The Conversation That Retains Your Best Talent

Retention strategyIn March of 2014, over 4.4 million people changed jobs.

Years of economic lethargy built a deep well of interest in moving to new opportunities. Many companies are not ready for the coming employee turnover as the economy continues to improve.

So what are you actively doing NOW to retain your best talent? The best strategy is proactive and simple: have a conversation. Do it this week with your most productive and highest contributing employees, those whom you would hate to lose. And here’s an easy template to help you with that conversation…


  • Explain that the conversation is not about improving production or performance. It is about you learning more about what matters to the employee.
  • Set a casual and open atmosphere; do not allow interruptions.
  • Emphasize the value this person brings to the city, region, and company.
  • Mention a few things that you personally really admire about this person.
  • Share personal insights and accomplishments as part of the conversation.
  • Listen, listen, listen. Ask questions for understanding.


  1. As you think about work and your career …what matters the most to you? What do you enjoy the most about working here?
  2. Does your current position give you enough of what you think is important (fill in based upon answers to first question)?
  3. Is there anything that you feel is important for your job satisfaction that you are not getting now? If yes, what ideas do you have for how this could be changed?
  4. How could I better support you? What do you need me to continue doing? Start doing? Stop doing?
  5. How aware are you of how your skills support and enhance the work of our organization/department?
  6. If you were to ever think about leaving, what would be the one thing that might make you seriously consider another offer? What will it take to keep you here? Will you please come talk to me first?

The last question, number 6, is the one that most managers avoid. But it is the most critical question. It is the question that creates the highest return on your investment in this conversation. Some managers worry that this will simply get the employee thinking about looking at other opportunities. Not true. It’s already happening or will happen.

What this question does, when asked sincerely and from a foundation of trust, is create an emotional obligation. When you’ve asked that last question, employees actually will come talk to you when a headhunter has called them and before they make a decision.

One of the best leaders for whom I ever worked made a point of holding this conversation regularly with people reporting to him. It was always a separate, special conversation that he scheduled very intentionally with each person. People who worked for him regretted leaving for the advancement opportunities he encouraged them to pursue, but they never left simply looking for greener pastures.


1 thought on “The Conversation That Retains Your Best Talent

  1. This is an excellent article, Rush. It’s all a matter of asking yourself whether you regard all your employees as just a necessity or whether you consider them valuable assets to your business.

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