The Retention Issue
Food for Thought
Windy City News
Everything You Need to Know to Conduct Stay Interviews
Candidate Corner

Food for Thought

Happy New Year! As 2014 came to a close, the team at Red Kite Recruiting witnessed quite a surge in hiring efforts in our industry. Companies are ramping up in all areas - Sales, Marketing, Research & Development, Food Safety, Quality Assurance - which leads me to believe that 2015 is going to be a healthy year for the food industry as a whole. Although recruiting is my specialty, I want to dedicate this newsletter issue to RETENTION. Why? Because we've helped you land the talent so I'd like to share some tools to safeguard the retention of said talent.

If you think your employees aren't receiving recruiting calls, think again. The market is picking up momentum at a rate I haven't witnessed since pre-recession. Candidates and Hiring Managers alike are telling us that they've experienced more calls from Recruiters since the end of Q3. So what can you do to ensure your employees don't jump ship?

1. Strong Offer. Retention begins before the employee accepts your offer. If you make an offer to a candidate for less than what they were making with their last employer because they aren't working and are "open to a step back for the right opportunity", please know that that Employee will most likely keep an ear open to listen to other opportunities. The same rule applies to lateral offers. According to Forbes, the average raise an employee gets annually is about 3% but if they switch companies that number is closer to 10-20%. The average increase we see when changing companies is 10-15% or 15-20%+ for a relocation. Candidates need to feel the love when it comes to an offer and remember in a candidate-driven market, there ARE other offers. Make them feel valued from the get go and in return you'll feel their loyalty for the long haul.

2. Onboarding. I can't stress how important the first year of onboarding is. Companies should never "wing it" when it comes to onboarding! You should have a process in place that maps out exactly what the employee will be doing for the first 30, 60, 90 days up until the 1 year anniversary. Company training, product training, plant tours, copious amounts of face time with their new Manager, face time with all accounts they will be working with, etc. Human Resources should have a plan in order to get benefits set up, laptops, phones, credit cards ordered and so on. This person just left one company to come work for yours - during the onboarding phase they are asking themselves one question and one question only. "Did I make the right decision?" If your onboarding phase is unorganized or if they don't have the critical face to face time with their new manager or team, the answer will be No.

3. Strong Leadership. Let's face it. Not every leader is a great leader and some aren't even good. As the saying goes, "People don't leave bad companies, they leave bad Managers". It's true and we hear it every day from candidates. So what are you to do when you have a polarizing personality in your Senior Leadership Team who ruffles feathers in most meetings instead of motivating and inspiring the group? The good news is that management skills CAN be taught. If you don't know how then hire someone. Not every good leader was born a leader; they learned from Mentors, read books about the topic and it probably took a good portion of their career to cultivate the leadership style that works for them. It doesn't come naturally for everyone so many executives hire coaches to teach them how to foster a style that works for that particular organization or to improve upon less-than-stellar communication skills. Coaches offer a myriad of options from one-on-one training, group training to seminars and programs for large teams. For an intro to a great communications coach, see below.

4. Stay Interviews. How do you know your employees are happy if you aren't asking them, "Why do stay?" The Stay Interview demonstrates to your Employee that you care and more importantly that you value them AND their happiness. This also provides you a unique opportunity to find out why people like working for you and your Company or what can be improved upon. There is nothing worse than receiving a call from a candidate whom I placed 6 months previously who tells me that the job is nothing like it was described. We've heard it all - they are overwhelmed and overworked to they are bored, not challenged and underutilized. As their Manager, it's your job to touch base with them on a fairly regular basis to ensure that they don't feel like the wool was pulled over their eyes. Stay Interviews aren't just for new employees but for all of your valued employees. The biggest mistake you can make after you hire someone, is to put them on autopilot. For step by step instructions on how to conduct Stay Interviews, click here.

When we are busy it is very easy to get caught up in the day to day demands of the business; heck I'm guilty of it myself! However when we fail to look "under the hood" in our organizations we put ourselves in danger of losing our employees. Making a commitment to invest in the asset most likely to appreciate - your own people - is what truly positions your company for its greatest success!

I hope you find these tips helpful and I hope that 2015 continues to be a prosperous year for all!

Deanna O'Connell
Owner & Managing Partner

Windy City News

Red Kite is thrilled to announce a partnership with Capture Consulting, a full service communications firm specializing in all aspects of executive leadership development. This partnership will serve as a value added service to our clients who want to help their senior leadership staff and sales teams strengthen communication and presentation skills.

