February 8, 2024

Why Managers Are Your Most Underutilised Retention Tool

5 min read
By Jeremy Bell

Although the phrase “people don’t leave organisations, they leave managers” is not new, emerging research from 2023 and 2024 paints a clear picture that your line managers are more important than ever in acting as the linchpin connecting your people to the heart of your organisation.

Despite the Great Resignation being officially over and an increasingly employer-led job market continuing to dominate, 26% of managers consider the departure of valuable line reports as the most significant challenge they face in their roles, emphasising the importance of equipping managers with the tools they need to be successful retainers of high-value talent.

Here are five emerging trends outlining why people managers are arguably your most underutilised retention tool going into 2024:

Exit Interview Revelations:

52% of exiting people believe their manager or organisation could have done something to prevent their departure. This statistic underscores the missed opportunities – times when managers could have intervened, listened, and acted to retain valuable team members. It’s a wake-up call for organisations to empower their managers with the right tools to help their line reports feel heard and valued.

The Power of Manager-People Relationships:

McKinsey reports that 86% of workers’ satisfaction with their interpersonal relationships at work hinges on their manager. Simply put, this means that your people are more likely to feel connected to your organisation’s community if they have a positive relationship with their line manager. The pivotal role managers play fostering trust, open communication, and creating positive work environments often directly impacts retention.

High-Performing Manager Advantage:

When people report to a manager in the top quartile of Gallup’s Manager Enablement Index, their commitment to the organisation skyrockets. 54% of these people strongly agree that they plan to stay with the same organisation two years from now, compared to only 39% of those reporting to a manager in the bottom quartile express the same sentiment. In other words, your people are 15% more likely to stay long-term if they have a manager who is equipped to properly manage them.

Team Engagement:

A staggering 70% of variance in team engagement can be attributed solely to the team’s manager. Whether it’s setting clear expectations, providing growth opportunities, or simply being able to lend an ear to their line reports, your managers are a crucial enabler of motivation and engagement in their teams.

Feedback Frequency:

While all aspects of people management are vital to boosting engagement, one area emerging as a particular enabler of engagement at work is feedback. Research has shown that people who receive daily, meaningful feedback from their manager are 3.5x more likely to be engaged than those who receive feedback once a year or less. This management skill seems to be particularly vital to Gen Z, 73% of whom said they are more likely to leave an organisation if they don’t receive frequent feedback and communication from their managers, compared to only 52% of non-Gen Z employees.

How to help your managers succeed:

Behind every engaged employee stands a manager who made it possible, but your managers will need to be set up for success through structured management development to truly help and guide their line reports.

Introducing The Expedition: A ready-to-deploy, highly modular end-to-end line manager training solution, designed by The Smarty Train’s award-winning learning design team to equip your line managers with the tools and skills they need to be effective guides for their line reports, and strong ambassadors for your organisation.


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