You have some really great employees – you know who I’m talking about – the team members that just naturally stand out in a crowd. They are key employees who directly impact the success of your business. However, if these employees are not developed, nurtured and challenged, their value may erode swiftly. You can take steps to prevent this, starting with simple conversation!

In a report released in September of 2019 by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) titled “The High Cost of a Toxic Workplace Culture” respondents said employees hold managers – more than leadership or HR – most responsible for culture. They also said their managers often lack the soft skills needed to effectively listen, communicate, and ultimately lead. Armed with this information, it is time to take initiative and begin a sincere relationship development plan with your employees.

A Stay Conversation, as this communication is sometimes called, isn’t intended to be initiated after an employee says he or she is leaving and the manager says, “ what can I do to change your mind?” No, a Stay Conversation is thoughtful ongoing dialogue intended to let key talented individuals know that the company/leadership appreciates and values them.

Let’s identify the key talent that may benefit from this dialogue. There are two commonly considered values, Potential and Performance, that help identify your key talent. Performance is what you do, and potential is what you could do. Many leaders use the 9 Box Talent Management System to identify how to be most effective with the structure and content of an employee development conversation. Ideally, Stay Conversations are most valuable for the Future Leaders, Growth Employees and the High Impact Performers. By using the 9 Box Chart Below, you can also formulate other conversations to coach, motivate and engage your entire team, but for now we will focus on employees in the top three key talent categories for a Stay Conversation.

Remember, a Stay Conversation is a process that may take place over a series of months or even years, not just a one-time event. The purpose is specifically to learn more about the employee—about what’s most important to them in the workplace as well as interests and ambitions. This is your opportunity to learn directly from the employee regarding what will engage and ultimately retain them. How is this person motivated? How do they learn new things? What are their career goals and are they being properly challenged and utilized? You may be surprised about how your employee feels so much more appreciated through this demonstration of personal interest. And not only are you making someone feel valued, you are able to use this information to continually engage your employee, resulting in continued outstanding performance. These conversations don’t need to be formal meetings, or even need to be lengthy, it just requires a personal touch on behalf of your leadership. In turn, you will receive valuable workplace feedback, new ideas for consideration, and improved loyalty and trust.

The key is to spend one on one time with employees on a regular and repeated basis and learn how they wish to be recognized, challenged, or rewarded. Then it is up to you to do exactly that. Retaining top performers and the knowledge they possess is worth the time investment.