Humanistic Management: The Path To Employee Retention

November 13, 2019

By Jason McDaniel – Vice President for Employee & Student Assistance Programs, AllOne Health


As U.S. business is now firmly entrenched in the transition to a knowledge-based economy, all the buzz in the HR management field is about the “war for talent”, engagement, and employee retention. This is because organizational leaders more acutely than ever understand that the success of their businesses, particularly for those that employ more highly trained professionals, is based not only on hiring the most technically talented individuals possible, but it is also about how much their employees are willing to commit themselves psychologically to their job duties. Discretionary effort has become essential to mastering workloads in complex, ever-evolving organizations. The challenge for HR professionals is developing cultures that encourage the engagement of valued, knowledgeable workers over longer periods of time.

Voluntary turnover, which is avoidable and disruptive, is harmful to companies for a variety of reasons:

(1) it is expensive to recruit, hire, and train replacements
(2) it negatively impacts organizational morale as good people exit for greener pastures
(3) it impedes business performance because of the loss of knowledgeable, experienced workers

Yet, despite realizations that employee retention has become tantamount with good business practice, and that turnover is practically erosive to the bottom-line, many organizations continue to struggle with problematic turnover. This unfortunate reality is often grounded in ill-directed, piecemeal, and financially misplaced attempts to solve a problem that is often much more human in its origins.

Leadership habitually fails to address the underlying culprits of turnover:

(1) disengaged or abusive supervision practices
(2) poor communication
(3) endemic organizational politics
(4) perceived inequitable or unethical treatment of employees

Because the precursors to turnover are much more of an interpersonal nature, meaningful solutions require emotionally attentive practices from leadership.

Managers who practice from a humanistic paradigm genuinely view workers as invaluable assets to their organization, adopt a generally optimistic view of employee motivation for work, maximize employee autonomy as appropriate, communicate frequently about matters of strategic and personal importance, and encourage collaborative, team-based decision making when possible. They partner with direct reports in a transparent, reliable, and accessible manner toward the achievement of agreed upon business goals. Identified performance outcomes supersede prescribed methods or rigid procedures for accomplishing work, as employees are encouraged to adopt an intrinsic, “ownership” mentality toward their work for the company.

Most importantly, humanistic leaders develop more robust, individuated relationships with subordinates, based on mutual respect and accountability toward work goals. A humanistic management approach to employee retention is both effectual and cost effective compared to many alternate compensation and benefits-based strategies, yet it often requires a substantial shift in organizational culture and buy-in from upper management to achieve the promised fruits of these methods.