Whatever you want to call it—the Great Resignation, the Big Quit, the Great Reshuffle—it’s clear that this job-hopping moment isn’t losing steam anytime soon. Just under half of workers are now actively or passively job-hunting, a statistic that’s left companies scrambling with the question: How do we keep employees from leaving?
One uncomfortable answer: Sometimes, you don’t need to try.
That’s not an inherently bad thing. “Not everyone should stay within their role,” Tania Luna, co-founder of LifeLabs Learning, a management training company, shared in a recent interview with Charter. Many organizations have certain roles or role types that could not possibly offer everyone a promotion (think sales development or customer service). Luna said that sometimes, “supporting them in leaving thoughtfully is going to actually lead to better outcomes for the team in the short-term and the long-term.”
Which leads to another uncomfortable answer to “How do we keep employees from leaving?”: It might be the wrong question. And asking it now may be a sign that you’re already behind.
Often, managers concerned about retention will conduct a round of stay interviews—conversations about why an employee isn’t leaving, a common band-aid solution when attrition starts to rise. “A more sustainable solution,” Luna said in her interview, is for managers to have productive one-on-one meetings with their direct reports weekly or every other week, baking those questions into regular discussion.
“As a leader or a manager, instead of immediately saying, ‘How do we keep people from leaving?’, start with linking up to ‘What do I want for my team?’” she explained. “Because then you’re designing an employee experience through the lens of a goal versus playing defense and being responsive and reactive to fear.”
To begin thinking about retention in a proactive way, Luna, who is also the co-author with LeeAnn Renninger of the new book The Leader Lab: Core Skills to Become a Great Manager, Faster, recommended taking a step back and asking questions like:
- What is our vision for engaging and retaining our team?
- Do we genuinely want to retain the people here?
- Why do we want to retain the people here?
- What is ideal in terms of engagement?
- What is ideal in terms of retention?
Research supports this more proactive approach to retention: In a recent Gallup survey, just over half of employees said that in their last three months on the job before they quit, no one—including their manager—had talked to them about how they were feeling in their role.
“As a manager, it’s so important to think of ourselves as catalysts of great performance and ask ourselves, ‘What can we do to be in service of bringing out the best in others?’” said Luna. That means asking more questions: Lifelabs research found that most people ask two questions in a 15-minute meeting, while the best managers ask 10. Here are a few questions she highlighted in her interview that managers can use to help understand what their employees need to feel supported on the job:
- What factors, either within or outside the company, are supporting or impeding your success?
- Is there something that we could do within your job right now that would make you excited?
- If you do want to leave, could you already be doing something in your work now that would prepare you for the next step and open doors for you outside of this organization?
When managers make questions like these a regular part of how they interact with their employees, “there’s just a lot more focus on making sure the person feels seen and cared for as a human being,” said Luna. And when people are made to feel that way, they’re more likely to become advocates for your organization, no matter how long they stay.