Love 'Em or Lose 'Em 5th Edition

Getting Good People to Stay

Beverly Kaye (Author) | Sharon Jordan-Evans (Author)

Publication date: 12/11/2013

Bestseller over 680,000+ copies sold

Love 'Em or Lose 'Em

Since employees who walk out the door cost their companies up to 200 percent of their annual salaries to replace, retention is one of the most important issues facing businesses today. And with so many surveys reporting that employees are unhappy and not working up to their full potential, engagement is a second serious and costly issue. The latest edition of this Wall Street Journal bestseller offers twenty-six simple strategies—from A to Z—that managers can use to address their employees' real concerns and keep them engaged. The fifth edition has been revised and updated throughout and includes many more international examples, reflecting the fact that Love 'Em or Lose 'Em is available in twenty-two languages, from Albanian and Arabic to Thai and Turkish. Its message is truly one that spans continents and cultures.

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Since employees who walk out the door cost their companies up to 200 percent of their annual salaries to replace, retention is one of the most important issues facing businesses today. And with so many surveys reporting that employees are unhappy and not working up to their full potential, engagement is a second serious and costly issue. The latest edition of this Wall Street Journal bestseller offers twenty-six simple strategies—from A to Z—that managers can use to address their employees' real concerns and keep them engaged. The fifth edition has been revised and updated throughout and includes many more international examples, reflecting the fact that Love 'Em or Lose 'Em is available in twenty-two languages, from Albanian and Arabic to Thai and Turkish. Its message is truly one that spans continents and cultures.

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Meet the Authors

Visit Author Page - Beverly Kaye
Beverly Kaye is the founder of Career Systems International. She was recently honored with the Lifetime Achievement award from the Association for Talent Development for her groundbreaking and continual contributions to workplace learning. She is the coauthor of several books, including five editions of Love Em or Lose Em.

Visit Author Page - Sharon Jordan-Evans
Sharon Jordan-Evans is president of the Jordan Evans Group and is a pioneer in the field of employee engagement and retention. She is a sought-after keynote speaker for Fortune 500 companies such as American Express, Boeing, Disney, Microsoft, Lockheed, Monster, and Universal Studios.

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By Berrett-Koehler Staff , December 9, 2014
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Table of Contents

How to Read This Book
1 ASK What Keeps You?--
Do you know what they want?
2 BUCK It Stops Here--Who's in charge of keeping them?
3 CAREERS Support Growth--Are you building their future or are you in the way?
4 DIGNITY Show Respect--Do they know that you respect them?
5 ENRICH Energize the Job--Do your people have to leave to find growth and challenge?
6 FAMILY Get Friendly--Avoid making your employees choose between work and family life.
7 GOALS Expand Options--There are five career paths other than up.
8 HIRE Fit Is It--Make a match or start from scratch.
9 INFORMATION Share It--Do you have it? Do you hoard it?
10 JERK Don't Be One--Are you one?
11 KICKS Get Some--Are we having fun yet?
12 LINK Create Connections--If you build them, they will stay.
13 MENTOR Be One--Are they learning from you?
14 NUMBERS Run Them--Calculate the cost of loss.
15 OPPORTUNITIES Mine Them--Will they find them inside or outside?
16 PASSION Encourage It--Help them find the work they love—without leaving.
17 QUESTION Reconsider the Rules--Which will you keep: the rules or the people?
18 REWARD Provide Recognition--Which matters more: praise or pay?
19 SPACE Give It--Are your people on a short leash?
20 TRUTH Tell It--The truth hurts—or does it?
21 UNDERSTAND Listen Deeper--When you tune out, you lose out—and they move out.
22 VALUES Define and Align--What matters most to them?
23 WELLNES Sustain It--Are they sick or tired?
24 X-ERS AND OTHERS Handle with Care--They are different. Can you keep them?
25 YIELD Power Down--Give it up to keep them.
26 ZENITH Go for It--Sustain your commitment to engagement.
Calling all Managers of Managers
About the Authors

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Love ’Em or Lose ’Em



Ponder this: Do you know what they really want?

When do you think most leaders ask questions like “What can I do to keep you?”

