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<i>Dear Workforce</i> What Solutions Could Stem Rapid Turnover at Our Software Company

July 1, 2006
Dear Grieving:

Many organizations spend a lot of time, effort and money trying to uncover the secret to retaining top talent. Yet most of them overlook the obvious--asking their employees why they stay and, also, what might lure them away.
Rather than conducting exit interviews with departing stars, stop guessing what keeps your star performers happy and try using "stay interviews" to prevent them from leaving in the first place. Don't assume they all want the same things, such as more pay or promotions.
Ask employees, "What will keep you with our company? What might entice you to leave?" Listen actively to the answers you receive. Are employees staying for a chance to learn and grow, for a promotion and a big title, or for some other reason?
Don't wait for a formal career discussion. Take your treasured employees to lunch or coffee, for the express purpose of asking these important questions.
Asking has many positive side effects. The people you ask feel valued and important, which often engenders stronger loyalty and commitment to the organization. In other words, just asking the question is a retention strategy.
Beyond listening, you need to respond, and what you say is critical. Responses like "that's unrealistic" immediately halt the dialogue and might even cause your employees to launch a job search.
Some managers hesitate to raise this issue for fear they won't be able to deliver on the employees' requests. If that is the case, be frank. But also commit to investigating other possibilities. We guarantee there is at least one thing your talented employee wants that you can give.
You may want to begin with some popular questions for stay interviews:
  • What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning?
  • What makes you hit the snooze button?
  • If you were to win the lottery and resign, what would you miss the most?
  • What one thing that if changed in your current role would make you consider moving on?
  • If you had a magic wand, what would be the one thing you would change about this department?
  • If you had to go back to a position in your past and stay for an extended period of time, which one would it be and why?
  • What makes for a great day?
  • What can we do to make your job more satisfying?
  • What can we do to support your career goals?
  • Do you get enough recognition?
  • What will keep you here? What might entice you away?
  • What do you want to learn this year? How might you learn it?
SOURCE: Beverly Kaye, Career Systems International, Scranton, Pennsylvania, July 13, 2005.
LEARN MORE: How Convergys used ananalytical approach to determine how to keep employees around. Plus, otherideal questions for stay interviews. And12 questions to measure employee engagement.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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