There is a common tendency among busy managers to leave well enough alone when employees are doing good work.
While high performers are often a welcome relief for managers because they regularly produce results, it is unwise to assume that they are self-sufficient and content.
It is more likely that your top talent needs regular feedback—to receive it as well as to give it—about how things are really going for them.
Without that honest exchange there is a real risk of a breakdown in the working relationship.
If, as a manager, you don’t stay engaged with your employees how will you know what really makes them tick? How will you know if they’re happy in their jobs and whether or not they plan to stay around for a while?
One of the worst ways you will find out is when they leave. Receiving notice from a talented employee may come as a complete shock if you have not been paying attention to the signs leading up to it.
Some organizations make it a regular practice to conduct exit interviews when key employees resign because they really want to understand why they chose to leave.
The reality is that asking at that point is simply too late.
I’m currently reading “Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em,” a book by authors Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans. This is a great book about why employees leave and what busy managers can do to encourage them to stay instead. Kaye and Jordan-Evans explore many of the reasons why people change employers and provide 26 management strategies, written as the ABC’s of “getting good people to stay”.
The “A” in their alphabet of strategies is for Ask. They suggest asking your best employees on a regular basis what makes them stay with the organization, as well as what it would take to make them leave. In other words, rather than use the exit interview to find out why someone is leaving, schedule “stay” interviews instead to learn what you need to do to keep them. In order for there to be an honest, useful exchange, there needs to be trust between you and your employees.
Kaye and Jordan-Evans stress the importance of this and offer tactics for building trust if it isn’t there.
Their basic message is that retaining good employees requires active communication to help you understand what keeps them motivated.
It also demands engaged leadership to help them develop their potential. When managers consciously make that effort it’s a win-win strategy.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to find out what you could have done to keep a talented employee on your team. Take the time now to ask and then act on what you hear.