Do People Join Companies or Do They Join Managers?

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Jul 6, 2022

We’ve all heard some version of the expression that people join a company but quit a manager. But is that always true? Could you imagine a situation where a company has great compensation, benefits, and flexibility, yet the candidate has such a terrible connection with the hiring manager that they just walk away?

To be sure, there are myriad times when the employer looms largest in a candidate’s decision to reject an offer. A company could offer inadequate compensation relative to the market, subpar benefits, mandated in-office time when remote work is a legitimate option, and so on. 

Those are all very real factors chasing away candidates, but those are also factors that can be objectively measured and fixed. If you’re curious about how your company compares to competitors on those factors, you can typically find the answers with a few simple online searches. 

The issue that’s harder to discover, yet no less important, is the extent to which your hiring managers are the factor that dispels (or attracts) candidates. The data on this isn’t as readily available. 

Of course, you can, and should, survey every candidate who rejects your company’s offer. If you ask them to rate how they felt about the compensation, benefits, work flexibility, interactions with recruiters, and interactions with the hiring manager, you’ll typically pinpoint why they rejected your offer. But as you might imagine, only a small percentage of those candidates will typically complete your survey.

In the absence of data about how candidates regard your specific group of hiring managers, we can rely on a few universal truths about leadership.

First, employees respond best to leaders who will help them grow and develop. A Leadership IQ study revealed that only 35% of people say that they’re always learning something new at work, while 52% are never, occasionally, or rarely learning new things. But the people who are always learning new things are literally 10 times more likely to be inspired at work.

Second, while learning is great, a follow-up study of more than 20,000 employees discovered a problem. Only 20% of employees say their leader always takes an active role in helping them to grow and develop their full potential. And statistically, this one issue explained a quarter of why employees feel engaged or disengaged. 

Third, more than half of people say the Idealist is the leader they most want to work for. Idealists are high-energy achievers who believe in the positive potential of everyone around them. They want to learn and grow, and they want everyone else on the team to do the same. Working for Idealists offers the chance to be creative and to express oneself. Team members find they have an equal voice and that they learn by doing. While this sounds great, and it’s desired by a majority of employees, only about 9% of leaders actually use that style.

The upshot is this: If you want great candidates to accept your offers and join your workforce, it’s a good idea to make both your company and managers appealing. It’s easy enough to discover if there are opportunities to improve the company side of things. 

And on the manager front, if you can’t gather sufficient data, know that a prevailing issue for employees is whether a leader will spur and bolster their growth. If you’ve had a spate of candidates reject your offer, that’s often a good place to start looking for solutions.

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