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Employee Engagement 101 - Can Frontline Managers Impact Voluntary Turnover?

The answer is obviously yes, but as with many obvious answers.... the question is how?

Especially if you have a wide range of talents and capabilities among your most entry-level supervisors.Asleep Which most of us do.  Some managers naturally have the gift that comes with instincts and experience, while others struggle.

So how do you help maximize retention and reduce voluntary turnover with your group of front-line supervisors?

The Workforce Institute recently released a whitepaper with multiple takes on the role of Front-line Managers in retaining hourly workers, including:

  • Refusing to accept that there is nothing you can do to improve voluntary turnover;
  • Measuring the performance of front-line managers with respect to their management of turnover;
  • Ensuring that corporate issued policies and procedures don’t undermine the field manager’s ability to retain staff; and
  • Understanding that hourly workers vary in their motivations and needs to work for your organization - the retiree will be engaged by different management practices than the high school student.

It's a good read, so you should take a look.  I'm not sure that there are any "ah-ha" moments, but it's a solid place to start in terms of having the conversation with the groups you support as a HR pro.

Hate to throw out the buzzword here, but reducing voluntary turnover while keeping pay and benefits the same probably comes back to whether you create high levels of engagement within your workforce.

For engagement, I read Zinger and Wright.   One of the things I learned from Tim Wright on engagement was that in the average workforce,  29 percent of employees are engaged in their work, 54 percent are not engaged, and 17 percent are actively disengaged. 

That suggests that one of the best ways for organizations to reduce voluntary turnover is to figure out a way to engage the 54 percent who aren't currently engaged.  Here's the Gallup G12, which lists traits of engaged employees:

  • Consistent levels of high performance.
  • Natural innovation and drive for efficiency.
  • Intentional building of supportive relationships.
  • Clear about the desired outcomes of their role.
  • Emotionally committed to what they do.
  • Challenge purpose to achieve goals.
  • High energy and enthusiasm.
  • Never run out of things to do, create positive things to act on.
  • Broaden what they do and build on it.
  • Commitment to company, work group, and role.

Which ones can you impact as a company to help reduce voluntary turnover?  I bolded the ones I thought might be possibilities, through better performance management, communication, etc.

The ones that aren't bolded?  You probably need to figure these out at the point of hire, because they seem difficult to impact once the person is in your workforce....


Michael Haberman, SPHR

Thanks for the links to Zinger and Wright. Good stuff. I had a situation the other day were I sat for an hour having a similar discussion with a group of managers for a client company. I have forward this post as well.

Joyce Maroney

Thanks for the acknowledgement of our whitepaper. It's one in a series that we plan to publish over the course of the year related to how organizations can better manage voluntary turnover among hourly workers. Although a lot is published in the HCM arena regarding issues like retention, not so much is focused on the hourly population. That's the niche we're addressing. If you or your readers come across "aha" best practices in this niche, we'd love for you to visit and share.

Joyce Maroney
Director, Workforce Institute

Tim Wright

Kris -

Thanks for the reference--and in such great company!

We all agree these days that increasing our number of engaged emps (while decreasing the number who are disengaged, duh!) is a desirable achievemnet.

I'm increasingly concerned that we seem to be making EE our desired end, rather than the means to an end.

I think you're on that thought train. If the desired result is to reduce voluntary turnover, employee engagement may help us get there. Likewise, if we want to bolster front-line supervisors skills at reducing voluntary turnover, we will want to engage the supervisors in the how-to. (Engagement is not for employees only!)

Thanks again.




I have never heard of Zinger and Wright. Why wouldn't people go to the respected names in employee engagment...Towers Perrin and Gallup for more authoritative information?


Kris Dunn

Hi Harold -

You're on the money when you cite Gallop and TP in the engagement space. The reason I cite Tim Wright and Zinger in this post is that they are practioners in the space. They take the TP and Gallop stuff, tweak and practice in real engagements with real companies of all sizes. Google them and give them a shot with a 15 minute read, you'll be glad you did...

Thanks - KD

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