Retaining Talent: Business Warfare in the 21st Century

Many companies utilize “exit interviews” as a way to uncover ways to improve the organization and keep their employees happy.


In today’s world, with each passing day, it is becoming harder and harder to find, and retain, talented service providers who really understand and stand behind your company’s core mission.  In today’s market, where price and technology advantages can be, respectively, matched and back engineered, people are really what differentiate great organizations from their competitors. We have all, at one time or another, encountered a service provider who surpassed our expectations and made us want to return. Those superstars whom we always want to do business with, because we know that our requests will not only get done, but will be done in a timely manner with a polite smile and a “thank you for your business”. But how do you retain talented team members with whom you have invested so much time and capital? How do you build a culture of loyalty amongst them when other companies may be trying to “poach” them from you?

Many companies utilize “exit interviews” as a way to uncover ways to improve the organization and keep their employees happy. Who else better to ask about what the organization can do to improve than an employee who is departing, right? We beg to disagree. By the time your organization has to conduct an exit interview, that talented service provider has most likely put in their 2 week notice and is one foot out the door and one foot into the door of your competitor. The issue with exit interviews is that by the time they are conducted it is already too late to change anything to retain that individual.

A much better, and more effective, alternative to exit interviews is what Dr. John Sullivan refers to as a “stay interview”. The definition of a stay interview is a periodic one-on-one structured retention interview between a manager and a highly valued “at-risk-of-leaving employee” that identifies and then reinforces the factors that drive an employee to stay. It also identifies and minimizes any “triggers” that might cause them to consider quitting.

It focuses on the positive aspects of what an employee enjoys about their position and promotes a proactive way to build a culture of loyalty, and ultimately retain that talent. It also spotlights what are the things that make a talented employee want to remain in the organization, so an organization can continue to reinforce and promote those crucial factors. Being proactive is key to retaining an “at risk of departure” team member. Before they have made the decision to leave their position and begin scoping out the job market, a stay interview can get them thinking about why they enjoy their position. Sometimes we can all get stuck in a rut and solely focus on the negative aspects of service provider’s job. When an individual feels stuck and going nowhere, they can begin considering the grass to be greener elsewhere. But as my colleague Donald Menard says, “the fact that the grass is a different color is not necessarily better”. A stay interview dusts off the positive reasons why that individual joined this organization in the first place and brings the positive aspects of their position back to the spotlight. And the best part of all of this? Aside from retaining a talented individual who has an integral part of creating a positive customer experience, stay interviews are relatively inexpensive. They are focused on a few “at risk” employees and take just a few hours out of a manager’s typical day. Also, they do not require any specialized outside training, just the skills of conversation.

Let us know, have you ever utilized a stay interview in your organization before? What was your experience?