Magazine article Workforce Management

Well-Trained Managers Can Curb Attrition

Magazine article Workforce Management

Well-Trained Managers Can Curb Attrition

Article excerpt

The adage that "employees quit their bosses, not their jobs," still holds largely true. Despite a rugged job market, U.S. workers are surprisingly restive. More than 1 million workers voluntary left jobs last October, the highest number in more than a decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Specific data on why those employees quit are not available, but it's logical to conclude that poor managers are at the heart of the problem, says Richard Finnegan, co-founder of the Retention Institute and author of Rethinking Retention in Good Times and Bad.

Recent research by the Corporate Executive Board Co. backs up Finnegan's assessment. The Arlington, Virginia-based advisory firm says 1 in 4 high-potential employees sought new jobs last year compared with 1 in 7 in 2005.

Some experts contend the role of managers is diminished by organizational changes, such as "matrix" reporting relationships and increased collaboration among peers.

Nonetheless, Finnegan says the relationships managers build with employees remain the single-biggest factor in retention. Too often, organizations try quirky things like casual Fridays or offering pet insurance to keep their best people. "Retention is the one thing companies try to fix by going to human resources, instead of by involving their managers."

The Retention Institute's certification program equips HR professionals with new weapons in the war on turnover, Finnegan says. The model aims to help them manage turnover in the same way as other business drivers such as customer service, quality or sales.

The Institute's program is based on three broad principles: 1) Employees quit because they can; 2) Workers stay for things they get uniquely from their organization; and 3) Supervisors exert the most influence on whether employees remain with an organization or are compelled to look elsewhere.

"Retention is about pulling many different strings. It's not one thick rope," Finnegan says.

It's an analogy well-understood by HR professionals such as Joan Holda. Organizations often want quick fixes, but retention depends on more than one person or program. …

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