People leave managers, not companies

by 19 Feb 2008

WHILE PEOPLE often join companies with high expectations, it is often their managers and supervisors that they leave, and not the company.

The leadership skills of managers are the greatest source of employee fulfilment at work, according to research from Wilson Learning.

“If managers fail to create job satisfaction within their teams, people feel unmotivated and negative,” said Michael Leimbach, vice-president, research and design, Wilson Learning Worldwide.

“Managers have the power to create a team that is totally engaged or they can stifle work fulfilment and drive people to leave their jobs.”

Leimbach said that staff retention is one of the most critical issues for employers, citing research which found that job satisfaction is at an all time low, with less than 50 per cent of employees feeling a sense of loyalty to their companies.

The Wilson Learning research showed that there was a high correlation between employee satisfaction and performance, and an even higher correlation between leadership practices and employee satisfaction.

It found that between 56 per cent and 83 per cent of fulfilment could be predicted from the skills and practices of the manager or leader.

Furthermore, 39 per cent of bottom-line performance can be attributed to employee fulfilment. When employee fulfilment was high, so was performance; and when employee fulfilment was low, so too was performance.

The research, which was carried out across nine different industries, also identified the individual leadership practice in each industry that made the greatest contribution to employee fulfilment.

Recognition was the most frequently identified, while feedback and support were also frequently identified, which were followed by direction and goals.

Pay, compensation, work conditions, promotions and benefits are also important, but are more often associated with creating dissatisfaction than with fulfilment. In other words, even when these conditions are perfect, the elimination of dissatisfaction doesn’t make the employee fulfilled, only no longer dissatisfied.

“Understanding the connection between business performance, leadership and employee fulfilment can measurably impact the future competitiveness of a company. Employee satisfaction impacts the bottom line and it is largely determined by employee day-to-day interaction with managers,” said Leimbach.

While organisational leaders are rethinking how to manage their business, Leimbach said they must also rethink how they lead the people who drive it.

“Managers with the leadership skills that we have shown to be the most important will create a high level of fulfilment in their employees, retain staff and have a direct impact on the bottom line.”


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