3 Ways New Leaders Can Strengthen Employee Retention

Written by:
Afterburner Team

It doesn’t matter whether you’re in Sales, Revenue, Marketing, or any other field in the business world – if you’re a leader who recently took the reins of a new team, you face a high risk of hiring and employee retention challenges. We can’t count how many times leaders have reached out to Afterburner looking for help with some version of the following problem:

I started a new Director of Sales role six months ago, and in that time I’ve lost a quarter of my team.

There are plenty of factors that potentially cause, or contribute to, employee attrition under new team leadership. Maybe the team is set in their ways and lacks the motivation to adapt to the new leader’s strategy or leadership style. Maybe the leader entered their role via promotion, and some reps feel uncomfortable, or even resentful, reporting to someone who used to be their peer.

Whatever the cause, the good news is that it’s not an unsolvable problem. If you’re a new leader facing hiring and employee retention issues, you’re not doomed to watch your team dwindle. With a smart, focused approach and 360-degree situational awareness, you have the power to align and excite your team and stop – or even reverse – employee attrition.

Here are three steps to keep attrition down and excitement high across your team.

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Step 1: Determine the cause

Solving any problem starts with diagnosing it – and employee attrition is no different. When it comes to new leaders who are seeing their team size decrease, we’ve found they can typically attribute the issue to one of two factors:

  • Market forces
    In the labor world, the story of the past year or so has, of course, been the Great Resignation. With market forces making it easier than ever for workers to leave their current jobs, either to trade up for something better or to go out on their own, it often doesn’t take much to prompt someone to seek a new opportunity. When a new leader joins a team, with a new strategy in tow, members of that team can get spooked – and sometimes that’s all it takes to prompt them to move on.
  • Cultural forces
    The introduction of a new leader and strategy can be jarring for the front-line members of the team. It takes work to build a rapport from scratch and get the team bought into a new strategy, and if it takes too long to clear these hurdles, distrust and indifference can set into your team culture. When that happens, attrition often isn’t far behind.

The particulars of how you combat employee attrition may depend on which of these causes is most pertinent to your team. But whatever the cause, some version of steps two and three will be helpful.

 

Step 2: Invest in training and development

The best way to combat employee attrition is to prevent it from happening in the first place – and that means strong, robust training and development for new hires. If employees feel empowered and equipped with the resources they need to execute on their goals effectively, they’re much more likely to stay with the team. If they feel they have strong, actionable opportunities for professional development, even better. Numerous studies have found that solid training and development can go a long way toward stemming attrition.

If employees feel empowered and equipped with the resources they need to execute on their goals effectively, they’re much more likely to stay with the team. If they feel they have strong, actionable opportunities for professional development, even better.

But what if you’re a new leader? What if most of your team was trained by your predecessor, and you therefore had no control over what that training looked like? In this case, look at your arrival as an opportunity for a new round of training for your new team – this time, focused not only on refreshing the basic skills necessary for their jobs, but also on your vision as a new leader, and what the team will need to do to execute on that vision.

 

Step 3: Paint the big picture

When flying high-stakes missions, fighter pilots aren’t just aware of their own individual tasks. Each pilot is also acutely aware of how their own actions impact the broader team and the success of their mission. They each know that, without any one of them, the success of their mission would be out of reach. It’s this knowledge that gives fighter pilots their sense of solidarity, purpose, and passion for their mission objective, enabling them to transcend individual execution and embrace a common mental model based on teamwork and mutual support.

When you transcend individual metrics and commissions and get team members bought into your strategy at an emotional level, you can stop employee attrition in its tracks.

Successful new leaders apply this same ethos to their teams. Each member of your team needs to understand how their role and their contributions support not just their own individual success, but the success of the team’s, and the company’s, strategy.

You won’t get to this point simply by doling out daily tasks or quarterly goals at the individual level and leaving it at that. Instead, it’s up to you as the team’s new leader to create a compelling vision of your team’s success – and make everyone feel they’re a part of that vision. When you motivate your team in a way that transcends individual metrics and commissions and gets team members bought into your strategy at an emotional level, you can stop employee attrition in its tracks.

Get in touch to learn how an Afterburner event can build the team-wide excitement and strategic alignment you need to strengthen employee retention and boost your revenue.