Solving The Retention Puzzle (Part 8)

In Part 1 of this series, I postulated a formula for some of the “known” elements. We cannot forget the importance of these words from Merrill Lynch: “At no previous time has human capital been so important -- finding, developing, and retaining knowledgeable workers will be mission-critical functions in the New Economy.” The formula suggests that each of this factors can contribute to the success – or failure – of a retention strategy. Successful Retention = f (Objective Expectations, Compensation, Training, Recognition, Feedback, Organizational Culture, and…) In summary, there are three important points:
  1. Retention is not easy – it’s a complicated, critical strategy for organizations.
  2. Sounds repetitive – but it’s not “three easy steps.”
  3. There are other factors, some of which are uncontrollable. Some of your best people leave for reasons completely unrelated to the best management and retention strategies.
The ideas identified in the first parts of this series are easy to describe – tough to implement. Each of the topics could be explored in its own series of articles. But to conclude the series with a practical application that addresses many of the factors, here are some guidelines for a “Retention Interview.”

Retention Interview

I will make a somewhat dangerous assumption here – that a new employee, clearly a potential peak performer, has been hired based on performance-based principles not on his or her ability to just “get the job.” The person has started the new job with clear expectations of what it will take to succeed and with the talent and “energy” to be successful. It’s a bold assumption given the clear need for better hiring procedures in many organizations. However, given this assumption, managers should sit down with a new employee – within the first two to four weeks, and conduct a “Retention Interview.” Based on the different areas covered, the interview could be conducted over multiple sessions provided some in-depth relationship building between the manager and the employee. The employee’s direct supervisor, usually a Manager, should always be the one conducting the process. This is not a Human Resources function – although HR could benefit from collection of the responses from the interviews.

Recognition Questions

  1. During the hiring process, we discussed significant accomplishments in your previous positions. How were you recognized for these accomplishments? Which forms of recognition did you like the most? Was there any recognition that you did not want?
  2. What kind of recognition would you like to receive for results and efforts that meet the performance objectives we have set for you?
  3. What about for results that exceed these expectations?

Feedback Questions

  1. Describe for me a specific situation where you received positive feedback about your performance. How was it delivered? How did you feel about the way it was delivered?
  2. What about a specific situation where you received “constructive feedback (criticism) on your performance? How was it delivered? How did you feel about the way it was delivered?
  3. On a day-to-day basis, how do want to receive feedback about your performance?
It should be obvious but it’s important to record this information – to create a “Retention Profile” for the employee.

Training/Learning Questions

  1. What are your development goals in terms of learning/training for your position? Outside of your work? What are your daily (or weekly) learning goals?
  2. How are you expecting the company to support these goals?
  3. What do you see as your role in promoting learning/training for your colleagues/subordinates?

Organizational Culture Questions

  1. What’s one thing about this job, this company, which is likely the strongest factor that would influence your decision to continue to work here?
  2. What’s one thing about this job, this company, which is most likely to influence you to leave?
  3. What are the things you’ve learned in your first few days, weeks, here that are impacting how you need to act “to fit in?”

Expectation Questions

Note: While there is an element of “expectations” that can be addressed during this early “Retention Interview,” there is the caution note above that it’s based on clear expectations presented as part of a performance-based hiring process. It’s also a component that might come after 6-12 months – when expectations should be reviewed regularly.
  1. How have the expectations for your performance compared to what was presented to you as part of the hiring process? As part of your orientation (or on-boarding)?
  2. How have the expectations for your performance changed during the first six months? First year?
  3. If you could change a key element of your job in terms of expectations, what would it be?
If organizations are going to improve their rates of retention, particularly for top performing employees, if they’re going to more effectively address the “quit and stay” problem with employees that are no longer motivated to meet expectations in today’s work environment, the work of retention is going to have to be taken more seriously. They’re going to have to develop a more structured approach that respects the complexity – and even the unknowns – of retention.


Solving The Retention Puzzle (Part 1) Solving The Retention Puzzle (Part 2) Solving The Retention Puzzle (Part 3) Solving The Retention Puzzle (Part 4) Solving The Retention Puzzle (Part 5) Solving The Retention Puzzle (Part 6) Solving The Retention Puzzle (Part 7)

About the author

Jim Schreier is a management consultant with a focus on management, leadership, including performance-based hiring and interviewing skills. Visit his website at     Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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