Want to keep employees? Have “stay conversations”

Recently we helped a family-owned general contractor re-engage two key employees. One was a supervisor whose future was in question as a large job was winding down. The other was a back office team member who’d become demotivated. Both were valuable to the business. The owners wanted to know: How can we help them stay?

This led to us talking about a stay conversation. This is an intentional conversation an employer initiates with an employee. The goal is to better understand the employee’s long-term goals, make clear to them that they are valued, and find greater alignment between their role, their abilities and their goals.

Given current and future labor shortages, it’s critical to get out in front of employee turnover—people can often get a 15-20% raise simply by changing jobs—and this is one great way to do it.

Here’s an example structure:

  • Before the conversation, explain to the team member what it is and that the goal is for them to feel like they’re more on track than ever to achieving their goals. Ask them to reflect on their short and long-term goals and what they need to achieve them.
  • During the conversation, begin by asking the employee to set the tone. What are their goals? What do they need?
  • Share your long-term vision for the company, their team, and their role. Ask for their feedback and/or questions about that vision.
  • If possible, commit to supporting them in a specific way: remove a barrier; reconfigure their role so they can focus more fully on the things that they enjoy and that bring the most value to the company; help them see how they connect to the bigger picture; clarify a future development or growth pathway in a way that gets them excited.
  • If they’re due for a raise or deserve a bonus, don’t make them wait! Include that in this conversation and affirm what they’re doing well.
  • Finally, you may want to schedule a follow-up meeting to clarify their growth path. This is especially important if you know they aren’t quite ready for where they want to go. You can give them clear feedback and simultaneously offer to create a development plan to help them get where they want to be. You may need a week or so to create this between meetings.

In the case of our client, they had two different stay conversations with the supervisor and the office team member. Both were thankful and excited about the direction. For the office team member, we helped them realize that she actually needed a new role, which would be a promotion for her—and she gratefully accepted it, and is re-energized and more motivated than she’s been in a long time.

Who on your team needs a stay conversation?
Employees who feel appreciated and supported are less likely to seek out other opportunities—so don’t put this off.



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