Jennifer Wojan is CEO of Capture Consulting, whose service areas of expertise include strategic communications consulting, sales programming, media and public speaking training, and building communication best practices for organizations. All coaching programs are designed to increase productivity and profits by taking teams to their top level of performance by arming them with advanced communication and presentation skill sets.

A note from Jennifer:

Speaking to the theme of employee retention and joining in on the dialogue, in my experience coaching within companies, one of the most important and contributing factors in employee retention is the role of management. An individual manager who fails to engage employees, who doesn't make them feel seen and valued, not only contributes to decreasing productivity, but also serves as a catalyst for employees to leave. Managers often lose their effectiveness or even alienate employees to varying degrees, not because they aren't smart enough, but because they aren't aware of how their personal leadership and communication styles impact the people around them.

As a coach, I address this challenge often within companies by guiding leaders to consider questions such as, What is my particular leadership style? How is it positively or negatively serving me? How can I adjust my particular communication patterns to gain greater credibility and trust with those I lead? We all have "blind spots" and through the coaching process, managers learn to identify and address their own blind spots as leaders to positively impact the way in which they engage with others. They learn to use a variety of leadership and relational styles, combined with consistent communication to improve performance, with a focus on empowering others to reach their full potential. Exceptional leaders bring out the best in people and inspire employees to stay!

If you would like further information on Capture Consulting's services please contact Jennifer at 312-613-5366 or

Everything You Need to Know to Conduct Stay Interviews

by Dr. John Sullivan

The complete guide on how to use stay interviews to improve retention

Many firms use exit interviews to find out why employees are leaving their jobs. Unfortunately, asking an employee on their last day “why are you leaving?” doesn’t provide useful information in time to prevent the turnover. A superior approach that I’ve been recommending for over 20 years is a “stay interview.” I alternatively call it a “pre-exit interview,” because it occurs before there is any hint that an employee is about to exit the firm. A stay interview helps you understand why employees stay, so that those important factors can be reinforced.

Definition: A “stay interview” is a periodic one-on-one structured retention interview between a manager and a highly valued “at-risk-of-leaving employee” that identifies and then reinforces the factors that drive an employee to stay. It also identifies and minimizes any “triggers” that might cause them to consider quitting.

The Many Benefits of Why-do-You-Stay? Interviews

Some of the reasons why stay interviews have proven to be an effective retention tool over the years include:

  • They stimulate the employee  most employees are excited simply by the fact that the organization is concerned about their future and that their manager took the time to consult with them.
  • Personalized – unlike engagement surveys and many other retention tools that are focused on what excites a large number of employees, this approach is customized to a single identifiable individual and their wants.
  • They are limited to key employees – by having a “stay” discussion exclusively with your key employees who are at risk of leaving, you focus the manager’s effort and you minimize the overall time that the manager must devote to retention.
  • They include actions – unlike exit interviews, which only identify problems, stay interviews also encourage the parties to identify actions that can improve the employee experience and actions that can help eliminate any major frustrators or turnover triggers.
  • Lower employee emotions – the discussion occurs before the employee has made the decision to consider leaving. As a result, the emotions of the employee (and perhaps the manager) are lower.
  • Low time pressure on the manager – because the employee is not actively interviewing for a job, there is less time pressure on the manager to immediately solve the identified retention issues.
  • A focus on the positive – most of the interview is focused on identifying and then reinforcing the positive factors that the employee enjoys about their job. Although some negative factors may be covered, they are not the primary focus of the interview.
  • They don’t require training – most managers can successfully conduct stay interviews without any formal training. A simple “how-to toolkit” is generally all that a manager needs to successfully conduct these interviews.
  • They are inexpensive – these informal interviews don’t require a budget. In most cases, an hour of a manager and an employee’s time are the only major cost factors.

20 Possible Stay-interview Questions to Consider

There is no required standard set of questions that must be used in stay interviews. Ideally however, you want to limit the number of questions that you select so that you finish the interview within one hour. I have broken the type of questions to select from into four different categories.

