BCG: Great Managers Are a Solution to the Great Resignation

In spite of a looming recession and big tech and financial firms laying off tens of thousands of workers, many businesses are still struggling to retain their workers and attract new ones. Data from a recent Boston Consulting Group survey indicates that the most effective cure for the situation is to invest in retaining and developing great managers.

The firm surveyed more than 4,700 workers in a variety of fields and occupations in the U.K., the U.S., France, and Germany. Roughly a third of the respondents were managers, and all of that group were “deskless” workers, who comprise the overwhelming majority of the global workforce employed in hands-on occupations where work cannot be done remotely.

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The respondents gave a clear list of their most important needs, which were mostly functional benefits like better pay, better work-life balance, better benefits, work they care about or enjoy, and better commutes. However, when BCG analyzed what actually drives decisions to stay or leave a job, the most important factors were feeling fairly treated and respected, feeling valued and appreciated, doing work they care about or enjoy, having a good relationship with their manager or boss, and the day-to-day work environment.

By and large, the needs that actually drive decision making are delivered by day-to-day managers, whose interactions support the emotionally-driven needs behind worker retention. Further, respondents who reported being dissatisfied with their managers were 1.5 times more likely to feel burned out, twice as likely to leave their job in the next 12 months, and three times less likely to recommend their employer as a desirable place to work, reinforcing the critical role good managers play in an organization.

In spite of their high value, many managers reported to BCG that they were feeling overtasked and unsupported, especially those who found themselves managing teams for the first time when the COVID pandemic disrupted their workplaces. With their hands full trying to meet daily productivity requirements, it is difficult for a manager to effectively support their teams’ emotional needs.

The firm recommended that organizations invest more thought, time, and resources in developing great people managers. BCG suggested that offloading administrative duties or automating paperwork could help free up their time, and that peer support from well-established and highly effective managers could provide additional training, coaching, and mentoring.

With great talent being so crucial to business success, the importance of having great people managers who are well supported is clear. Businesses that make the commitment to support the people who support their workers stand to achieve a decisive advantage over those who treat their people as disposable.