resignation employee retention
Our mission statement about treating people with respect and dignity is not just words but a creed we live by every day. You can’t expect your employees to exceed the expectations of your customers if you don’t exceed the employees’ expectations of management.- Howard Schultz

This is an interesting quote when we think about the results we expect employees to deliver for organizations. A few years ago, I facilitated a workshop with a moderately-sized group of frontline employees. One of the key topics was whether they felt empowered to make decisions to move the business forward.

What I saw in their faces surprised me and made me think of all the gaps that exist between frontline employees and their leaders. It is my belief that these gaps are what stop organizations from being great. They serve as disconnects that thwart any chance of retaining the best people out there.

And as everyone knows, today this issue is more important than ever. Retention is the number one cause of the Great Resignation. So how can we make that happen?

Let’s fix the gaps. 

What are the gaps to which I am referring?

Gaps in Trust

Through my work with frontline teams and their leaders, I hear a lot of confessions about lack of trust. Over time, employees distrust their leaders because their actions are often incongruent with their words.

What I have found in many cases is there is a fundamental disconnect between employee and leader perceptions of organizational values and behaviors. To make things worse, many leaders act as if organizational values and behaviors don’t apply to them.

This disconnect then deepens the mistrust, which then hastens employee turnover.

How should an organization go about turning the tide of mistrust?

First of all, don’t ignore it. Instead, talk about it openly and gauge it often. Above all, recruit and promote more self-aware leaders.

Gaps in Communication

Much of the issues surrounding positive culture and employee engagement stem from non-communication, miscommunication, or untruthful communications. For example, many frontline employees complain that their senior leaders and or managers change organizational structure or processes without informing them. They recount how it does not make sense that they are not informed or involved in the decision, especially since they are the ones who have to implement changes.

Oftentimes, when I meet with the leaders of these organizations, they admit that they did not communicate in advance because they were concerned about the impact.

Leaders drive deeper wedges between themselves and the teams that rely on them by assuming that the frontline is not capable or strong enough to handle the truth. But, truthfully, they often just need to know why.

What should organizational leaders do to improve their communication to the frontline?

Be purposeful. Create an internal communication plan. Lastly, measure the improvements by asking the frontline.

Gaps in Understanding

This is one thing that sticks out to me when meeting with both frontline employees and senior leaders. They misunderstand where the other is coming from because they do not spend enough time with one another.

Leaders ask me how to bridge this gap. I often tell them to spend more time with their teams. By spending more time with their teams, they become more empathetic to their stories, which increases their understanding of their position.

The only way to create more unity is to understand what the other goes through on a daily basis. 

Leaders who commit to a concrete plan to engage their frontline team members will see things more clearly. Your people want to know who you are. That includes your challenges and who you are outside of work.

What I saw in the employees’ eyes at one workshop a while back was the desire to be a part of something great. But, more importantly, I saw the desire and willingness to be a part of creating greatness in their organization. Know that employees want to trust their leaders. They want clear and truthful communication and will do what it takes to better understand who their leaders are. But they need to be invited to the table first.

Try to focus on this as a means to increase unity and loyalty and decrease turnover. Give your employees a reason to stay.