Retention Toolkit for Leaders & Managers – Building Culture and Retention in your Organization


TAA Education Foundation recently launched a new resource for our most important asset, our people! As we all know, employee turnover is costly for your team and your company. Retaining your team not only saves money but also boosts productivity and increases engagement on your team, which ultimately impacts your customers and bottom line. Before looking at engagement and retention at an individual level, it is important to think about the culture you are helping to create with your team and across the organization. Cultures that tend to have higher rates of retention and employee engagement support an atmosphere where employees feel heard and diverse perspectives are valued, see the importance of work and feel a sense of purpose, feel trusted and trust leadership, are encouraged to learn and grow, and where their wellness and work-life and work-life balance are prioritized.

To learn more and download your own copy of the TAA Education Foundation Retention Toolkit, please visit The toolkit includes a Retention Action Plan and Building Your Bench worksheets in addition to Stay Interview Guide with sample script and recommended actions by reason for leaving. Don’t forget to sign up to receive alerts when new resources are added.

As managers and leaders, it is your job to ensure your teams are engaged, focused on the right work, and growing and developing in their careers. Understanding what keeps each employee at your company and what might make them leave, is all part of a manager’s work to retain a productive and happy team. There are a few signs that may indicate that someone is at high risk of resigning. These include taking more time off than usual, less active participation in work and team, less interested in growth or development opportunities, speaking more negatively about work or the company, and unexpected changes in performance.

Keeping an eye on these signs is important, but there is an even more effective way to assess risk: Ask them! We usually don’t ask why someone is leaving until they have already resigned! When you can get into the habit of asking people what keeps them and what might make them leave, you can more effectively retain your team.

Stay Interviews & Retention Check-ins

There are two ways to talk to your employees about retention: Formal Stay Interviews & casual Retention Check-ins. These conversations can be awkward at first – for employees and for you as a manager. The more you have them the more trust you will build. In the meantime, you can actively cultivate honestly by considering these techniques:

  • Keep your commitment to meeting with the employee – do not reschedule.
  • Offer your full attention during the conversation.
  • Don’t get angry or offer a different perspective if you disagree; simply listen.
  • Don’t overpromise and underdeliver on solutions.
  • Take personal responsibility if you believe there is something you have done to cause an issue.

And, of course, trust is built over time in everything you do. So, continue to ask for feedback, follow through on your commitments and recognize and reward employees for their honesty.

Stay Interview

Have you ever had an exit interview and thought, “why didn’t they ask me these questions sooner?” A Stay Interview is basically an exit interview, well before a resignation occurs. In these one-on-one conversations, you will ask questions like these:

What do you like most about your job / working here?
What can feel frustrating about your job / working here?
What would make your job / working here even better?
What kind of opportunity might make you consider leaving?

Retention Check-in

Retention Check-ins are a less formal way to check in on retention and engagement regularly. As you are having regular interactions with your team members (working side-by-side, having a 1:1 meeting, etc.), you can ask fun and casual questions like:

What do you tell your friends about what it’s like to work here?
If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
If I could do one thing to make you like your job even more, what would it be?
If you could do a job other than this job, what would it be?

Retention Action Plan

Knowing who on your team has a high risk of leaving and the reasons they may leave puts you in a position to act. Creating and acting on Retention Action Plans can improve your retention rates on your team and minimize the disruption of high turnover. Communicating with your employee about retention is a two-way street. If you expect them to share openly and honestly with you, you need to do the same in return. Be honest with your employees about your action plan and what you can and cannot do to help.

It may not be possible to create action plans for each member of the team. Consider the following criteria for prioritizing your approach to retention action planning:

  • Risk: Who have you determined to be at the highest risk of leaving?
  • Performance: Who are your best performers?
  • Critical Roles: What roles are most critical to the day-to-day operations of your business? What roles, if left unfilled, would be most disruptive?
  • Hard-to-Fill Roles: What roles require a specialized and/or hard-to-find skillset?

Some employee turnover cannot be helped, either because the reasons are out of our control (relocation, returning to school) or because we couldn’t offer what the employee was looking for. In these cases, the best action plan is a contingency plan. When employees do leave, it can be frustrating. It is best, however, to be supportive of the employee, expressing that you are both happy for them and disappointed for your company at the same time. If they have a great experience exiting the company, they will be more likely to recommend it as a great place to work and even come back if they find the grass is not greener on the other side.