Hey manager, pop quiz! When do you ask your people “what can I do to get you to stay?” Most people will answer: “when they are getting ready to leave.”
Why? At that point, it’s too late. They’ve already gone through the process and made their peace with leaving. Think about it, you have a team member who is either unhappy and actively looking for a new opportunity, or you have a team member who hears about another opportunity. Regardless, their decision to pursue that opportunity, to at least learn more about it, comes long before they actually decide to leave.
They still have to consider the cost of leaving, any pay difference, cultural changes, distance from home – a host of tangible dynamics all factor into the decision to stay or to go. By the time they’re ready to leave, it’s probably too late. Asking the question will do little good unless you are willing to engage in a bidding war with an opponent who has made an offer you are not familiar with. You are moving forward blindly hoping to hit the right mark.
So, instead of waiting until they are ready to go to get them to stay, make it increasingly harder for them to want to leave by making what they are doing for you so enriching and fulfilling a new opportunity would truly have to be a dream job for them to even think about jumping ship.
Now, if you think this is all about coddling and begging, fuggedaboutit. That’s not how we operate. Sure, these are valuable people, so valuable in fact they are apt to be actively recruited by your competition. But, instead of saying a bunch of stuff to get them to stay, or making innumerable promises you may or may not be able to keep, change their work environment to keep them engaged and excited about what they are already doing.
Let me say that again: if your employee is actively engaged and excited about their work, they are much less likely to look around for greener grass. So … what, then? How can you learn what the sort of work or management style will keep your people most engaged and excited?
Why not ask them? Instead of waiting until an exit interview to find out why they are leaving, conduct a “you’re here, now what” interview to learn more about their expectations and understanding of your expectations of them. When both of you better understand each other and the job in question, you can work together to find the best way to implement their skillset. After all, you hired them for a reason. Get their best … and they will be much less likely to sail away.