Leads play a major role in Retention.

inmates running by a wall with graffiti

Limits: All the data/numbers I’m sharing come from a talk in HRcoreLAB conference: ‘Happiness Creates Success – Decoding the metrics of workplace happiness’. In the talk, Norman Mauer analyzed a large study held in the UK. (This means the numbers contain a cultural bias, that’s true. However, IMO, the validity of the reflections goes beyond numbers). You can see more details about the study this talk was based on here.

The most popular reason to leave/keep a job according to the study is money. But after that, there are happiness and energy. These, together with the manager’s impact on IC’s success are crucial to leave or, let’s flip the coin, to make people feel great and fostering retention.

Main takeaway: Leads can foster or dampen happiness, a sense of energy, and of course support people’s success, so they have an impact (if we believe the study’s numbers) more than 2 times bigger than money on people retention. Or, in other words… Happiness at work is possible! I think so, as 95% of the 1300+ answers to that survey.

What drives happiness (and therefore retention) at work?

Norman Mauer, the speaker, thinks (and I kind of agree) that the basic needs in the at-work Maslow pyramid would be fair pay and support. TLDR; according to the study, fair pay means on par with the role and industry standards, regardless of their racial background, age, culture, gender…

This is a image from https://ca.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/work-happiness-survey: go there and enjoy with all the details of the study :)
This is an image from https://ca.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/work-happiness-survey: go there and enjoy with all the details of the study 🙂

Once our basic needs are covered, what else? Norman said that being Energized, Belonging, and having Purpose are the most strategic things in that graduation. And now is when things become more interesting

What makes people feel or develop a sense of belonging and how this affects retention?

True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone (Brené Brown)
Image from Norman Mauer’s talk

IMO belonging has a crucial role in retention and also a symbiotic relationship with ownership and both spark engaged participation, and happiness, that is what we ultimately need for retention. The biggest belonging generator would be the company behavior towards the employee. This behavior can be conceptual (having company values that you can adhere to and that are honored) or let’s say, reified in a person(s). Leads are the connection point between the individual and the organization as an entity and should be an example of the company culture and behavior.

On the other hand, very important: we cannot neglect the social aspect that needs to be present at work. Having friends at work and having conversations about things not related to work are just two manifestations of this social urge. Satisfactorily solving these social needs is an essential contributor to the belonging feeling and therefore a field where to address our leading efforts.

Due to the lack of presence, any manager that shifts to remote work should put more emphasis on the human, connective side of things: the social aspects of remote work.


Don’t miss Erin’s post. She offers a reflection framework for remote leads to build presence. Also some neat examples and ideas to make the social component thrive.

What makes people Energized at work?

Image from the awesome Norman Mauer’s talk

Energy is about feelings and it has lots of different boosters. Six of these boosters are in an 11% margin from 29% to 40% according to the report. Being absorbed by tasks, feeling inspired, challenged, and excited… I’d say this can all fall between one of these two buckets:

  • Having a supportive and inspiring team around.
  • Having interesting tasks we engage with.

Both, team bonding and cohesion and distributing workload in the most effective way, are animated by the lead. In fact, this is what leadership is about, right? As a team lead, your primary goal is to help your team be successful, both as a group and as individuals.

What makes people feel or develop a sense of purpose at work?

Purpose, for me, is… nebulous, as it is a combination of fuzzy feelings and directional ideas. And again being difficult to be defined I’m under the impression the impact on retention is incredible. Clearly defined values help: Making the web a better place / Creating a new workplace / Democratizing… And the sense of proudness that you can build around with actions, words, or merch, help too.

When the people deconstruct this sense of purpose (again, taking the study percentages with a pinch of salt) we see recognition and understanding and, or, proudness of the impact we generate in the bigger picture as the 2 biggest stimuli to prompt that sense of purpose.

Another hot topic is creating impact and connecting the IC with the impact they generate. This is a beautiful responsibility opportunity you have as a team lead. Some of the team lead responsibilities are keeping the team up to date and informed of high-level company news, especially when they impact what the team is working on as well as reviewing progress against OKRs/goals and obstacles impacting progress (and planning to resolve them).

And recognition? I feel anything has already been said about recognition. Still, there usually is a lot of space for improvement. And remember that leads play a crucial role in the recognition workflows (I wrote some notes about it). In most cases, it could be just about saying thank you. And the impact is really powerful!

I had an aha moment reading Chapter 6 from The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle. Those who had received thanks from a past action are way more likely to collaborate in the next one! “Thank-yous aren’t only expressions of gratitude; they’re crucial belonging cues that generate a contagious sense of safety, connection, and motivation”. But there is another egoistic reason for showing gratitude. It seems you get more than you give when you show gratitude:

Scientific have proven that one of the greatest contributing factors to overall happiness in your life is how much gratitude you show


So there is no excuse 😛


Leads actions are at the core of happiness, energy, belonging, and purpose at work. So we have a huge impact in retention and an inspiring endeavor ahead.

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