Discover more in the Best of OPEN Forum series

Employee Conversations Every Owner Should Consider

Employee turnover has the power to tank a business, but it may not take a lot of money to halt the churn—just some targeted talk.
July 12, 2016

Some small businesses owners may be too busy to have real heart-to-heart conversations with their employees. They may treat their team like pieces on a chessboard, moving them around to accomplish their personal goals, then they wonder why their team turnover is so high. Their company may struggle.

Team members often want to know you care specifically about them. Here are some key conversations that you might have with your employees every quarter, ideally in person.

1. Tell them exactly what's expected of them.

This often includes their goals, suggested tactics for achieving them and where to go for help when needed. These goals will hopefully be as specific and as measurable as possible. For example, instead of stating that they need to form a network of resellers, the objective might read: “Form a network of 10 resellers by September 30. This should include signed reseller agreements, a training meeting with each company and their first sale.” Review it in detail so they understand exactly what it means, and put it in writing.

2. Discuss money or other items of value.

Both owners and employees may be uncomfortable talking about money. However, it often gets worse the longer the topic is avoided, so address it head on. Ask explicitly what rewards a particular team member values besides money. It might be titles, days off, new assignments or peer recognition. Employees often like to know what success looks like in their job and how much money (or other things of value) they will receive. It may help if they understand how to make more money (or get things they value) based on additional work or achievements.

Many team members will work harder if they see themselves as part of a larger cause.

3. Understand their personal and professional goals.

Consider asking what the employee wants to achieve while working at the business. This is sometimes called their "bullet." In other words, when they leave the company, what do they want to put on their resume as their biggest achievement during their tenure? Be specific and ask for a date that they want to achieve it by. Remember, when the employee’s goal matches the company’s goal, people may tend to stay. When they diverge, team members may be more likely to leave.

4. Explain how they can grow.

Many team members may work harder if they see themselves as part of a larger cause. Tell employees how you envision them growing inside the company. 

5. Ask what help they need.

Many employees need help but may be afraid to ask for it. Consider asking them about the type of help they need to achieve their goals and tell them how to ask for ongoing support. That “how” may be the critical part. You might give examples of what different forms of support look like within the company.

6. Tell them how they're doing.

Share on at least a monthly basis what they're doing well and what needs to be improved. It may be helpful for these examples to be as specific as possible. When things are going well, you might elaborate on why their excellent job was so critical to the company. When things are going poorly, you might tell them exactly what they are doing wrong and what should change to show improvement.

Show employees you care about them, and hopefully they’ll return the favor to your company.

Read more articles on leadership.

A version of this article was originally published on July 15, 2015.

Photo: Getty Images