You’re right: it’s in the exit interview. At that point it’s typically too late. The talented employee already has one foot out the door!

Have you ever wondered why we ask great questions in exit interviews but neglect to ask early enough to make a difference? Love ’em leaders do ask. They ask early and often, they listen carefully to the answers, and they link arms with their talent to help them get more of what they want, right where they are.

Conduct Stay Interviews

A crucial strategy for engaging and retaining talent is having conversations with every person you hope will stay on your team. We coined the term stay interview to describe those chats. If you hold stay interviews, you’ll have less regrettable turnover and fewer exit interviews!

When we suggest asking employees why they stay or what would keep them, we hear, “You’ve got to be kidding,” “Isn’t that illegal?” or “What if they give me an answer I don’t want to hear?” Managers dance around this core subject usually for one of three reasons:

• Some managers fear putting people on the spot or putting ideas into their heads (as if they never thought about leaving on their own).

• Some managers are afraid they will be unable to do anything anyway, so why ask? They fear that the question will raise more dust than they can settle and may cause employees to expect answers and solutions that are out of the managers’ hands.

• Some managers say they don’t have the time to have these critical one-on-one discussions with their talented people. There is an urgency to produce, leaving little time to listen, let alone ask. (If you don’t have time for these discussions with the people who contribute to your success, where will you find the time to interview, select, orient, and train their replacements?)

Guessing Is Risky

What if you don’t ask? What if you just keep trying to guess what Tara or Mike or Akina really wants? You will guess right sometimes. The year-end bonus might please them all. Money can inspire loyalty and commitment for the near term. But if the key to retaining Tara is to give her a chance to learn something new, whereas Mike wants to telecommute, how could you ever guess that? Ask—so you don’t have to guess.

Asking has positive side effects. The person you ask will feel cared about, valued, and important. Many times asking leads to stronger loyalty and commitment to you and the organization. In other words, just asking the question is an effective engagement and retention strategy.

How to Ask

How and when do you bring up this topic? How can you increase the odds of getting honest input from your employees? There is no single way or time to ask. It could happen during a developmental or career discussion with your employees. (You do hold those, don’t you?) Or you might schedule a meeting with your valued employees for the express purpose of finding out what will keep them. One manager sent the following invitation to give his key people some time to think and to prepare for the conversation:

You are invited to attend . . .

. . . the next step in your continued development.
You make a difference and I value your contributions.
Let’s discuss some things that are important to you and me:

What will keep you here?

What might entice you away?

What is most energizing about your work?

Are we fully using your talents?

What is inhibiting your success?

What can I do differently to best assist you?

Please schedule a meeting with me within the next two weeks to discuss this and anything else you’d like to talk about.

Regardless of when you start this dialogue, remember to set the context by telling your employees how critical they are to you and your team and how important it is to you that they stay. Then find out what will keep them. Listen carefully to their responses.

He Dared to Ask

Charlie set up a meeting with his plant manager, Ken, for Monday morning. After some brief conversation about the weekend activities, Charlie said, “Ken, you are critical to me and to this organization. I’m not sure I’ve told you that directly or often enough. But you are. I can’t imagine losing you. So, I’d like to know what will keep you here. And what might entice you away?”

Ken was a bit taken aback—but felt flattered. He thought for a moment and then said, “You know, I aspire to move up in the organization at some point, and I’d love to have some exposure to the senior team. I’d like to see how they operate, and frankly I’d like them to get to know me, too.” Charlie responded, “I could take you with me to some senior staff meetings. Would that be a start?” Ken said, “That would be great.”

Charlie delivered on Ken’s request one week later.

What If—

What If You Can’t Give What They Want?

Most managers don’t ask because they fear one of two responses: a request for a raise or a promotion. They might not be able to deliver on those kinds of requests. Then what?

Next time a talented employee asks for something you think you might not be able to give, respond by using these four steps:

1. Restate how much you value them.

2. Tell the truth about the obstacles you face in granting their requests.

3. Show you care enough to look into their requests and to stand up for them.

4. Ask, “What else?”

Here’s how the discussion between Charlie and Ken could have gone if Ken had asked for a raise.

