The power of stay conversations

April 25, 2018 -  By

Ongoing stay conversations can be used as effective retention tools.

Although departing employees often will tell you they’re leaving for “more money,” research studies repeatedly confirm the No. 1 reason great employees leave is because of their managers. In HR circles, there’s even a saying for it: “People join companies and leave managers.”

This does not mean, however, that managers who lose good people are hopelessly inept. On the contrary, the majority are competent professionals with good relationship skills. The problem is the majority of their time is devoted to dealing with each day’s unexpected developments and the problems created by the team’s less competent players. In other words, the squeaky wheels get the oil, and the most valued, reliable workers are left feeling unseen and unappreciated—which inevitably leads to wondering if the grass is greener elsewhere. Stay conversations are a simple, effective way to keep this from happening.

Unlike performance reviews, which tend to focus on shortcomings and what the manager thinks, stay conversations are friendly, ongoing casual discussions about your employees’ job satisfaction, their ideas and opinions, as well as their short- and long-term goals and objectives.

Because employee engagement hinges directly on the quality of the manager’s relationship with his or her people, stay conversations are a highly effective employee retention tool. They not only build positive relationships but serve to continuously improve the employee’s performance—as well as that of his manager.

It’s simple. Just have a question of the day or the week in mind and ask it as the opportunity arises—when you pass by someone’s desk or meet in the hall or lunchroom. You may want to have a longer, sit-down chat once or twice a year to discuss experiences, suggestions and long-term goals in-depth, but it’s the frequency of these short interactions that will keep team members feeling valued, appreciated and, most importantly, on your team.

Suggested topics for stay conversations

Here’s a list of topics and questions to get you started.

1. Relationships. “How do you like working with the other members of your team?” “Is there anyone here you’d rather not work with?” “Do you feel you can speak with management openly and freely?” “Do I routinely do anything that frustrates you?”

2. Their jobs. “What could we do to make your job more satisfying or easier?” “What do you find most challenging or frustrating about your job and why?” “Do you have any skills or talents we’re not using?”

3. The organization. “Have we made our mission and vision clear?” “Is there anything you’d like us to do in terms of community involvement?” “If there was one thing you could change about the company, what would it be and why?” “What’s the biggest gripe you hear around here?” “What’s our dumbest rule?”

4. Their future. “Are you interested in a promotion, and do you know what it takes to earn one?” “Are you interested in taking any job-related training or courses?” “Is there anything impeding your progress or holding you back?”

5. Job satisfaction. “Do you feel we recognize your contributions?” “What kind of recognition or appreciation would be meaningful to you?” “On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied are you with your job, and what would it take to make your response a higher number?” “What would another employer have to offer in order to get you to leave us?”

Research also shows employees most often stay because of their relationships with their co-workers and managers, and those relationships trump “more money” almost every time.


This article is tagged with , and posted in April 2018, Featured

About the Author:

Mel Kleiman is the author is the founder of Humetrics. He helps companies build high-quality, frontline, hourly workforces. Reach him at

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