It’s been said that people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers. Good managers—the ones people don’t want to leave—are those who put their people first. In fact, a 2018 Udemy survey found that 51% of Millennial and GenZ employees have quit a job due to bad management, and 43% of older workers have done the same.
Of course, that was a pre-pandemic finding. A GoodHire survey published in January 2022 found that a whopping 82% of American workers would quit a job due to a bad manager. Whether the pandemic has influenced worker opinions about management, in general, is worth discussing, but when we stack the GoodHire finding against other factors relevant to the current talent market, it’s clearer than ever that management is a key factor in employee satisfaction.
Here are seven ways you can work toward becoming a people-first manager:
1. Cultivate Psychological Safety on Your Team
Encourage an atmosphere of psychological safety by giving people opportunities to speak out and open up. A psychologically safe environment is one where no one is afraid to speak out, contribute, or push back. Team members know that they have the freedom and safety to raise concerns or ask questions without recrimination.
2. Back Your Team
Defending your team doesn’t mean avoiding responsibility or protecting someone who has caused harm to someone else. Rather, defending your team means having their backs, both individually and as a group. As the famous coach Bear Bryant said, “If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, then we did it. If anything goes really good, then you did it.”
A survey by The Predictive Index found that the number one skill managers lack, according to employees, is communication. Disseminating information is only one part of communication; the other part is listening. Are you listening to your team members? What are they saying about what they need? What messages are hiding in plain sight? Ask questions for clarification, but otherwise, listen to what they tell you about their needs.
4. Practice Empathy
In some extent, empathy can’t be taught, but it can be practiced. As you listen to your people and learn about their needs, try to step into their shoes and understand their positions. By stepping into their shoes and seeing the situation through their eyes, you can develop a more empathetic approach to managing your people. For example, a hybrid worker who says he’s overwhelmed may not be complaining about workload; he may simply need a more flexible arrangement that allows him to work asynchronously.
People are hungry for connection, especially after two years of isolation and remote work. Seek ways to connect in real life, if possible. If not, find ways to engage about more than just work topics when you speak with your team members.
6. Ask About Their Goals…
… Especially your female team members. According to the Udemy study, only 55% of women say their managers are interested in their career goals, whereas 70% of men say the same. When managers take an interest in employee goals and help them pursue those goals, employees are more likely to stay with the company.
7. Remember that You are Managing People
Your team members are not cogs or widgets. They are human beings with dreams, ambitions, desires, and challenges. There are beating hearts behind that headcount, and every one of those hearts is unique. You cannot manage everyone on your team the same way. It’s good to set equitable guidelines and goals for your team, but remember to leave some room for a personal approach.
As the talent wars heat up and the Great Resignation wears on, companies are increasingly looking for ways to attract and retain good employees. While good salaries, hybrid work options, and social responsibility are all essential factors in finding and keeping great employees, there is one thing that trumps them all: quality management. By encouraging people-first management, you’ll improve retention and gain a reputation as a great place to work.