A)   Introductory questions

  1. Approaching the employee – approach the targeted employee during a lull period and use an introductory statement something along this line. “I want you to know that both I and the firm appreciate your commitment to the firm and the great work that you have been doing. If you have a few minutes, I would like to have an informal conversation with you to ensure that we fully understand the factors that make you loyal and that keep you here, and any possible actions that we can take to bolster your job experience and to keep you happy.”
  2. Starting the interview – start the interview with a simple introductory statement like the following. “Thanks for taking the time to have this discussion. As one of our key employees, I want to informally pose some simple questions that can help me to understand the factors that cause you to enjoy and stay in your current role. During the interview I will also use a series of questions in order to identify any factor that could possibly frustrate you to the point where you might even begin to consider other job opportunities.”

B) Identify the factors that make the employee want to stay

  1. Positive stay factors – tell me specifically, what factors cause you to enjoy your current job and work situation (including people, job, rewards, job content, coworkers, management etc.), and as a result, they contribute to your staying at our firm as long as you have? Help us identify the factors that make you more passionate, committed, and loyal to your team and the firm.
  2. Reasons you give to others – if you have ever been asked by a close friend or have been contacted by an external recruiter, can you tell me what reasons you gave them for wanting to stay at our firm?
  3. “Best work of your life” factors – do you feel that you are currently doing “the best work of your life?” Can you list for me the factors that could contribute to you” doing the best for your life?” (Note: this is the No. 1 key retention factor for top performers)
  4. “Job impact” factors – do you feel that your work makes a difference in the company and that externally it has a noticeable impact on customers and the world? Do you also feel that your coworkers think that you make a difference? (Note: this is the No.2 key retention factor for top performers.)
  5. Fully used factors – do you feel “fully utilized” in your current role? If so, can you identify the factors that make you feel fully utilized? Are there additional things that we can do to more fully take advantage of your talents and interests?
  6. Are you listened to and valued – do your colleagues and teammates listen to you and do they value your ideas, inputs, and decisions? How can that area be improved?

C) Identify the positive actions related to retention that might further increase this employee’s loyalty and commitment to your firm

  1. Better managed – if you “managed yourself,” what would you do differently (in relation to managing “you”), that I, as your current manager, don’t currently do?
  2. More positive elements and fewer less desirable ones – can you make a list of the elements or motivation factors in your current role that you like best and that you would like “more of? What factors would you miss most if you transferred you to a completely different job? What things do you really miss from your last job at the firm? Can you also make a list of the less-desirable elements or frustrators in your current role that you would like to do “less of?” Are there any frustration factors that keep you up at night, that enter your mind while driving to work, or that cause you to dread having to come to work at all?
  3. Dream job – if you were given the opportunity to redesign your current role, can you make a list of the key factors that you would include in your “dream job?”
  4. Where would you like to be – can you help us understand your career progression expectations and let us know where you would like to be in the organization two years from now?
  5. Challenge factors – can you list for us the most challenging but exciting aspects of your current job situation? Are there actions that we can take to further challenge you?
  6. Recognition – can you highlight any recent recognition and acknowledgment that you have received that increased your commitment and loyalty? Are there actions that we can take to further recognize you?
  7. Exposure – can you highlight the recent exposure to executives and decision makers that you have experienced? And are there ways that we could increase or improve that exposure?
  8.  Learning, growth, and leadership – can you highlight for me your positive experiences in the area of learning, development, and growth? And are there ways where we could increase that growth? The employee should also be asked if they desire to move into a leadership role, and if so, what are their expectations, their timetable, and their concerns?

D) Identify the possible “triggers” that may cause the employee to consider leaving

Triggers are occurrences or events that driver loyal employees to at least begin considering looking for new job.

  1. Identify possible retention triggers – if you were to ever begin to consider leaving … help me understand what kind of “triggers” or negative factors that might cause you to consider leaving? Please include both job and company trigger factors.
  2. Recent frustrators – think back to a time in the last 12 months when you have been at least slightly frustrated or anxious about your current role. Can you list for me the frustration factor or factors that most contributed to that anxiety? Can you also help me understand what eventually happened to lower that frustration level?
  3. Others made you think – if you’ve had conversations with other employees who have considered leaving or who have actually left our firm, did any of the reasons that they provided for leaving cause you to at least partially nod in agreement? If so, can you list those factors and tell me why they seemed to be at least partially justifiable as a reason for leaving to you?
  4. Past triggers – what are the prime factors that caused you to leave your last two jobs? Are there factors from your previous jobs that you hope you will never have to experience again at our firm?

