Please stay just a little bit longer

Updated 2/9/2022 11:03 AM

Once upon a time a couple of decades ago, I wrote an article titled, "It Takes More than Turkey."

If the title doesn't make much sense, you're too young to remember the days when many American workers received a turkey each year as a Thanksgiving gift from their employer. The concept of employee retention was relatively new at the time and there was a one-size-fits-all approach in most workplaces.


Employers were just starting to realize that they stood a better chance of holding on to people by paying attention to what they valued. The importance of employee retention has grown exponentially over the years and is a trending topic deserving of renewed attention during the "Great Resignation."

If you're fortunate enough to have avoided the impact of this mass movement of workers from their jobs, pat yourself on the back because you must be doing something right. If you're a business owner or manager, it's likely because you take employee retention seriously and are providing your team members with meaningful work, a competitive total rewards package, opportunities for development and a positive organizational culture.

If you're an employee, it's likely because your job offers you an adequate mix of those same elements -- and includes a boss whom you respect and trust. Studies repeatedly show that even if the organization is doing everything right, bad bosses drive people away. Given the plethora of current open positions in this buyer's job market, the bar is being set even higher for effective managers.

Leaders should be more alert than ever to the signs that poor supervisors are prompting employees to seek other opportunities.

Even if your organization has been focused on employee retention for years, now isn't the time to be on cruise control. The environment is fundamentally different from it was pre-pandemic and is not going back to "normal" ever again. It's incumbent on us to embrace the present and prepare for the future.

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One of the best ways to start is by asking employees what they value and what would motivate them to stay with your organization. The popular HR term for this conversation is a "stay interview." Most people are familiar with the "exit interview," which while worthwhile, usually happens far too late to have any meaningful impact on someone who's walking out the door.

Stay interviews, when conducted properly by listening carefully for specific feedback and common themes, and then acting on them, are much more likely to net positive results and improve morale, productivity, engagement and ultimately, employee retention.

Stay interviews do not need to adhere to a rigid formula. While there are many relevant and helpful questions that can elicit actionable feedback, the questions can be tailored to the industry, organization, department, manager and employee. Stay interviews can even be done virtually, and don't need be tied to an annual performance review.

Ideally, they are informal and conversational, lending themselves to open dialogue and the opportunity to explore feedback and ideas and to brainstorm potential solutions. The employee should always leave the stay interview feeling they have been heard and that their input will be thoughtfully considered.

No workplace is immune from turnover, and turnover is not always unhealthy. But in a competitive market where skilled employees are in short supply, employers need to make every effort to boost their retention efforts. Invest the time because today, it takes a lot more than turkey.

• Mary Lynn Fayoumi is president & CEO of HR Source.

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