employees value coaching. Coaching shows your investment in employees' growth and this can support retention.

Lead the change from an advice-driven organisation to a curiosity-led one

Practise conversational leadership, by listening and facilitating dialogue, as a way to empower your colleagues to express themselves and show that you are acting on their feedback and suggestions. 

Don't be afraid of resistance. It's a natural part of the change cycle - people are hard-wired for the status quo.

3. Recognise your team members’ progress and achievements

Being recognised and appreciated for our effort at work is a key component of employee motivation and wellbeing. One recent survey showed that the better a leader is at giving recognition, the more engaged their employees are.  

Build a culture of recognition.

Catch your team member doing something right, situational leadership expert, Ken Blanchard urged us in The One-Minute Manager. This small shift can drive up effort, performance and intent to stay. Celebrate both the big and the small wins. And be specific with praise – so the employee knows exactly what they are being appreciated for. 

And how you deliver praise is vital for it to be heard and be impactful. Be authentic and show genuine interest.  

Vary the way you communicate recognition to your team members by considering each team member’s preferences. Is it best done in public or privately? Verbally or in writing? Bear in mind that in a survey of 12,000 employees, 33% indicated they didn't like receiving feedback.

One alternative to the unwelcome spotlighting of the name-and-praise approach is self-reflective recognition. By asking the employee what they are proud of or excited about, gives you a window into what matters to them. Probe positively with reflective questions to draw their attention to their efforts and progress.

And, with consent from the employee, celebrate personal or family achievements. This helps members to feel they are part of a caring and supportive team. 

4. Embrace flexible working in your team

Flexibility is a key driver in recruitment and retention. 39% of employees said they'd consider quitting if their managers weren't flexible about working from home. 

Find out your organisation's policies on flexible working and communicate these to your team. Lack of clear communication of policies can be a factor in turnover, a McKinsey survey found.

Practise conversational leadership by listening to each member's personal situation and what they need in terms of flexibility. A recent trend of mandatory return-to-office communiques from companies such as Twitter and KPMG could worsen attrition rates. 

Success in flexible working depends on having the appropriate tools. Make sure your team is equipped to keep them productive and motivated. With flexible and remote working it is vital to keep in frequent communication for the team to feel connected.

5. Support your team’s learning  

As you know, L&D has become a key tool not only to develop talent but also to drive retention

Catch up with your L&D team to identify the range of learning options in your organisation and communicate these to your team. 

Make space for learning. Show your team you support them to learn in the flow of work by helping them integrate learning into their everyday tasks. Turn team meetings into opportunities for microlearning, brainstorming and creative problem-solving. 

Organisations that use frequent feedback systems, experience lower staff turnover. Prioritise your regular catch ups with team members and use them for two-way feedback and continuous performance management (CPM). Review goals and performance, encouraging your team to self-reflect, identify learning needs and exercise autonomy over what, when and how they will learn. This will increase their motivation for learning and reinforce your trust in them. 

Be a continuous learning role model. Engage in learning and share your learning with your team. Show them how it’s helped you grow both skills and build your career. Your team will connect learning to growth, a powerful motivator. 

Building an inclusive team culture and fostering a sense of workplace belonging doesn't just happen. It needs to be incorporated into your everyday communication and across the organisation. Trial these 5 steps to support retention. 

With over 80 years’ experience, the British Council offers professional development skills for managers and consultancy to help you ensure your managers lead effectively, increase engagement and reach your organisation’s goals.  


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