There Are 4 Possible “Stay-interview” Formats to Consider

If you know why an individual employee stays, you can obviously reinforce those factors. And if you know far enough in advance what factors might cause them to leave, you can get a head start in ensuring those turnover causes never occur. If you have decided to try these interviews, here are four “why-do-you-stay?” formats to consider using depending on your situation. These formats include:

  1. A one-on-one interview with their manager – have their manager ask the targeted employee questions during a face-to-face interview. Getting managers to talk to their own employees is such a powerful tool, this format beats the other options hands down. Skype and telephone interviews are also acceptable as close alternatives.
  2. A one-on-one interview with HR – in cases where the employee’s manager may be reluctant or where they may themselves be part of the problem, an HR professional can be assigned to conduct the interview. Because they are experienced interviewers, in some cases, the results can actually be more accurate and insightful.
  3. Questionnaires/ Surveys provided to current employees – providing a sample of the currently targeted employees with an electronic survey or questionnaire that asks the same questions in item No. 1 above is an acceptable option. This approach may actually be required for remotely located or shift employees.
  4. A focus group covering a small group of employees – in this format, you ask a group of targeted employees in the same job family why they stay and what might cause them to leave. Remember not to overgeneralize with group wide stay or turnover factors.

Additional Stay-interview Issues, and Actions 

This section contains additional elements, issues, and key questions.

  • When to approach the employee – stay interviews should be scheduled periodically — usually once a year during a slack business period. It’s usually a good idea to interview all key employees around the same time, so that you can implement common actions at the same time. Conducting them less frequently than every two years can be problematic in periods of high turnover. For new hires who naturally have a higher risk of leaving, conduct stay interviews at four and eight months.
  • Handling possible resistance – if an individual employee has never participated in a stay interview, you should expect some level of anxiety and even resistance simply because they’re not accustomed to talking about their own motivators and frustrators. Typical issues that you might encounter include: concern that you are questioning their loyalty or commitment, being uncomfortable discussing their personal feelings, not having sufficient time to prepare for the discussion, and the fact that the manager doing the interview may be a primary contributor to their frustrations.
  • Who to select for stay interviews – don’t cover every employee; prioritize your employees based on your estimate of the negative dollar business impact if they left and the probability that they might actually leave within the next 12 months.
  • What if the identified issues are irresolvable? — in a small percentage of cases, these interviews will bring up some major problems and issues that can’t simply be easily resolved by their manager. In those cases, HR should be consulted but if the issue cannot be resolved, a longer-term “replacement plan” as well as a shorter term “backfill plan” will be needed in case the interview actually triggers the employee to leave.
  • Develop a stay interview tool kit — HR must accept responsibility for developing an effective stay interview approach that all managers can follow. Use the toolkit format because it gives managers choices, so that they can customize the approach to their own situation. The toolkit should include dos and don’ts, frequently asked questions and answers, a directory of help services, a list of possible “stay questions” to ask the employee, and most importantly, a list of acceptable retention actions that are available to any manager for improving an employee’s job and for minimizing possible retention triggers.
  • Consider related retention actions – most organizations that find stay interviews to be highly impactful should also consider implementing post-exit interviews. Post exit interviews occur months after an employee has left. These delayed interviews often reveal the “real underlying reasons” why key people left. Re-recruiting is another tool that should also be considered. Recruiting is where key employees are approached periodically with the goal of completely restructuring their job, so that it becomes at least as exciting as any job that an external recruiter might be able to offer them.

Final Thoughts

The concept of “stay interviews” is simple. You must periodically work with key employees to increase the number of reasons why they stay and to minimize anything that frustrates them and that may act to trigger their departure.

If you are a manager and you think that these interviews may be unnecessary, and if you expect to win “The War To Keep Your Employees,” you must forever bury the notion that the best employees will “naturally” stay at your firm without you having to periodically take major actions.

Employee retention is growing as an issue because we live in a world where the minute after a manager does something to anger or frustrate an employee, the employee can react negatively by instantly applying for a new job by simply pushing a single button on their smart phone. This “stay interview” approach is a combination of customer relationship management and market research approaches. And by using it, HR can move retention closer to becoming a more data-driven function.

The stay interview has proven to be easy to learn and highly effective, almost any manager can dramatically reduce their turnover rate and save hundreds of thousands of dollars by implementing this simple and inexpensive tool.

