Colene Rogers examines how to boost employee retention by having conversations that reveal what your employees really think about working for you.

I was the in-house recruiter for a private company. I remember there was one highly-skilled technician I worked very hard to find. The company was excited and relieved when he accepted our offer because there was so much work to do. But after only 3 months he came into my office to say he was leaving. 

The reason he gave was that he didn’t care for his boss. If that was the first time I had heard negative things about this supervisor, I would have at least considered the possibility that this departing technician might be the difficult one. But I had heard this before. When he left my office, I literally laid my head in my hands in frustration.

Give your employees A reason to choose you

Employees have the power to choose whether they will work for you or not. If companies want greater employee retention, they must give them good reasons to stay. How employees go about choosing plays out something like this.   

Your employees are always evaluating everything about working for your company. Even before their first day, they are evaluating your reputation, your website, the application and interview process, and more. Once they start working for you, they evaluate the onboarding process, the training, their fellow workers, their supervisor, everything! For as long as they work for you, the evaluation never really stops.  

And there is a question that inevitably follows the evaluation, do I want to work here? Do I want to continue working here?

How often one asks themselves this question lies on a spectrum. At one end of the spectrum is the employee who loves everything about their job, and never asks himself that question.  At the other end is the employee who finds very little to like about their job and asks himself that question multiple times a day. In-between lie infinite degrees of these two extremes.

four mindsets that drive employee retention

At Retention Architects, our focus is on helping companies improve their employee retention. Think of retention as the heart of your business. A healthy retention rate pumps life-giving support throughout your organization. It is what allows you to live up to the promises you make to your customers.

When we work with clients, it helps to have a framework in which to look at their company culture and the employees who work for them. To that end, we have identified 4 mindsets that reflect the level of commitment employees have to the company they work for. And that level of commitment is what drives them to ask the question “do I want to work here?”  

Boost Employee Retention With Powerful One-On-One Conversations. Colene Rogers Support Image

The first mindset is what we call Insignificant. This means that an individual finds your company to be a difficult place to work. It is so stressful for them that they don’t hold the company in very high regard. They have one foot out the door and the other will soon follow.

The second mindset is what we call Temporary. This means that an individual finds your company to be an okay place to work, but it is only a steppingstone until something better shows up. This person may have one ear hanging out the door, always listening for other job opportunities.

The third mindset is what we call Exclusive. This means that an individual finds your company to be a good place to work. You are meeting most, if not all, of their current needs and they are not thinking about leaving.  

The fourth and final mindset is Career Company. This means that an individual loves working for your company, and they would be happy to stay with you until they retire. Likened to a romantic relationship, they would gladly marry you.  

It’s what most of your employees think that matters

These mindsets are fluid. To illustrate, here is a hypothetical situation. An employee comes in with a Temporary mindset. Their supervisor is so relational and nurturing that their mindset moves favorably up to the Exclusive mindset. Two years later their supervisor retires and is replaced with an authoritarian style leader who has little to say other than the orders for the day. The employee’s mindset quickly drops to Temporary, and it may just be a matter of time before it falls all the way to Insignificant.

Your company and leaders have the primary influence over these 4 mindsets. Remember, your employees are evaluating everything. Finding out what employees really want from their employer and then delivering on those desires will drive their mindset higher. The Gallup Q12 survey is a powerful survey that reveals very clearly what your employees want from you.

In a company with enough employees, let’s say 50 or more, you typically will find each one of the four mindsets represented among the employees. The value lies in discovering which one is predominant as this is what determines your rate of employee retention. In other words, finding out what most of your employees think.  

However, without a mechanism to do that, you may end up as surprised as I was when our prized technician suddenly left. So how do you find that out?

find out what your employees are thinking by having retention talks

The best way to find out what anyone is thinking is to sit down and have a conversation with them. We recommend that supervisors have a retention talk with each one of their direct reports at least two times a year.

This is a one-on-one conversation where the supervisor asks their direct report “how is your job working out for you? Is there anything I or the company can do to assist you?” The purpose of these conversations is to increase employee retention by communicating to the employee that the company values them and wants to do all they can to retain them.

Here are some important points about these one-on-one conversations. A retention talk:

  • Is not a performance evaluation.
  • Is a conversation focused solely on what matters to your direct reports at the time.
  • Is a conversation that works only when your direct reports trust you as their supervisor.
  • Will provide insights as to which one of the 4 mindsets your direct reports currently possess.

You can’t control all the factors that determine why your employees quit working for you. An employee’s age, personality type, their wage and salary, their level on the organizational chart, and how much they like the nature of the work are some of the things that make employees restless for a new place to work.  Even the best companies cannot overcome all of them.

That said, companies would do well to contend for the employees who work for them, at least the ones they want to keep. Is it possible to have only employees with an Exclusive or Career Company mindset? Probably not. But in the spirit of “aim small, miss small,” it is a target worth shooting for.

Having consistent retention talks can play a key role in boosting your employee retention rate.