The role of the supervisor: retain your best talent

Drake Editorial Team

As a supervisor, a basic and most important retention tactic to employ, especially in a tight labor market, is to take good care of the talent you have. This is not just a matter of wages and benefits, (which is a given) but also means that as a supervisor, you need to provide your staff with work that is meaningful, interesting and challenging. You also need to truly demonstrate, in a genuine manner, your appreciation for what they continue to accomplish on a daily basis. Most good supervisors do this to some degree, but it is a point worth discussion because it is a critical strategy in the war for talent. Good solid employees rarely leave good solid supervisors who appreciate their employees’ effort.

Employees’ confidence in the ability of their supervisor is one of the most important predictors of retention. Employees want to feel proud of being part of a successful organization and therefore worth an investment of their time. Supervisors must accept the fact that to a large degree, employee turnover is their responsibility. To the greatest extent possible supervisors should:

  • Provide a workplace where people feel respected and valued.
  • Provide a workplace where employee ideas and efforts are noticed and considered important.
  • Provide a workplace where talent is recognized, promoted and celebrated.
  • Provide less bureaucracy, less red tape for their talented employees so they can make decisions quickly when needed.
  • Adopt a supervisory style that is inclusive and recognizes the value that each individual brings to the shared success of the organization.

The manager’s role is to identify and release the unique talents and skills within each employee and help channel these talents and skills to the benefit of both the company and individuals. Only by recruiting, identifying the employee’s talents and retaining that talent can the manager achieve the organization’s goals and satisfy clients’ needs. Supervisors need to understand that talent is the sum of a person’s abilities – his or her intrinsic gifts, knowledge, skills, experience, attitude, judgment, character and drive. It also includes his or her ability to learn, change and grow.

The key to successfully retaining a talented staff lies in initially hiring the most talented individuals for management positions and then training them in the skills required to effectively lead their subordinates. A great manager listens to their employees and pre-emptively acts to prevent problems, seeks information and ideas from their employees and acts to continually improve conditions on all levels. There is a direct link between turnover and level of supervisor/employee face-to-face engagement.

Supervisors are not necessarily proficient at retention-oriented leadership unless someone helps them along that path and makes it part of their performance metric. Training should include scenarios of how things might be different with more or less turnover – especially the retention of their top talent – so they can appreciate the benefits of workforce stability and the role they play in maintaining that stability. The organization should provide coaching to help supervisors improve the way they work to hire and retain their people.

Supervisors must understand the numbers:  the “cost of turnover” in their organization and what these costs mean to the company and to themselves personally. The organization should set up a reward system for managers based upon turnover in their area of responsibility. Reward achievement of agreed-upon retention goals using cash, trophies, certificates and plaques, or simply public recognition. These awards should be bestowed by senior managers as part of their role in inspiring, guiding and coaching supervisors to higher levels of “retention, performance and accountability.”

Today’s supervisors must manage the scarce commodity called talent to sustain their competitive edge. Talent management remains one of the supervisors’ highest priorities. Employee turnover is the silent killer of organizational productivity. Like every business solution, answers come from reliable data and analysis and the desire to develop a strategy and tactics to address the problem. Hopefully you will take the necessary steps to protect your organization in the very real war for scarce talent and future success. The ROI on talent recruitment and retention is real!

Reprinted with the permission of coach and author Roger M. Ingbretsen. A certified executive coach and organizational developer, he provides organizational and career guidance for anyone looking for “real world” career development and business information. Roger is the creator of the “New Leadership Development Coaching Experience©.” For more information and free articles visit www.ingbretsen.com or call (509) 999 7008 (US).


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