Insights & Ideas

Employee retention: Conversations that make a difference

In today’s red-hot talent market, employers are looking for any way to keep talent on their team. As a result, “stay interviews”—meetings with employees about why they may (or may not) stay—have become a trendy tactic. While talking to employees about their career goals is great, if an employee is a retention risk, it’s unlikely a single stay interview is going to convince them to stay put. Understanding how to retain someone isn’t a one-time meeting, it’s a continual conversation. To really impact retention, you’ll need to put in a bit more effort.

Get interested in your employees

Employees are more than human resources, they’re human beings with individual needs and aspirations. So, take time to get to know each person on your team. When an employee feels like their manager knows them as a person, genuinely cares about them, and has a vested interest in what they say—discussions about work feel natural. Conversations become a safe space for employees to share, which is beneficial for the employee and the organization.

However, if a manager hasn’t shown interest in someone’s career in the past, then starts asking an employee personal questions out of the blue; the discussion may be awkward. If the employee is thinking of leaving, they might not be honest about it. The whole experience could be detrimental to retention efforts.

Keep it up with regularly scheduled meetings

It’s significantly easier to affect someone’s retention proactively—instead of trying to get them re-engaged after they’ve chosen to leave. So, be sure to schedule regular employee conversations 3-4 times a year that are focused on them. Make these conversations an event, not just a regular 1:1. Maybe go out to lunch instead of staying in a conference room. Or, if you’re online, invite employees to bring a beverage of choice. Prioritizing these meetings and making them special shows employees that their career and well-being are important to the company.

Talk about the employee, not the job

The goal of these meetings is to ensure everyone on your team feels supported, remains engaged, and stays excited about their future. And, if an employee is having concerns, you get the opportunity to support them before they consider leaving.

So, keep the focus on the employee, by asking questions like:

  • How are you feeling about the work you’re doing/your role? Are you satisfied (or happy) with where you are?
  • As you think about our organization’s future, what intrigues you? Do you feel there are opportunities for you to grow your career here?
  • Are there activities or projects you want to be involved in, sub-groups you would like to join, or roles you would like to learn more about?
  • What would you like to be doing 6-12 months from now?
  • How can I help/support you? What do you need from me?

You can’t save everyone, and that’s OK

It’s not realistic to keep every employee forever. Despite your best efforts, some people will decide to move on from your company. Maybe they want to try something completely different or maybe somebody else gave them an offer they can’t refuse. And that’s ok. If you’ve been having regular development conversations, you may have even seen it coming. In the best-case scenario, they will trust you enough to be open about it. For example, instead of sneaking out for interviews, they may let you know where they’re going.

Your last job as their manager is to help create a smooth transition to their new life, while they transition their work to new members of your team. Celebrate their growth and take pride in making a difference in their career.

Need help with employee retention? Salo can help. We’re a nationwide talent firm focused on building a world that works better together. We have HR consultants who specialize in talent retention programs and related challenges. When we match a consulting expert with an organization that needs their help—we propel both forward. We call these interactions “Meaningful Experiences™.” With every interaction or engagement, it’s our goal to Make it Meaningful™.

Russ Testa

Chief Talent Officer

LinkedIn