Difficulty with their manager is one of the most commonly cited reasons people leave their jobs. What if you could rewrite that narrative and make your management team the reason employees want to stay — an enticement for new candidates to join your team? Making this change will require commitment and buy-in from the management staff. It will take effort to provide the training, communication and feedback managers need to contribute to retention, not turnover.

Employers sometimes brush off turnover, believing it is limited to employees who are not a good fit. But what if those employees are a great fit for your organization, just not with a specific manager? Look at where your employee attrition is coming from. Are departing employees exiting from the same department or reporting to a specific manager? Missing signs like these can cost your organization time and money spent on rehiring and training. The impact of a bad manager on employee morale is immeasurable.

Upper management and HR must pay attention to the feedback they get about managers. Of course, there are people who just like to complain, are impossible to please, or resent being expected to do their jobs. But like any review, the key is to not fixate on outliers but instead to pay attention to patterns. If a number of employees share the same issue with an employer, take action. Too often, a bad manager outlasts dozens of good employees because nothing is done to investigate employee feedback. Retraining or even replacing a manager may do more for the organization in the long run.

Supervisors set the tone for company culture.

Supervisors are the liaison between the organization and front-line employees. Their management style should align with the company’s culture. All interactions with team members should reflect company values and culture and represent the company in a positive manner. Onboarding is especially critical. First impressions matter. It can be difficult to recover if new employees get off on the wrong foot in their first few days. Ensure their first few days are well-planned and they are greeted with friendly faces and people who are welcoming and eager to help.

Supervisors foster open communication.

Only by encouraging feedback and two-way conversation can supervisors know what’s on the minds of employees. When managers review employee performance, their hope is that the employee will take the feedback and use it as constructive criticism so they can overcome their performance and do better on the job. Feedback from employees should be regarded the same way. The thoughts they share can be useful in helping supervisors improve the efficacy of their management style and the company as a whole to identify and address obstacles to growth. Provide multiple opportunities to communicate, such as town halls, one-on-ones and anonymous surveys. Feeling confident they are heard can improve engagement and retention.

Supervisors provide firsthand feedback and advice.

Supervisors have the opportunity to empower employees to be their best. Talking to employees about their goals and learning what motivates them can improve the relationship, ensure you are on the same page, and give you the tools you need to manage them effectively. Not everyone knows how to give good feedback. If you recognize this as a weakness in your management skills, take steps to rectify it. Include training on how to give and receive feedback during onboarding, so they are better equipped for one-on-ones and other opportunities to share their thoughts.

Make Exit Interviews More Effective

When leaving employment, people tend to fall into two extremes: those who can’t wait to give you an earful on the way out the door and those who won’t say a thing because they don’t want to burn bridges. The latter is especially true in small communities or niche industries. It’s essential to find a happy medium so you can elicit helpful information. The departing employee must feel safe to share what you need to know.

Choose the right person to conduct the exit interview. It should be someone friendly, trusted and not intimidating. The discussion should be positive and like a meeting of equals working toward a common goal, not an interrogation or accusation.

Ask the right questions in the right way. What would you change? How can we improve? What could our managers use more training on? What was the moment when you decided you had to move on? These questions can provide useful information if the employee is comfortable being forthcoming and the organization has a real commitment to improving.

Cathy Lanski

The Essential Role Supervisors Play in Employee Retention Cathy Lanski is a senior copywriter with Haley Marketing. Find her work on the Ask Haley Blog, in The Staffing Stream, and the Bullhorn blog.