Have you ever had an employee come up to you and say: “I quit!, I’m giving you my notice, I found another opportunity, I found a better job.” If any of those comments strike fear in your heart or make your stomach sink, you are probably not alone.  Anyone managing or supervising others, no matter what line of work, cringes when they hear those statements. Especially when the person saying it is one of your best all-star players who is critical to your team and business success.

These are good, talented employees that you simply cannot afford to lose. They are the shining light employees who make your customers happy and the experience magical. When they left have you ever asked yourself: “If I’d only known.”, “Why didn’t they tell me?”, “I could have done something.”

The simple question is has anyone asked your employees what keeps them at your business? Has anyone asked what might lure good people away? Have you? If not, why not? Why do we beat our heads against the wall trying to figure out why good people leave after they leave but neglect asking early enough to make a difference before they leave.

When coaching my clients, I strongly suggest taking the time to conduct exit interviews when good people leave. It is important to know why they are leaving. Sometimes it is out of the control of the manager but many times it surprises the managers when they find out how small the reason is for leaving. Most employees tell me that their managers never asked.

What if you don’t ask? What if you just keep on trying to guess what your top employees really want? I am sure you might guess right sometimes. Unless you ask, you really don’t know and more importantly might never have an opportunity to change the outcome.

Asking can also have a positive side effect. The person you ask will feel that you cared, they are valued and important. Many times that will lead to stronger loyalty and commitment to you and your business. In other word, just asking the question can be a great retention strategy. Just do it and ask!

Some managers find it uncomfortable to ask the direct question, “What will keep you here?” Perhaps your employees might be hesitant to answer. If so, try this and ask: “Think of a time when you stayed with one company for a fairly long time. What kept you there? Jot down two or three major reasons why you stayed as long as you did. ” What kept them before is most likely to keep them on your team today.

Exercise: Ask each employee what keeps him or her at your company or your department. Make a card or note in your computer for every employee’s answer. Every month, review the cards and ask yourself what you’ve done for that employee that relates to his or her needs. This will serve as a written reminder of what is important to your employees and what you need to do to make sure they remain a part of your team and business.

One thing I will tell you is that you might be surprised at their answers. The most common top five are:

  • Career growth and learning new things
  • Exciting, challenging and meaningful work
  • Working with great people and being a part of a team.
  • Good boss or supervisor who listens to my ideas and allows me to be involved
  • Recognition for work well done

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Stop guessing and thinking pay is the main reason that will keep your stars home and happy. If you need to, have someone else do the asking for you. It might be HR, another supervisor or even ME!  Whether it is in written form or my favorite approach, asking the question yourself, one-on-one, with your employees, just do it! This may all you need to do. It doesn’t matter so much where, when or how you ask– ASK! I promise you keeping your best employees is always worth it and Magical!