A manager’s guide to improving retention and building engaged teams

12.09.19 07:06 PM By rogv1a33


Very often, employee retention and engagement are seen as responsibilities of the HR department or top management. However, research suggests that employees who give low ratings for their managers are four times more likely to move on to another job than their peers. Employees typically leave bad managers, not bad companies. Retention and engagement are key elements to success, and managers play a decisive role in building teams that are committed and cohesive.

Psychologists suggest that managers face many challenges in their role. Some of these include promoting growth in employees, solving team conflicts, and being hypervigilant of their positional power. A manager who turns these challenges into positive outcomes will find themselves with a happier team of people who stay with the company longer. It is not only important for managers to hire the right employees. They must also strive to retain them.

As a manager, here are seven things that you can do to build a healthy and high-performing team. If consciously applied, you and your team members can reduce workplace challenges and enjoy more fulfilling lives at work.

1. Be a good listener

Part of being a leader is having a healthy appreciation for feedback. Listening to your employees will allow you to gauge how they are feeling about work and the team dynamics. If you silence the voices of your team members, you will appear unapproachable and uncaring. Furthermore, employees have a hard time listening to managers who don’t listen to them. This makes giving your own feedback difficult.

By listening patiently, you open the door for honest and constructive communication, and you have the opportunity to learn more about the individuals reporting to you. Also, beyond listening is the ability to maintain a calm and resilient approach to resolving issues without pressing the power you’ve been trusted with.

2. Be result-oriented, but build a culture of growth

Focusing on results is important. It helps you identify where you stand and forecast how your team will progress. It will also help you identify your top and average performers. While all this helps build a high-performing team, it’s easy to make the mistake of focusing solely on results. Doing so can make your team feel overwhelmed and stressed. Instead, try to strike a balance between performance, growth, and learning.

When you recognize your top performers, encourage them to share their experiences with others. Devise ways to help those who are struggling. Offer additional training or guidance. Seeking every opportunity to help employees grow will make you a better leader.

3. Give feedback, and know when to ask for it

A Zenger and Folkman’s survey found that a whopping 92% of employees would accept negative feedback if told appropriately.  

Feedback is the essence of development. If this many employees are willing to take negative feedback, that means they understand criticisms are necessary for growth. Instead of relying on an annual review, ensure that you meet with your employees frequently. Spontaneous feedback will help employees work on their shortcomings sooner and actively progress. While giving feedback:

  • Be precise, and focus on the how and why.

  • Build your own system. You don’t always have to follow the “sandwich style” (Compliment-Feedback-Compliment).

  • Never stop giving feedback. Consistently track progress.


Manager-to-employee feedback is not the only end goal, however. You want to cultivate an entire culture of feedback within your team. Encourage employees to communicate with one another, and be sure to ask for the team’s advice. While working in your department, you’ll meet employees with a range of behaviors, ideas, and perspectives. Hearing from them will help you learn your own strengths and shortcomings so you can become a better leader.

4. Be open-minded and inclusive

Your team is an amalgam of people with different skill sets and experiences. Listen to what they have to say and give everyone a chance to share their perspective. Break the barriers of age, experience, gender, or race. For example, if a new-hire can propose a more intuitive solution to a problem than you, accept and acknowledge it. In fact, be excited about it! You may have to swallow a bit of pride, but implementing the best ideas from everyone on the team will promote growth and productivity. Also, your team members will return that excitement and support to you for your own ideas.


Micromanagement is another risk to your team’s synergy. You can’t be expected to have a hand in every piece of work that comes from your department. You also can’t be there to intercept every issue or solve every problem. Give your employee’s space to make mistakes and learn from them on their own. Use this opportunity to coach them, and see what solutions they bring. Create a psychologically safe environment where employees can challenge the status-quo. This way, you’ll build a collaborative and inclusive team where ideas flow freely.

5. Be a good communicator

It’s crucial that every employee has a clear vision of their goals and responsibilities. A manager is responsible for the accurate and timely distribution of this information.

A Gallup survey found that only 34% of employees strongly agree that their manager knows what projects or tasks they’re currently working on

Explain to your employees what is expected of them at work. Help them project good short- and long-term goals and understand what to prioritize. Inform them of how their individual contribution affects the growth of the team and the business as a whole. These are simple steps that you can take to ensure everyone in the department is on the same page.

6. Appreciate good work

Recognition is something that we all yearn for. Sending a small thank-you note, celebrating small wins, or acknowledging someone in front of the department are some great ways to show appreciation. By using these methods or creating new ones, you can boost engagement, performance, and your rapport with the team.


Make employee recognition a regular event in the team. Set a criteria on what achievements will be rewarded and how it should be done. For example, you can have an “Idea of the Month” award where you reward and acknowledge innovative ideas.

7. Be personally engaged, and lead by example

It’s natural for employees to look up to their managers as their immediate mentors or as sources of inspiration. Being in such a crucial position, managers should be personally engaged, willing to do work, and help employees grow along with them. For employees to trust your vision, you need to walk the talk. If you say it is important to maintain work-life balance, show it to them. If you say that you encourage transparency and accountability within the team, then you must do it yourself first. At times of doubt, ask yourself, “What example would I want to see out of my manager?” and then be that for your team.

Building happy and committed teams―Next steps

The potential for you to build happy, high-performing, and engaged teams is boundless. With the right attitude, your employees will see you as someone who supports their career path. When they understand that you are aware of their goals and see their potential, they will tend to stay with the team longer. The steps mentioned above can have a big impact on how your team functions and how you succeed as a manager.

Are there any strategies you use that we didn’t mention? Please let us know how you improve retention and engagement in the comments section below.