More important than benefits: Discussions with your employees – this is how it works

Company car, vouchers and more pay are good incentives – but not enough to retain important employees. An HR expert explains what really counts.

With professional development and “How are you?” Conversations, you retain employees who would otherwise switch to competitors.
Getty Images / Oliver Rossi

A contribution by Anne Kukereit. She is People & Culture Lead at the e-commerce agency For Sale Digital. Since 2015, Kukereit has supported the topic of modern employee management and employer branding in the agency environment.

“Off to new shores …” – what seems promising for both established companies and start-ups, changes for both as soon as their employees adopt this motto. While companies that have already grown often benefit from a moderate fluctuation rate and bring innovation into the team with a shift of employees, start-ups have more trouble maintaining their entrepreneurial productivity the more employees leave the company.

But why is revenue hitting startups so hard? Usually it is the colleagues with a lot of experience who decide to change – it hurts twice as much.

First, because they see better opportunities for further development with another employer. Almost every startup offers endless possibilities for co-creation and personal development – so the core is that startups do not show their employees enough perspectives.

And secondly because the expertise and responsibility that the outgoing employees brought to the table is difficult to replace right away – and the process is very time consuming and expensive. A further complication is that especially young companies still lack recruitment, process and (personnel) management experience in the initial phase. If processes are not yet internalized, documented and standardized, a lot of implicit and informal know-how is most recently lost when a staff change occurs. Acquiring the acquired knowledge costs startups a lot of energy and time, which could certainly be used better elsewhere. This means that young companies often have to struggle more and longer with fluctuations than established companies.

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Act before employees leave

If you look at the current developments in the industry, the image of the startup scene has gained a significant dent. Because with the mass layoffs, the tech giants are not exactly advertising themselves as employers. Even the unicorns would stumble if the remaining employees decided to leave the company before they were next time. For Gorillas, Klarna and Co. is to retain their employees now everything and everything.

How do you retain good team members and tie them to your own business? However, anyone who immediately has operational benefits in mind thinks too little. Although business bikes, job tickets, lunch coupons or attractive salaries help employer branding, in emergencies they are more decorative than effective. Anyone who is already toying with the idea of ​​changing employers will most likely not have reduced access to the gym. But what certainly helps prevent thoughts of change from occurring in the first place is listening to people and shaping their role with them.

Active listening is the key to successful employee retention

There is no magic formula for retaining employees, but there is one patent ingredient that can also be easily implemented by startups. Anyone who knows the people who work for him and their needs and goals can understand them and support them in their further development.

Just an open ear and offering calls on request is not enough. Active listening begins with active speech. In addition to regular team meetings with an Agile Master, this can be completed with two types of interviews: the specialist development interview and the “How are you?” Interview.

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Development interviews regardless of career level

In regular development meetings, the main focus should be where team members want to develop professionally and personally – regardless of classic career stages. Instead, it is about concentrating on very individual solutions free of madness about titles, career ladders and positions.

The focus can then, together with the employees, be on the joint design of the tasks and individual responsibility. Is management responsibility required? So bring it – but be well prepared and carefully accompanied. Do people primarily want to develop professionally and expand their area of ​​responsibility without at the same time becoming more of a leader? Just fine.

One of the keys to successful employee retention is right there: in professional self-determination combined with company goals. It helps to see the team as a puzzle, where the different parts intertwine and complement each other. The weakness of one can be the strength of the other. In this way, differences in skills and knowledge are evened out, and a strong network of competencies is created. Such a team structure is particularly easy to organize for startups that do not yet have hundreds of employees.

“How are you?” Interview followed by coaching

The professional development interviews should be supplemented with “How are you doing” interviews. Unlike the former, these gatherings are focused on the present and well-being in the team structure. Here we look at what the current situation looks like, what the person can use from their manager or HR department and where the current personal challenges lie.

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By actively listening and asking questions, the understanding of individual issues is sought so that, for example, internal and external coaching can be offered for future challenges and the colleague can receive the best possible support in the daily work.

If companies manage to authentically convey and keep the promise of “You can develop with us”, they offer their team members valuable professional perspectives without having to change company. Investing in the team is always an investment in your own startup. Many startups are already aware of this during the application process. Reason enough, even after you have won a talent, to keep pushing yourself and keeping your promises.

To further increase your chances of a long-term collaboration, it is essential to see the people behind your profession. Responsibility for a family, a time- or energy-intensive hobby or social commitment – we have all other topics and interests in addition to our work. Here, too, it is important to design individual solutions based on needs. A working model adapted to living conditions increases productivity and commitment. Whether it is flexitime, part-time or telework – if you feel heard, understood and supported, you form a close bond with your employer.

Listen, understand and act

However, setbacks are inevitable. Sometimes colleagues go in spite of many discussions, offers and solution suggestions. However, your own efforts are not lost. Anyone who has ever felt seen and encouraged knows where to return to. And maybe even speak out in favor of the company to colleagues or friends.

If startups invest forces in the triad of listening, understanding and acting, they are investing in a stable relationship between employer and employee at the same time. As in real life, gifts like company benefits are a nice extra. However, sincere loyalty cannot be bought in the business environment either.

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