No matter the business, chances are, people play a major role in your company’s success. A company’s ability to attract and retain talented employees is essential for meeting critical business goals and objectives, not to mention the innovation and improvements often contributed by experienced personnel. Having a strategy to retain talented employees has become increasingly critical as the U.S. labor market struggles to find skilled workers.

Be Proactive in Assessing Risks

Over the years, we have found that the best way to assess and reduce the risk of employee turnover is to conduct periodic employee relations assessments, where trained facilitators have a candid conversation with employees. These assessments can readily identify key concerns contributing to employee turnover, and other factors impacting employee relations more generally. The employee feedback and insights derived from these assessments are invaluable, as they enable management to identify and address areas of concern in a proactive, rather than reactive, manner.

Listen to Your Employees

Research consistently shows that the best way to identify opportunities for improving employee relations and reducing attrition is to listen and understand how employees view the strengths and weaknesses of the company.

The assessment process we have successfully employed over the past 20 years centers on meetings with small groups of employees (hourly and supervision). During each session, participants are asked to share their view of the current employee relations environment in terms of (1) what is working well, (2) identify obstacles or concerns and (3) to make specific recommendations for improvement.

The benefits from this proactive approach typically include the following:

  • Process reaffirms that management values employees ideas and suggestions
  • Gain valuable insights and understandings of how employees perceive the company
  • Determine key drivers impacting employee turnover
  • Identify opportunities to improve communications, teamwork and productivity
  • Secure practical suggestions for improvement
  • Reduce risk of future employee grievances and litigations
  • Discreetly assess vulnerability to possible union organizing
  • Demonstrate to Board of Directors and Shareholders that management is proactive

We recommend that each session be “kicked-off” by a member of the senior management team explaining the purpose of the meeting and expressing management’s desire to “listen” to the ideas and suggestions of employees, in regard to how the company might create a more productive work environment.

In many cases, employee suggestions for improvement are similar to what management might otherwise implement on its own; however, as an employee-generated idea, the initiative is far more likely to be supported by the workforce. In addition, adopting employee suggestions derived from these sessions helps to demonstrate that management truly values the ideas and opinions of their employees.

Immediate Supervisors Impact Employee Turnover

Research shows that the employee’s immediate supervisor has a direct impact on retention rates, teamwork, and other key performance measures (see chart below). Just as important as their paycheck, the vast majority of employees want to be recognized and appreciated by their manager. Research also shows that even a few supervisors with poor interpersonal skills are the number one cause for union organizing campaigns, grievances, and other costly disruptions.

Unfortunately, as critical as the supervisor’s role is, we have found that most companies spend very little, if any time, training and educating their supervisors as to how their daily behaviors can have a significant impact on their employees and company performance.


In today’s competitive business environment the need to attract and retain talented employees has become increasingly important and challenging. To help manage and reduce attrition, companies should listen to their employees in order to better understand their needs and concerns. Also, understanding that the leading cause of voluntary resignations is related to poor people skills by an employee’s immediate supervisor, companies should make it a point to provide supervisors with appropriate interpersonal skills training.

Hutchison Group Can Help

Our employee relations consultants have years of experience facilitating employee relations assessments and conducting training programs for supervisors, providing our clients with the ability to identify and address problems on a proactive basis. Understanding that every company’s situation is different, we would be happy to meet and customize a plan to address your specific needs and goals.

The above article was written by Cameron J. Hutchison, President and Founder of Hutchison Group, Inc. With over 30 years of experience, the Hutchison Group is a highly regarded management consulting firm focused on all aspects of labor and employee relations; helping union and non-union employers improve productivity, teamwork and performance. Visit our webpage at