Hopefully, we all have key team members who are excellent at their job and incredibly valuable to the practice, whose departure would create stress and challenges, and whose talent would be nearly impossible to replace. Retaining these employees is critical to your overall success.
While you may feel this way about them, when’s the last time you asked these individuals how they’re doing? Are they as committed to the practice as you think they are? Are you making assumptions about their overall happiness simply because you’re happy with them and they’re your top performing employees? Bottom line: are you taking them for granted?
Maybe it’s time for a “stay conversation.” A stay conversation is when a leader/manager checks in with their current staff to make sure they’re having a good experience that supports staying. Ideally, these conversations should happen on an ongoing basis. It’s also good to align these conversations with key milestones (e.g., anniversaries) and career risk triggers such as a change in responsibilities, change in management, or promotions of other employees.
To start, be sure you let your employee know this is not a performance review; it’s a check-in to see how they’re doing and how you can support them. Let them know they’re valued and appreciated, and that you just want to make sure their experience at work is a good one.
More by Rebecca Boartfield and Tim Twigg
Questions for your "stay conversation"
- How do you feel about work in general?
- What part of your job do you enjoy the most?
- What aspect of your job do you like the least?
- Are you able to balance work and home?
- What has been the biggest challenge for you this year/quarter, and is there anything I can do to better support you?
- What can I do differently to support you and the team?
- Is there anything you’d like feedback from me about?
- Do you feel like you’re learning and growing here? If not, is there anything I can do to improve your experience?
Try to avoid making this conversation feel driven by an agenda; it’s a conversation, not a test, and does not need to meet any specific goal other than you hearing about their experience. Schedule this conversation to occur when your head is clear, and you can focus. Ask yourself, “What would the impact be on me and the team if this person left tomorrow?” Approach it with the intention of preventing that.
More pointers for this conversation
- Turn off notifications and put away all distractions. Focus 100% on this conversation.
- Set the context of the meeting; start with a general question to get into a flow before probing deeper.
- Actively listen.
- Know that not everything will be solvable (e.g., giving a raise). But understanding what’s going on is better than ignoring it and can help identify a path forward.
- When something is working, celebrate it. (“That’s great to hear, I feel the same way.”) Then reflect on it. (“What do you see that’s been making a difference?”)
- When the person is sharing frustrations or complaints, listen for their commitment, reframe it, and ask about what you can do to address it together. For example, “I feel like I’m doing the same thing every single day, and I’m not getting anywhere in my career.” Reframe: “I get you’re really committed to growing, and right now you feel like that’s not happening.” Reflect: “What do you feel we could do together to make a difference for you?”
- Close the conversation by establishing the next steps in writing and expressing gratitude for their willingness to share.
- Hands down, this is more work than just assuming everything is OK, hoping for the best, and doing nothing. But it is a lot less work than finding and onboarding a replacement for these individuals. Wouldn’t you rather spend your time (and money) keeping good employees rather than replacing them? Don’t bury your head in the sand. Refocus your efforts on being proactive rather than reactive. It’s better for everyone!
Editor's note: This article appeared in the September 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.