How leaders can use ‘stay conversations’ to re-engage employees

Asking staff outright whether they enjoy their job can be a daunting prospect, but it is those honest conversations that will help ensure you keep your key people, says Anita Grantham

Credit: BambooHR

The chaos of the past few years has changed the workplace like no other time in recent history. Starting with the pandemic-driven mass exodus to home-based work and continuing through the ‘great resignation’ – HR professionals are more important than ever. 

In this environment, the mandate for companies throughout has become clear: retain your best people. 

One way companies can combat the exodus of disengaged people is by shifting focus to include the employee experience. Leaders need to add ‘stay conversations’ into their arsenal and not be afraid to ask the questions employees need to hear. 

Here are three ways to implement ‘stay conversations’ and ensure those discussions lead to people wanting to remain with your company: 

Hold honest conversations

One of the most effective and essential ways to evaluate how your team members are feeling is simple: ask them. We often overlook the power of an honest conversation simply because we are afraid of what we might hear. But we shouldn't be: if there is a problem, knowing about it means you can do something. 

Ask your team members how they are feeling. When people feel stress in their jobs, it can often be due to challenges outside the workplace, so find out where they may be facing hurdles. 

Be open and direct with your questions. I like to ask, point blank: “If a recruiter called you today with the right opportunity and it was the right time in your life, would you take the job?” The answers are always illuminating if you don’t talk around it and give people the freedom to be honest. 

Being nervous is an understandable emotion when it comes to discussing workplace challenges with your team, because then they become real. Unfortunately, as the ‘great resignation’ and trends like ‘quiet quitting’ show, the problems are already very real. Holding honest conversations will help you and your team get to the heart of the matter and understand what is holding people back. 

Focus on problem solving and re-engagement

Once you have overcome any anxiety about open conversations and your people are willingly sharing their challenges with you, the next step is to help re-engage them in the workplace.

Start by finding out whether they are willing to stay if you can address their frustrations and difficulties. In my experience, most people are. You may encounter someone who just wants a fresh start, but in those cases, helping them find a new opportunity on a different team or even at another company is likely the best outcome for all parties. 

It is also important to let your team members know you care, and if they are willing to stay, you don’t want them to go. People will never know you want them around if you don’t tell them. I typically ask those on my team to let me know before they return a recruiter’s call, to give me a chance to keep them around. 

Once you have clearly understood the problems driving team members away, solving them requires persistent effort. You can’t just patch up a problem and hope it goes away. 

Solving problems for people requires effort and resources, and the more you are willing to work, the better your team will respond. If you don’t walk the walk, the people who are already struggling will become even more disengaged. 

Help team members see their positive impact

As you establish rock solid patterns of holding honest conversations and solving problems, take time to share positive feedback and reinforcement with team members. 

One of the best ways to encourage engagement from your team is by helping them see the difference they make. Finding ways to demonstrate each individual’s positive impact within the organisation will go a long way to keeping team members motivated. 

Efforts to retain your employees will also directly benefit customer retention, which is vitally important to a business. The number one way to retain customers is by keeping your top employees. 

Customers want to interact with team members who love their jobs, have been with the organisation for a while and have a long track record of success. Ultimately, when your employees project a sense of stability and value, it will help people feel confident in your products and services. 

Smart leaders that hold ‘stay conversations’ on a regular basis and take action as needed will build open, innovative teams that tackle business problems with ease. As your people grow accustomed to a leader who actively listens, they will feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts – including ideas and inspiration. 

The employee experience should be the backbone of a company. Keeping your employees engaged is the best way to encourage team members to stay. Learning about problems through open conversations, addressing challenges and demonstrating employees' positive impact will help ensure you hold on to your key people.

Anita Grantham is head of HR at BambooHR