The Retention Intention: A New Kind of Interview

August 30, 2022

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We’ve talked at length about how tumultuous today’s employment environment is. Agencies are eager to attract and keep good talent, from management and admin to creative and operations. As we get past the pandemic, so many agencies are fighting for new business while short staffed. Talent has the luxury of being choosy, and can easily jump ship when more promising, lucrative opportunities appear.

This reality is inspiring agency leadership to get innovative when it comes to keeping good people around, and offering perks beyond generous compensation is becoming the norm. Another unexpected strategy is to create channels of communication that let employees discuss their individual take on how a shop might create the most favorable situations possible for their people. How does that happen? Let us introduce you to the Retention Interview.

Most of us know what an Exit Interview is, that usually awkward meeting where an exec or two sits down with an employee who has given their notice and is just a few days away from being out the door. Exit interviews give agency leadership a chance to collect valuable feedback on their structure, culture, pay and perks. But what if, instead of having a conversation with a valuable employee on his or her way out, management found time to talk to talent while they were still working at their shop? What if that conversation provided a safe, open opportunity for a staffer to offer honest feedback, make suggestions on how to improve, and help create a culture more inclined to keep people around?

That’s the point of the retention interview, and more and more agencies are putting them on employee schedules. The point is to talk to people and keep up with their take on the workplace before they have a chance to get dissatisfied and decide to move on.


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Expected results noted by agencies that are testing out retention interviews include getting a surprising understanding of what employees appreciate beyond compensation. It goes a lot deeper than asking for better snacks in the vending machines or stronger coffee. Many employees express a desire to expand the scope of their roles and responsibilities within an agency. That means access to more internal training and company funded education opportunities. Other times, people have simply made it clear that they like to be recognized and appreciated.

Some Strategies Top Agencies Are Sticking to as They Implement Retention Interviews Include:

  • Limiting interview length to about 20 minutes or so. It’s a casual chat, not an extended inquisition.
  • Scheduling the interviews with predictability. Every three to six months is probably a good range if you want to make sure you’re giving people the space to communicate comfortably.
  • Ensuring some distance between the active employee and the interviewer. You can’t expect to get candor from a conversation with immediate managers or co-workers.
  • Capturing and reviewing the data gathered from each individual, and looking at that data from a higher level to spot trends and tendencies.

And finally, as any perceptive leader might expect, acquiring this information is one thing. Acting on it and implementing change is something else altogether. So, if you’re considering giving Retention Interviews a try, make sure you’re prepared to follow through and act on, or at least acknowledge, the requests and suggestions employees share.

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