Following Charlie’s question about what will keep him, Ken replied immediately, “A 20 percent raise will do it!” Now, some managers will say things like “Are you kidding? You’re already at the top of your pay range.” That response shuts down the dialogue and makes a key employee feel less than key. Charlie was ready for this possibility, though. Here is how he could have responded to Ken’s request for a raise, using the four-step process.

1. “You are worth that and more to me.

2. I’d love to say yes, but I will need to investigate the possibility. I’m honestly not sure what I can do immediately, given some recent budget cuts.

3. But I hear your request. I’ll run this up the flag pole and get back to you by next Friday with some answers and a possible time line for a raise.

4. Meanwhile, Ken, what else matters to you? What else are you hoping for?”

Ken might have responded with his interest in getting to know the senior team— and Charlie was ready to act on that one immediately.

Research shows clearly that people want more from work than just a paycheck. When you ask the question “What else?” we guarantee there will be at least one thing your talented employee wants that you can give. Remember to listen actively as your employees talk about what will keep them on your team or in your organization.

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What If You Ask What They Want and They Say, “I Don’t Know?”

Remember that this is not an interrogation—it’s a conversation, and hopefully one in an ongoing series of conversations. It’s okay not to know. Some people will be surprised by your questioning and need some time to think about it. Let them think, schedule another meeting, and set the stage for an ongoing dialogue about your employees’ wants, needs, and career goals. Engaging and keeping your talent is a process, not an event.

What If They Don’t Trust You Enough to Answer Honestly?

Discussions like these build trust. Ironically, discussions like these require trust. If your employees are afraid to answer your questions for any reason, you may need to build a trusting relationship with them before you can expect honest, heartfelt responses. Try to discover why trust is missing in the relationship, and purposely act in trust-building ways. Seek help from colleagues, human resource professionals, or coaches.

What If They Question Your Motivation or Smile and Say, “What Book Have You Just Read?”

Be honest. If you’re not in the habit of having dialogues like these, it could feel strange—for you and perhaps for them. Tell them you did read a book or attend a course about engaging talent, and you did it because they matter to you. Tell them you honestly want to hear their answers and you want to partner with them to help them get what they want and need. You might even choose to admit that the love ’em approach sometimes feels awkward, even uncomfortable (like a new pair of shoes). That “name it to claim it,” forthright action can be just what’s needed to build trust with the talent you hope will stay and play on your team.

To Do

image Ask each employee what will keep him or her at your company or your department.

image Make a note in your computer or smartphone for every employee’s answer.

image Every month, review the notes and ask yourself what you’ve done for that employee that relates to his or her needs.

Why Most Say They Stay

We’ve asked over 18,000 people why they stayed in an organization for “a while” (yes, it’s a relative term). Our findings confirm what many others (e.g., Blessing White, Gallup, Towers Watson, Sirota) have learned about the most common reasons employees remain at a company (and what will help retain them). The items recur throughout every industry and at every level. The differences between functions, levels, genders, geographic regions, and ages are minor. Here are the top 13 responses listed in order of frequency of response as of November 2013.

1. Exciting, challenging, or meaningful work

2. Supportive management/good boss

3. Being recognized, valued, and respected

4. Career growth, learning, and development

5. Flexible work environment

6. Fair pay

7. Job location

8. Job security and stability

9. Pride in the organization, its mission or product

10. Working with great coworkers or clients

11. Fun, enjoyable work environment

12. Good benefits

13. Loyalty and commitment to coworkers or boss

How do your employees’ answers compare with the list? Find out what truly matters to them by asking. Then create customized, innovative approaches to retaining your talent.

By the way, if you’d like to see the complete “What Kept You” survey data, including updated findings and multiple demographic breakdowns, go to our website, and click on the “What Kept You” link.

A Word about Pay

Some of you immediately noticed the fact that fair pay lands in seventh place on this list. Here is what we know about pay. If employees see compensation as noncompetitive, unfair, or simply insufficient to sustain life, their dissatisfaction levels will go up. Your talented people will become vulnerable to talent theft or will begin looking around for something better, especially in a favorable job market. But here’s the rub. While it can be a huge dissatisfier if inadequate, even fair pay won’t keep people who are unhappy in other key areas.

