The Health of Your Relationships with Employees Impacts Retention Rates

by Mar 28, 2023Business, Culture, HR, Talent

The real reason You Have a turnover problem could be attributed to your relationship with your employees. There are four things you can change right now to improve your retention rate.

There’s a leadership theory that most people don’t talk about called leader-member exchange, or LMX for short. The idea is based on the relationships between leaders and those reporting to them.

There is a relationship between leaders and followers, and that relationship’s stability makes organizations work. I have written before that people leave because of their manager — this is why.

To say that another way, if leaders want to scale their organizations and maintain a healthy retention rate, they need to understand that they have a relationship with each of their employees. The health of relationships is the crux of whether or not you have a turnover problem inside your organization.

The good news is that you can take a few actionable steps to help ensure that you and other leaders inside your organization are building healthy relationships with your employees.

Relationships are a two-way street

As the old saying goes, people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses. Or, as I have written before, they come for the mission and leave because of the manager.

Here’s a potentially uncomfortable thought: As a CEO, boss, or leader, you are likely the third- or second-most important relationship in your employee’s life after their significant other and children. You are a considerable part of their life.

Because of that, you can’t take that relationship for granted. It cannot be one-sided. If it is, you’re likely to end up in a breakup. That’s why, just like you would with your relationships, you need to spend the time to consider what both sides want out of the relationship.

As a leader, you probably want your employee to perform in alignment with the strategy and objectives you’ve outlined.

But what does your employee want out of the relationship? Sure, some of it deals with the quality of the work and compensation. But often, it’s much more than that. Your ability to tune into your employee needs goes a long way toward that employee’s sticking around.

 The good news is that there are three areas every leader can focus on to give employees more of what they want out of their relationship with you. These are the four LMX elements that help define a high-quality leader-follower relationship.

1. Increased communication.

Employees know exactly where they stand only when leaders try to communicate with them, potentially even over-communicate.

2. Access.

While many leaders claim to have an open-door policy, do they practice what they preach? Leaders need to ensure that employees can get access to them regularly.

3. Performance feedback.

Everyone wants to know how they are doing. Whether it’s a pat on the back for a job well done or some encouragement about how they can get better, it’s critical to provide regular feedback. Feedback and coaching are vital for Gen-Z employees.

4. Influence over the agenda.

Times have changed. Leaders can no longer assume hierarchical control as they could in the old days. Employees want a say in the organization’s direction and how their work impacts performance.

Coachable issues

Those leaders who focus on these four elements can go a long way in building healthy and productive relationships with their employees built on trust.

At the same time, if you or one of your leaders is experiencing trouble with turnover, the LMX framework also gives you specific areas to diagnose how the leader-follower relationship may be misaligned.

The good news is that these are coachable issues.

It’s essential to remember that you can’t be a leader if you don’t have any followers. And the best leaders work to cultivate strong relationships with those who report to them.