Written By Mike RobertsonMike Robertson headshot

Published on May 9, 2023


If you are a team leader, you know that the list of responsibilities on your plate may seem endless. Monitoring budgets, hitting strategic goals, tackling major projects, pleas

ing stakeholders and more provides more than enough to worry about. For many, prioritizing is the only way to stay above water, and how a team is “doing” is one area that is often pushed to the end of the to-do list in favor of more pressing needs.

When I say how a team is “doing”, I am not referring to performance. At any time, most leaders can report to the C-Suite on the status of their team’s work. I am, instead, referring to how they are actually doing. Are they feeling motivated? Are they bought in? Are they being given the platform and environment to utilize their unique talents to their full potential?

That sort of understanding needs time, and time is in short supply. However, there are consequences for pushing the engagement and development of a team to the back burner, and the effects may be just as harmful as a project missing a deadline or being over budget.

McKinsey & Company dove into this topic when they surveyed people who left their job between April 2021 and 2022. The data provides a stark picture of what employees are looking for from their leaders and organizations. While many will leave their role for a better opportunity or a higher salary, I estimate that over half of the reasons employees are leaving their jobs are directly tied to their relationship with the leader of their department or organization. 

Being caring, and providing meaning and support are all keystones to what a leader should be providing their team. If employees are leaving because that is not felt, that departure falls squarely on the leader of the team.  

If you were to reverse this survey and ask each leader of the organization “Are you caring?” or “Are you supportive?” I believe 100% of them would say yes. There is 

a disconnect, then, between the perception the leader has of themselves and what the team member sees in the leader. How can this be fixed? 

Frequent Check-Ins

The easiest way to invest time in a team member is to touch base with them regularly. Setting up a cadence for one-on-one meetings, with a productive agenda set, is a great way to learn what team members need to be successful, and how you can support their day-to-day work or overall development. Frequent check-ins also allow for the leader to take on a coaching role with that team member, which can be crucial for their success. 

One Size Does Not Fit All

Many leaders fall into the trap of thinking of their team as one entity, instead of a collection of individuals. Some team members might need more frequent acknowledgment that their work is appreciated. Others may find that some sort of incentive or reward is motivating. Taking the time to find out what each team member needs is crucial to ensure those employees are retained.

With this in mind, we can revisit the data from McKinsey & Company. For each of these respondents, the terms “caring”, “support” or “flexibility” all mean different things. If the leader did not take time to understand their specific need, it is almost certain that the need went unmet.

Make Employee Engagement and Retention a Strategic Goal

 It is estimated that it costs six to nine months’ salary to replace a salaried team member. When viewed in this context, every interaction with a team member has a tremendous monetary impact on the bottom line of an organization. One way to ensure a healthy bottom line is to make the retention of employees a strategic priority. Now, investing time with each team member is even more important because there are benchmarks to meet.

Data clearly shows that if attrition is occurring in your organization, the first step in changing that trend is investing time in each member of your organization. If you have not started this process, there is no better time than now.