Preventing Future Departures of your Top Talent

Do not make the mistake of waiting until it is too late, and employees are walking into your office to discuss their impending resignations.

love em or lose em

Stay Interviews are an idea popularized by the book Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay,” which released its fifth edition in 2014 and is available from the Amazon link provided above.

Stay interviews serve two primary purposes: to let employees know how valued they actually are, and to identify problems that may lead to a team member’s departure.

Firms that conduct stay interviews are taking a proactive approach in their talent retention efforts, and are typically rewarded with low turnover because of their attitude.

According to recent research released by the Institute for Corporate Productivity,(USA) these proactive career conversations were included in the top six talent management best practices that companies use to boost employee engagement.

Incorporating this powerful ‘Retention Strategy’

First, tell people what you are doing – If speaking with your staff specifically about their careers is highly unexpected; then do not impose this new process on them without due explanation – doing so will inevitably foster suspicion, and quite possibly an insecure distrust.

Give your teams a heads-up about upcoming meetings, to allow them time to gather their own thoughts, and prepare themselves for career-focused discussions.

Set the expectations – Establish ‘clarity’ with yourself: Why are you having these conversations – what are you hoping to learn, or exchange with your team?

Are you hoping to:

  • Become more connected to your team;
  • Improve firm retention efforts;
  • Hear what’s on your employees’ minds; or
  • Surface potential problems/uncover current issues?

Once clear on your rationale for implementing these stay interviews, you can begin to frame a number of icebreakers to help the meetings flow comfortably for all involved.

Plan the conversation – Rather than thinking about these conversations in a linear format, consider dividing the conversation into “topics” — areas of interest or concern that the employees may have.

Potential topics could include:

  • Enjoyable aspects of the job the employee likes;
  • Aspects of their roles that present some challenges;
  • Current career aspirations; and
  • How you can help as a leader.

After identifying each topic for discussion, prepare two or three questions for each that will encourage an open and comfortable dialogue with your team members.


Planning your conversation in this way will help all leaders to find trends within their teams. In addition, having this format as your guide will keep you on track, should the conversations take an unexpected departure.

Follow upUndoubtedly, your conversations will surface at least one idea that will need your action. You will want to act quickly to show your commitment to the retention process you have just implemented.

Do not labour your follow-up, as taking too much time will allow your new retention efforts to die on the spot, and could have serious ramifications for your own career going forward.

Losing a valuable employee is difficult for group leaders and direct divisional managers. Perhaps equally as important, it affects the remaining team members who are left to pick up the slack until either a new hire is in place or, less popular, an analysis of the possibility of redistributing duties within the current group would be a viable alternative, eliminating the need for a new hire.

While it is not possible to avoid losing top talent in every case, firms can certainly reduce the number of times leaders and management teams experiences that uncomfortable sinking sensation when employees ask, “Can we please meet tomorrow morning?”

We all know that people are a company’s most valuable asset. Large companies with 1,000 or more employees measure employee engagement formally (78%), compared to small companies of 250 employees or less (29%). 63% of public companies reported measuring employee engagement, compared to 37% of private companies. (Source: Ceridian)

Show your high-performing team members that you do have a stake in their careers by implementing Stay Interviews and other retention strategies within your firm.

Communicate openly and consistently, following-up on what you say you can or will do for all firm staff.