Candidate Corner

So you got the job. Great!!! NOW what?!?
by Debra Donston-Miller

You don't just start a new job these days; you onboard. TheLadders solicited advice from career development and HR experts on the best ways to maximize those first days and months in a new position. Here are 10 onramps to successful onboarding.

1. Don't wait for the first day. The first steps to success in a new job begin before the first day, said Ian Ide, a partner in the Technology Division of Winter, Wyman. "After accepting an offer you should speak directly with all appropriate parties, including both the hiring manager and human resources," he said. "During these calls, you should convey your excitement and enthusiasm for your new role.“

2. Make early connections on social media. Social-networking sites such as LinkedIn provide an opportunity to connect with members of your new organization even before you walk through the door, experts said. As with anything social, however, take care to put your best professional foot forward and ensure that those pictures of your hard-partying college days have long been expunged from any of your online profiles.

3. Create a solid 30-/60-/90-day plan. Working with your new manager, map out a course to follow during your initiation into the company, said Jennifer Remis, a senior learning associate at Vistaprint. Set goals with measurable benchmarks for success for one, two and three months on the job. These goals should be developed within the framework of overall business goals and informed by ongoing meetings with key colleagues. "Be clear on how your success will be measured so that you'll know where, and on what, to focus your attention immediately and over the longer term," added Roy Cohen, author of "The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide."

4. Identify key resources and how to access them. Cohen said it's important to identify the resources you must have to do your job. They could be as simple as office supplies or getting your phone connected to a more significant investment such as access to technology. The sooner you acquire basic equipment, the faster you can contribute — and it’s also an opportunity to get to know the support team at your new job.

5. Develop relationships with the go-to people within the organization. Speaking of support, there are always individuals within any company that can help you get things done because of their institutional knowledge or their relationships with key people within the organization, said Dianne Shaddock Austin, principal, Easy Small Business HR. Find out who those people are and develop a relationship with them. "These are the people that can help you in a pinch," she added, "whether it's the receptionist or the person in the mailroom."

6. Seek opportunities to make a difference. While distinguishing yourself as the friendly, hard-working new guy, scour the landscape for the best place to make the greatest changes for the better, suggested Sean O'Neil, principal, One to One Leadership. "Maybe the company lacks a desirable expertise that you have or could acquire," he said. "Perhaps there's a new product idea or vertical market to attack. Just keep eyes and ears peeled. Once your first 30 days over, just being nice and omnipresent won't cut the mustard. You're going to need to bring real value."

7. Bring a little humility to the new job. While you want to make an impression, it's important for the new guy to temper enthusiasm with a little humility and a show of respect for the people and events that have preceded him. Vivian Scott, author of "Conflict Resolution at Work for Dummies," suggests asking questions that start with a statement of appreciation for current employees. She added that if you find someone is upset with you, apologize even if you don't think you should have to. "Regardless of what you might understand about the political climate, you never really know who's who or who might end up being your boss," she said.

8. Course-correct when necessary. Make sure to check in every week or two with your hiring manager to course-correct in any areas where she sees you veering off track, recommended Elene Cafasso, an executive coach at Enerpace. "Use these meetings to also renegotiate deliverables and manage expectations as you learn more from your stakeholders," she added. "Don't be afraid to ask for your manager's assistance when needed."

9. Keep a positive attitude. Any new position is bound to incur some minor disappointments as well as pleasant surprises, said Winter, Wyman's Ide. "The first few weeks involve a transition from the excitement of the offer and interview process to the reality of the role," he said. "Displaying energy and enthusiasm during this period will go a long way toward making a positive impression with all of your colleagues."

10. Give yourself a break. Starting a new job is high on the stress meter. Remember that everyone knows you are new, and that no one (hopefully) expects perfection right out of the gate. And know that your second 90 days are sure to be more comfortable than the first.

Quick Links:
Click HERE to see
what's cookin' at

What are you worth?




Something to Chew On:
"Employee loyalty begins with employer loyalty. Your employees should know that if they do the job they were hired to do with a reasonable amount of competence and efficiency, you will support them."
- Harvey Mackay

"Showing leadership doesn't mean every employee will run the organization; that would lead to chaos. Businesses do need someone to set the vision and then lead the team to it."
- Robin S. Sharma

"An employee's motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager."
- Bob Nelson

"Understanding your employee's perspective can go a long way towards increasing productivity and happiness."
- Kathryn Minshew

Newsletter Sign Up:
* required
Red Kite recruiting - Catering to Careers in the Food Industry