Employee Stickiness: 3 Ways to Get the Goo

Loyal.  Faithful.  Devotion.

This isn’t a post about Kayne and Kim’s pending marriage.

It is a post about love.  Well… maybe not love but at least stickiness.  What does it really take to ensure your top talent sticks around?  Let me tell ya—you’re not going to find the answer in an employee engagement survey.  You probably won’t even be able to decipher it from a focus group.

Lucky for you, I’ve got it figured out.

Okay, so perhaps I don’t have it ALL figured out, but occasionally I have bursts of common sense.  Here are 3 nuggets of advice to help create sticky goo for your top talent:

  • Hire Retainable Talent – Guess what?  That “A” player Sr. Accountant you just hired isn’t going to want to be a Sr. Accountant forever.  If you want your hi-pos to stay, you have to hire people for careers, not jobs.  A job is disposable.  It will keep people intrigued for about 12 months, but then you have to mix it up.  You also have to have a longer term plan for this kind of talent.  It doesn’t have to be a promotion or brand new job every year, but it should include work outside of the norm.  A special assignment, project work, a few weeks shadowing another hi-po, outside development, mentorship, investing in a coach—all ways to spice up the regular job and keep people engaged.
  • Develop a Deep Relationship – Your top talent needs to know all about you and you need to know all about them.  Where and how did they grow up?  How was the date last weekend?  Why did your kid go to school without lunch today?  Make sure your employees know you have their best interest at heart.  Be sincere.  Cuss, cry or shout with joy in front of them.  Show them you are human and have feelings, too.  I HATE that I’m a crier, but when I get jacked-up emotional—good or bad—sometimes I can’t control the tears.  I’ve finally realized its okay to let my team see that side of me, red nose and all.
  • Have a Genuine Conversation – Admit when you’re wrong.  Be direct when you have a gripe or observation.  Be vulnerable and open in your communications.  It sucks giving people news they don’t want to hear, so tell them that.  You don’t have to be above feelings just because you’re a “manager” of people.  They won’t always love what you have to say, but they will respect that you said it and in a way that was constructive and passionate.

When employees see you have a true interest in their careers, you care about them inside and outside of work and you’re willing to have courageous conversations, they will see you as more than just a boss.  And BOOM!  There’s your sticky goo.

FOT Background Check

Kathy Rapp
Kathy Rapp is the President of hrQ, where she helps companies find groovy HR Talent or HR Consultants to drive business results.  Prior to joining hrQ, Kathy booked more than 15 years of human resources leadership experience working for such companies as Morgan Stanley and First Data Corporation.  A connoisseur of the intersection between pop culture and business, Kathy believes many talent issues can be addressed via the succession planning lessons experienced by Van Halen  (David Lee/Sammy and sadly, Gary Cherone).


  1. Your points are valid. However the conclusion is, how you create the environment building up all these three tips.

  2. Dan Enthoven says:

    People, for the most part, want to work with other actual people and not corporate puppets. Sometimes being a manager means getting into the weeds with your team and letting them see a different side of you. They have to respect you and trust you to guide them and help them advance their own career.

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