Insights & Ideas

Employee retention: Conversations that make a difference

retention image

Want to keep your talent? Retention is about relationships.

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
Russ Testa

Russ Testa

Korn Ferry logo

Salo is now part of Korn Ferry

Salo connects senior finance, accounting, and HR professionals with organizations that need their expertise. Joining Korn Ferry’s Interim Executive & Professional practice enables us to continue our twofold, people-focused approach: connecting people with meaningful careers where they can make a positive impact and offering innovative and customized business solutions for clients looking to tackle big challenges. Together with Korn Ferry, we are committed to putting people first, to build a world that works better together.

Learn more at

Explore meaningful careers

Salo specializes in connecting finance, accounting, and HR experts with meaningful work. We know that being empowered to pursue work that matters means endless career possibilities. Therefore, we find roles tailored to your interests and goals, whether you want to advance your career, mentor and lead teams, innovate and collaborate with new partners, or work with clients of all sizes across industries. Find out how we can be your career partners.

Looking for a meaningful career? Learn more here.

Solve business needs

Combining Korn Ferry’s global reach with Salo’s customized client approach means we’re able to deliver world-class service to organizations of all sizes and in all industries. Because our people have functional backgrounds in finance, accounting, and HR, we have a holistic understanding of your business needs and challenges. Our pool of executive and professional talent is uniquely motivated to do the best work they can. No matter your business talent need, we are your trusted partner.

Looking for interim talent? Learn more here.