Retention Management: Onboarding instead of offboarding

September 11, 2017 Sascha Grosskopf


At some point the day will come when an employee leaves the company. However, in some cases, companies are able to hold on to their high-performers.


Before an employee wants to jump ship, ensure you have an honest and open conversation with them. You should focus less on the legal factors of the employment relationship and more on the person themselves – also known as retention management. If you are an attentive manager you should be able to address and solve any issues the employee has before they even consider leaving. But what if the employee announces their leaving at an unexpected time, like in the company canteen, and it goes unnoticed. Then the conversation is a bit more challenging.


Initially, you should consider the reasons that the employee may be leaving. Were his or her expectations not met? Are HR unable to support their employees? Consider why you think the employee is leaving before approaching them.


Spark a dialogue


Before speaking with the employee, ask yourself these questions: what causes and motives may they have for leaving?  What are their goals and preferences? Where do they want to go? What can the other company offer them that we cannot?


Often, we get through these answers without having spoken with the colleague at all. If, however, you come to the conclusion that you would like to keep the employee and want to try everything that’s necessary to retain them, then a conversation is essential. And this should not just happen spontaneously in the hall next to the photocopier. Invite them to an informal meeting. Go for a coffee or have a chat over lunch. This will make the employee feel more at ease. Also, ensure that the conversation is conducted in a separate room, away from other employees. Do not talk too much, let the employee tell you their concerns and listen to why they want to leave. In principle, the employee should have the feeling that you are aware of his or her reason for leaving and that you and the company are genuinely interested in them. At the beginning of the conversation, start with something such as, "I would like to understand why you are thinking about this next step?"


If your employee then starts explaining the reasons, let them talk, do not interrupt them.  And do not under any circumstances argue or throw accusations. If you pack your responses with questions, you will come across as understanding rather than aggressive.  Try and be diplomatic in your responses and offer some solutions to their issues. But for anyone who is set on leaving the company their mind will not be changed, no matter how hard you try. This method, however, can help with the exit management so that the work relationship ends with a level of respect.


Don’t make lazy compromises


In most cases, it is not a question of better pay, but the fact that the employees will have a better work-life balance or more opportunities elsewhere. Therefore, you need to decide how far you are willing to go to meet the goals of your employees. Don’t be too harsh, because the benefits which employees often ask for are not cheap. Incentives such as travel vouchers are not good enough – don’t make lazy compromises. Offers such as working from home are far more effective. However, remote working will not satisfy an employee looking to leave the company if their reason is a financial one.


When an employee does choose to leave, give them time to think about your offers. Do not make them decide there and then. In this case, a follow-up call should be arranged.


For any employee that you’re looking to retain, be sure to start a dialogue  to ensure there are no other options for them, such as another job within the company that covers the benefits they’re looking for. You must always be prepared for a resignation, but if you approach the situation holistically, your retention management will significantly improve.


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