So if your talented people do not feel challenged, or grown, or cared about, a big paycheck will not keep them for long. Researchers over time have found this to be true. Frederic Herzberg found in the 1950s that pay is a “hygiene factor”—make sure it’s there or it will be noticed!1 So, do what you can as a manager to influence your organization’s compensation programs. Be sure they are competitive and fair—then focus on what else you can do to keep your talent.

A Word About Culture

How do cultural differences play out in this crucial, foundational engagement strategy—the stay interview? We asked colleagues, book reviewers, and clients around the globe and here is what we heard.

• The majority said, “It will work here just as well as in the United States.”

• One colleague said, “Barriers to ‘asking’ in Asia are magnified because the culture demands respect for elders and leaders. Even if asked, most employees do not feel free to share issues that may reflect negatively on their boss.”

• A Chinese proverb reads, “A man of honor will feel ashamed by a single question to which he does not know the answer.”

• A consultant reported, “In more hierarchical cultures like that of Japan and Korea, asking questions is not traditionally encouraged. If the boss were to say, ‘What do you think?’ the subordinate would say, ‘Yes.’”

If you manage others in a culture where asking is not accepted or recommended, you’ll need to find a work-around. Some managers have used anonymous surveys or tasked someone else with the “asking.” However you seek to learn about what your talented employees really want, it is crucial that you do gain that information.

To Do

image Look back at the list of reasons people stay and ask yourself which of these you can influence.

image Check all those that you believe are largely within your control. If our hunch is correct, you will find that you can influence many more than you may have thought.

Beyond “Why Did You Stay?”

For a decade now, we’ve collected managers’ favorite stay interview questions. Here are the top 13.

Stay Interview Questions

1. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning?

2. What makes you hit the snooze button?

3. If you were to win the lottery and resign, what would you miss the most about your job?

4. What one change in your current role would make you consider leaving this job?

5. If you had a magic wand, what would be the one thing you would change about this department, team, organization?

6. As your manager, what could I do a little more of or a little less of?

7. If you had to go back to a position in your past and stay for an extended period of time, which one would it be and why?

8. What do you need to learn to work at your best?

9. What makes for a great day?

10. What can we do to make your job more satisfying?

11. What can we do to support your career goals?

12. Do you get enough recognition? How do you like to be recognized?

13. What do you want to learn this year?

Let these ideas serve as catalysts for your own thinking. Create a list of your favorite questions. Ask them of your talented people. And ask again, listen carefully, and customize your retention efforts.

Bottom Line

Stop guessing what will keep your stars happy and on your team. Gather your courage and conduct stay interviews with the employees you want to keep. Set aside time to start the dialogue. Don’t guess and don’t assume they all want the same thing (like pay or promotion). Schedule another meeting if they need to think about it for a while.

To simply ask may be the most important strategy in this book. Not only will asking make your talented people feel valued, but their answers will provide the information you need to customize strategies to keep each of them.

It doesn’t matter so much where, when, or how you ask—just ASK!


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“To be a great team, you need outstanding players. The authors show you how to engage your outstanding players and keep them on your team for a long time.”
Mike Krzyzewski, Head Coach, Duke University Basketball

“Marriott's global engagement strategy includes asking associates worldwide about their work environment and then providing resources to guide them through the key drivers of engagement and retention in the workplace. As a global resource in Marriott's engagement strategy, Kaye and Jordan-Evans once again provide a powerful, globally inclusive book that is both impactful and relevant . . . practical, associate-centric ideas that work!”
—Steve Bauman, Vice President, Global Learning Deployment, Marriott International

“If you need a practical and effective way to retain and engage your talent, look no further than
Love 'Em or Lose 'Em: the A to Z for managers and leaders who care about their employees enough to take action that delivers results. Having witnessed, firsthand, the power of the ‘stay interview' and the impact of simply asking employees what will keep them in the organization, I know the rewards contained within Love 'Em or Lose 'Em are easily attained. Finding talent can be hard in today's competitive world. Keeping that talent can be deceptively easy.”
—Andrew Buckingham, Head of Global Learning and Development, Genzyme UK

