Businessman Drawing Road With ArrowIn these times of low employee engagement levels, job insecurity, lack of trust in senior management, and lack of career development opportunities, employees are taking to the road in their droves. The Hay Group has gone so far to suggest that we are in the midst of a talent exodus and they are predicting elevated employee turnover levels for the next four years. What’s interesting is that despite us being in the middle of this complex web of push and pull factors, playing havoc with employee stability, one thing remains constant and that is the power and influence of each employee’s line manager. Yes, the McQuaig Global Talent Recruitment Survey has shown that the main reason that employees are currently leaving, and I guess staying, is down to the line manager. Effective line managers are underappreciated and perhaps one of the most powerful weapons available to any organization in the talent war. Great line managers can be a talent magnet and poor ones can be a massive talent deterrent.

So, how exactly should managers be interacting with staff to maximize their appeal to the staff they manage? Clearly, they’ll need to be completing all the technical aspects, such as doing appraisals, career development plans, delegating work and creating a good team spirit. But, this is perhaps the box ticking side of line management and the minimum that employees expect. What seems to be the biggest differentiator in terms of line management impact, according to a recent leadership IQ study, was the amount of time that managers actually spend with their staff.

The study of 32,410 people showed that, as it stands, around 50 percent of workers spend three or less hours a week interacting with their leader, and 20 percent of people only spend one hour a week. At the other end of the scale you’ll find that just under 30 percent of people spend six or more hours per week interacting with their boss. To round it all up, they found that the average time spent interacting with their boss was three hours.

So, what was the optimal time? They actually found that six hours was the optimal amount of time (which I assume doesn’t have to be exclusive time as with a team of six people, the manager wouldn’t have time to even meet with his/her own manager). Yes, those folks who interact with bosses for six hours a week are 29 percent more inspired, 30 percent more engaged, 16 percent more innovative and 15 percent more intrinsically motivated than those who spend 1 hour a week with their boss.  For more senior staff, the optimal boss contact time rises to between seven and 10 hours a week.

The findings of this study make it clear that line managers have a straightforward and important part to play in this sophisticated talent war. By simply spending more time with staff or by reengineering the business so managers can and do spend more quality time with staff, employers can expect to see significant increases in employee engagement, motivation and innovative behavior. This is why line managers and hiring managers need to take a good look at their own line management strategies and tactics in terms of weekly staff contact to ensure they are a talent magnet and not a talent deterrent.

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