People Culture

Experiencing High Turnover? This could be because of your frontline managers

Arunima Shrivastava

Arunima Shrivastava

June 29, 2023 7 min read

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“We are experiencing high turnover” is a common saying we have been hearing whenever leadership is discussed. But is it true?? And if it is, then what are the reasons for people to leave their organizations because of managers?

Frontline employees play a critical role in any organisation and contribute heavily towards its success. They are often called the ‘face of the organisation’ as they are the first point of contact for customers and represent the organisation’s brands and values. They make up around 80% of the total workforce. Recent trends point towards the rising attrition at the frontline workplaces; the case being more conspicuous among frontline retails; annual employee turnover among frontline workers has been at least 60 per cent for a long time. It is a big challenge to replace more than half of their frontline employees every year; almost half of the frontline employees are considering leaving their jobs while 63 per cent of frontline retail managers are thinking about quitting in the near future. It is a critical metric because it is not only costly but also impacts the company’s ability to serve its customers. A lot of researchers estimate that replacing an employee can cost as much  3x to 5x the person’s salary. 

There are various reasons for frontline employees leaving a job, such as excessive workload, lack of flexibility, scant opportunities for career advancement, unrealistic expectations and unfair pay. But perhaps one of the biggest reasons for frontline employee turnover is an unpleasant relationship with managers. 

Frontline managers play an important role in ensuring organisational success. Being the primary point of contact for employees on the front lines, they are responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations and ensuring that tasks are completed effectively and efficiently. They also act as a vital link between senior management and frontline employees to relay information, goals and expectations from top-level management to the frontline staff, ensuring alignment and clarity.  Frontline managers can have a huge impact on employees’ engagement in the organisation. Usually, quitting is a premeditated act and there’s always this window for managers to recognise  these cues and take action. Yet, it has been observed that managers do not take proactive measures to understand what’s going on in an employee’s mind. Let’s delve into some of the reasons why managers may contribute to your organisation experiencing high turnover:

Lack of effective communication

Managers who fail to communicate effectively with their frontline employees can create a gap in all areas. It is the manager’s responsibility to set, clarify and communicate expectations, listen to their employees and grievances and resolve any conflict amicably. However, it’s often seen that managers react instead of responding. They do not keep the communication channels open. This may result in employees feeling unheard or uninformed and they may become disengaged and seek opportunities elsewhere.

Inadequate recognition and feedback

Managers’ who fail to recognise and appreciate the efforts of their frontline employees may contribute to a lack of motivation and job satisfaction. Without regular feedback, recognition, and opportunities for growth, employees may feel stagnant in their roles and seek better prospects elsewhere.

Lack of support

Frontline employees need consistent guidance, support and resources from their managers. When managers are unavailable or not helpful, employees may feel unsupported and undervalued, leading to dissatisfaction and a desire to leave the organisation. Knowing that they are supported by their managers increases a frontline employee’s sense of belonging and will to stay. A supportive manager can improve a frontline worker’s chances of staying at the company by 300%.

Micromanagement

Some managers tend to micromanage their frontline employees, and some tend to closely monitor and control their every move. This can be demoralizing and undermine employees’ sense of autonomy and trust. Micromanagement stifles creativity and innovation, leading to disengagement and experiencing high turnover.

Inconsistent or unfair treatment

Managers who display favouritism, inconsistency, or unfairness in their decision-making can create a toxic work environment. In a toxic culture, distrust becomes more prevalent than character. Managers and frontline employees will not be able to collaborate effectively to build a high-performing organisation. When employees perceive bias or injustice, it erodes trust and morale, driving them to seek better treatment elsewhere.

Inadequate training and development

Managers play a crucial role in providing training and development opportunities for frontline employees. If managers neglect these responsibilities, employees may feel redundant in their roles, lacking the necessary skills to advance their careers within the organization. As a result, they may choose to leave in search of better growth prospects.

Lack of work-life balance

Managers who fail to promote a healthy work-life balance for their frontline employees can contribute to burnout and dissatisfaction. When employees feel overwhelmed, stressed or unable to maintain personal responsibilities, they may opt for positions with more supportive work environments.

Let’s look at some of the ways by which things can be improved at the frontline workplaces and employee turnover can be arrested:

Investing in frontline manager’s development

Managers need to be properly trained to manage frontline employees. They should be provided relevant training and guidance on how to handle various issues and grievances faced by frontline employees. Also, being the first point of contact for customers, they are usually bombarded with queries and concerns which might be stress-inducing. Therefore, special programs need to be conducted addressing that aspect. Managers need to be heard and given adequate resources to manage their day-to-day operations.

Gather continuous employee feedback

When employees feel heard, they feel more valued and connect more with the organization. Floating relevant pulse surveys will help to gather timely and continuous feedback from the employees. This will equip managers with the relevant data points to take remedial measures proactively to ensure you are not experiencing high turnover.

Make work at the frontline site more meaningful and interesting

Frontline employees typically face the challenge of performing monotonous, repetitive tasks daily. This aspect may make them apprehensive about their growth in future. This needs to be dealt with seriously by making frontline jobs interesting and engaging for them. Regular rewards need to be disbursed to keep their momentum high. The work environment needs to be positive and balanced. Managers play a great role in regulating organisational culture, compensation and career opportunities and thus greatly influence employee turnover. Having supportive frontline managers should be a business priority for any organisation that wants to reduce chronic turnover. Enabling frontline managers to enhance frontline employee experience will be rewarding at many levels and will help reduce high turnover and increase engagement.

Want to know more about reducing attrition? Read our article on 3 Ways HR Leaders can reduce attrition.

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