“Our global strategy is based on recruiting and developing the best talent. Retaining and engaging that talent on a global basis is crucial to every manager's business goals.
Love 'Em or Lose 'Em has become their playbook. Our managers believe in the concept and their behaviors are consistent—it has become part of our lexicon. And most importantly, employees are responding!”
—J. Craig Mundy, Corporate Vice President, Enterprise Learning & Talent Management, Ingersoll Rand

Love 'Em or Lose 'Em has significantly contributed to our business in Latin America by setting ground rules and providing practical tools and techniques to our leaders who constantly transform our organization. The wonderful principles in this book have raised our sensitivity on how to interpret our associates' needs, and once put in practice, they have enabled powerful results. It is a very dynamic and updated consultation book I have valued throughout my career at Pepsico.”
—Carolina Lazarte, Human Resources Director, Latin America North, D&I LAB, Pepsico Latin America Beverages

“You just have to love
Love 'Em or Lose ‘Em. This charming, clever, practical, and user-friendly book is a great desk-side coach for anyone who manages people.”
—Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Chair and Director, Advanced Leadership Initiative, Harvard University

“Talent matters. Few dispute this truth. But keeping great talent continues to be a challenge for many companies. This marvelous book offers numerous specific tools and hundreds of examples of how to care for people.
Love 'Em or Lose 'Em is the best treatise on retaining talent available.” 
—Dave Ulrich, Professor, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan and coauthor of HR from the Outside In: Six Competencies for the Future of Human Resources

“Fantastic, fun, and practical coaching advice! This stuff works! Great for executives to use with their teams—and buy for their managers! Buy it! Use it! Share it! Keep good people.”
—Marshall Goldsmith, author of Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back If You Lose It

“The manager-employee relationship is the difference between retention and turnover. Good leaders know how to hold on to their team members by striking a balance between leadership and management. The trick is to publicly praise employees for their victories and privately coach them on their opportunities.
Love 'Em or Lose 'Em helps create the foundation for doing just that.”
—Ken May, former President and CEO, FedEx Kinko's

“At First Data, the
Love 'Em or Lose 'Em concepts have become an integral part of our ongoing global retention and engagement strategy and one of our most widely attended manager training programs. The book is full of practical employee engagement strategies, coaching, and advice that can be easily applied by any manager and applicable to employees at all levels. With the additional global perspectives in this newest edition, the relevance of the Love 'Em or Lose 'Em messages are now truly boundaryless.”
—Michelle Prince, Vice President, Human Resources, First Data

“A great read! Having had the opportunity to spend two days in a ‘Love 'Em or Lose 'Em' seminar, I am a believer! It makes no difference what business you are in (corporate/government/military), people are the single most important part of an organization, and they are at the core of the success or failure of an organization!”
—William (Bill) Pickavance, former Vice President for Launch and Recovery Systems and Florida Site Executive, United Space Alliance

“I'm a big fan of the ‘stay interview' and its power; nothing speaks louder than a manager who genuinely cares. That's just one great idea from this latest edition of
Love 'Em or Lose 'Em, which should be on every manager's bookshelf or tablet or smart phone!”
—Rebecca Ray, Senior Vice President of Human Capital, The Conference Board

“I have long believed love is at the deepest center of leading oneself and others, and to find a book that provides specific and practical ways for managers to pay attention to their talent is truly a gift. How one leads is a choice, and in this gem of a read are powerful reminders of how managers can show up and be present to their people, particularly if they want to bring out the best in others, keeping them engaged and inspired to stay and contribute to their fullest potential. This book deserves to be read at least once a year or kept nearby as a guide.”
—Teresa Roche, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer, Agilent Technologies

“I've been so impressed with the millennials entering our workforce around the world. This book is full of great tips for getting their best discretionary effort—love them and you will be a beloved manager.”
—Tina Sung, Vice President, Government Transformation and Agency Partnerships, Partnership for Public Service

“Ever since the first edition,
Love 'Em or Lose 'Em has been a great source of inspiration to me. I warmly recommend this pragmatic book to anyone who manages others—and especially to those who still believe that talent retention is all about money, which it is really not! This book offers a powerful and engaging way to achieve active and sustainable talent retention. And it's exciting to see that it works all across the globe!”
—Michael Zollinger, Head HR Generalists, Swiss Re

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