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When working as an employee retention speaker or employee retention trainer, people often ask me who really drives employee retention.  The answer:  First-line supervisors and mid-level managers!  Think about it.  Who do the vast majority of people in an organization report to?  Who is closest to the issue of employee retention?  The reality is that it is your first-line supervisors and mid- level managers.  Certainly, senior level leadership can really mess up the works but if they are doing even a halfway decent job and an organization has high turnover, you have to look to the first -line supervisor and the manager to determine what the problem is.

Yet, in most organizations we don’t hold them accountable for employee retention in their area of influence.  We hold them accountable for productivity, quality, customer service, and safety but rarely for employee retention.  I have seen only about 5% of the companies make employee retention one of the metrics they are responsible for.  That’s insane because employee retention is a primary driver in all of the other metrics.  Not only should we hold supervisors and managers them accountable, we should reward them when they do succeed.  This should be at the heart of your employee retention strategies.  When they hit their numbers, the bonuses need to be commensurate with the huge cost saving associated with lowering employee turnover.   This is what will get their attention, get them focused and get them demanding that they get the support they need to drive down employee turnover.

I have seen supervisors who have a lot to gain get incredibly creative on how to deal with the turnover that often occurs in the first 30 days of employment.  They soon point out that it’s costing the organization a bundle of money and then they feel empowered to ask for money and resources to help solve the problem.  They are also much more open to new ideas that other people suggest when it impacts their pocket book, both positively and negatively.

If you want to get these leaders on board with your employee retention strategies, pull together the numbers on employee retention, show the numbers to the first-line supervisors and mid-level managers.  Then roll out an incentive plan for them and you will see them go to work.  If they know it will hurt them in the pocket book if they don’t get the job done and that they will benefit when they do, you will see them take the bull by the horns and get results.

It is time to make first-line supervisors and mid-level managers accountable for employee retention and then reward them for results.  Until you do, you will not see true success in employee retention.