Want to keep your talent? Retention is about relationships. 

In today’s fierce talent market, employers are trying many ways to keep top talent on their teams. One popular tactic is “stay interviews,” conducted to help managers understand why their employees stay and why some leave the company. While it makes sense to talk with employees about their career goals, someone at risk of leaving is unlikely to change their mind after a single chat. To have a measurable impact on employee retention, leaders need to put in a bit more effort. Here are some tips for the right way to conduct retention conversations.  

Take an interest in your people 

More than human resources, employees are human beings with individual needs and aspirations that employers should get to know. When employees sense their manager knows and genuinely cares about them, and takes a vested interest in what they say, discussions about work and development feel natural. Conversations become a safe space for employees to share. 

When a manager hasn’t shown much interest in an employee’s career, then starts asking personal questions out of the blue, the discussion might get awkward. What’s more, the employee might not be comfortable answering questions candidly, and the whole experience could be detrimental to retention efforts. 

Keep up with regularly scheduled meetings 

It is significantly easier to affect someone’s retention proactively than trying to re-engage them after they’ve chosen to leave. Managers should schedule regular employee conversations about three to four times a year focusing only on the employee, making the conversations an event like a lunch out of the office, not just a regular one-on-one in a conference room. If the employee works remotely, they could be invited to choose the beverage of the hour. Prioritizing these meetings and putting in a special effort shows employees that their career and well-being are important to the company. 

Career Transition & Outplacement

Help transitioning employees succeed and keep those who stay engaged

Talk about the employee, not the job 

The goal of these meetings is to ensure everyone on the team feels supported, remains engaged, and continues to feel excited about the future. If an employee is having concerns, this is the opportunity to support them before they consider leaving. To keep the focus on the employee, it helps to ask questions like:   

  • How are you feeling about the work you’re doing? Are you satisfied and happy 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'd like to join, or roles you'd like to learn more about? 
  • What would you like to be doing six to 12 months from now? 
  • How can I help and 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 best efforts, some will decide to move on from the company. Maybe they want to try something completely different. Maybe somebody else gave them an offer they can’t refuse. Leaders who set up regular development conversations may even see it coming. In the best-case scenario, the employee will be open about it—instead of sneaking out for interviews, they may confide in a trusted manager. 

Support retention with career growth

Korn Ferry helps companies and their employees navigate career growth and development. Find out more about our work with employee retention and transition.