Episode 2: The Small Secret to Engaging and Retaining Your Employees with Dr. Beverly Kaye

The TalentGrow Show Episode 2_The Small Secret to Engaging and Retaining Your Employees with Dr. Beverly Kaye

Welcome to episode 2 of The TalentGrow Show! So happy to have you back. In this episode, listen to my conversation with Dr. Beverly Kaye, an internationally-recognized authority on career development, employee engagement, and retention and best-selling author of numerous books. Learn the one small idea about leadership that ANY manager and leader can use to make a huge difference in employee engagement and retention. Why are so many leaders afraid of applying it? Bev will teach you really practical and specific techniques for overcoming those fears. 

What you will learn:

In this episode, you will learn lots of great ideas and insights, including...

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  • What is the "stay interview" - and a glimpse into Dr. Kaye's brand new book, Hello Stay Interview, Goodbye Talent Loss: A Manager's Playbook

  • What employees crave from their leaders!

  • The common fears managers have about using this approach and how to overcome them.

  • The four steps for dealing with any tough request from an employee when you ask them what they want (and why step 4 should have blinking lights on it)

  • Managers are busier than ever. This one small idea can really make a great difference!

  • What surprises Bev the most about the current approach of many leaders and organizations to employee engagement and her suggestion for correcting it or at least learning more from it.

  • An exercise you can do tomorrow on your way to work to improve employee engagement right away!

About Dr. Beverly Kaye

I got together with Dr. Beverly Kaye at the ASTD (now ATD) International Conference & Expo where we were both speakers. The shot is a bit Blurry but so worth it!

I got together with Dr. Beverly Kaye at the ASTD (now ATD) International Conference & Expo where we were both speakers. The shot is a bit Blurry but so worth it!

Dr. Beverly Kaye is an internationally recognized authority on career issues, and retention & engagement in the workplace. She has been honored with the “Distinguished Contribution” award by the Association for Talent Development (ATD, formerly ASTD) for her ground-breaking and continued impact on workplace learning over the past three decades.

As founder of Career Systems International, and bestselling author on career development and workplace performance, Dr. Kaye has worked with a host of organizations to establish cutting-edge, award-winning talent development solutions. Career Systems International's clients include nearly 60% of all the Fortune 1000 organizations.

Dr. Beverly Kaye holds a doctorate from UCLA, and completed graduate work at the Sloan School of Management at MIT.


Bev Kaye's company's website: Career Systems International

Bev's books (click to see on Amazon):

Follow Dr. Beverly Kaye on Twitter: @BeverlyLKayewww.twitter.com/BeverlyLKaye

Intro/outro music: "Why-Y" by Esta - a great band of exquisitely talented musicians, and good friends of mine.


Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.

Halelly: Hey there, welcome back to the TalentGrow Show. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist and I’m happy to be here for the second episode interviewing Dr. Beverly Kaye. She’s an internationally recognized authority on career development, employee engagement and retention, and she’s going to share with you a big idea about a small change that any one of us can apply to get good people to become even more engaged at work. Bev is going also to talk about some of the big fears that a lot of leaders have about applying this change, and some practical and specific techniques for how to overcome those. She’s even going to give you a neat exercise that you can do tomorrow while commuting into work to get more engagement from your people. All right, here we go. Thanks for tuning in.

Welcome to the TalentGrow Show. This is Halelly Azulay. I am your host and I have a fantastic guest. I cannot wait for you to hear from her. If you’ve already met her – because she has been around the world and is very well known – Dr. Beverly Kaye. Dr. Beverly Kaye is the founder of Career Systems International and was named by the professional association for people in our field, the Association for Talent Development, as the 2010 recipient of the Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning and Performance Award. She’s recognized all over the world for her groundbreaking work, and all of the significant impact that she has made on learning and performance in the workplace. She’s especially known for now to retain and engage employees. She’s written a bunch of books like Up is Not the Only Way, Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em, Love it, Don’t Leave it, and her latest published book was Help Them Grow or Watch them Go, which that was released in 2012. Actually, I was working with a client who insisted on making that part of a development program we were working on, because it was that client’s bible. And I’m really excited, also, to share with you some news and information about her upcoming book, which is going to be released soon in 2015, and it’s called Hello Stay Interviews, Goodbye Talent Loss: A Manager’s Playbook. So, Beverly, Bev, thank you for joining and welcome to the podcast.

Beverly: You are welcome. And you know, I’m going to save that introduction for days when my work EKG is flat, and I need to remind myself, “Hey, you have done some things in this lifetime!”

Halelly: Just a thing for two! You are remarkable.

Beverly: It’s interesting that the person who does the doing, when they hear introductions like that, you have a knee-jerk reaction like, “Who, me? And how do I keep doing it? How do I keep it going? How do I keep that what’s new, what’s out there happening?” And it’s a pressure that I think any person who is somehow considered a thought leader feels. So what’s the next thought? And they don’t come easy. So, it was interesting to listen to you give me the intro, so thank you.

Halelly: Well, you’re welcome. I only spoke the truth. You know, what’s funny is I was trying to think about – I’ve met you and talked to you and shared ideas with you multiple times over several years. I’m very fortunate. And I was trying to think about when we first met. I think it was when you spoke to the Metro D.C. chapter of what was then ASTD, is not ATD, and I was in charge of the program or I was involved on the board in some way, and I believe we connected there for the first time. And I’ve seen you of course since then in big conferences and I think we’re going to actually see each other very soon in an upcoming conference where we’re both speaking.

If you don’t mind, just give a tiny, a brief – as hard as this is going to be – just a brief overview of your journey. I find that so interesting about how people get to where they are. What’s been your journey, your professional journey, to get you from where you started to here?

Beverly: In 25 words or less?

Halelly: Exactly! In a tweet!

Beverly: I have been in the field, doing what I’m doing, since the early 80s. And I had a wonderful opportunity in the late 70s, mid-70s, to go back to UCLA for my Doctorate, and the Doctorate was an interesting fellowship program that crossed the Ed School and the Management School. And when it came time to write the dissertation, I really was fairly intentional on writing something that was going to be a perennial interest to me. And one of my big interests has always been in the area of career, and how do organizations grow people? And how do they grow people in a way that maximizes their talent? So for my doctoral thesis, I was pushed to do what’s called phenomenal logical research. And that means you get, you study a phenomenon and you try to develop a theory about it, and if the theory holds all your data, then you’ve got it. And it took me three tries each time failing my doctoral orals, to come up with a model that even though at the time I didn’t realize it has become my terrafirma, the ground upon which I stand. And it had to do with the role of the manager, the role of the employee and the role of the organization. And I don’t think I had an inkling that that work would steer me in a career for the next 40 years! And in fact, it did.

And even though the words have changed, the way I talk about it has changed with the times, the fundamental, conceptual core goes back to the research I did back then. And like many practitioners, I started as just me, and then just began to collaborate with other practitioners, and over time, build a practice, so that now my practice is still heavily in the career area, but also in the engagement and retention area. And as you said, they’re all very interconnected. So Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em says, “Hey, employers. It’s up to you. It’s up to you to develop your people. It’s up to you to build a relationship. And it’s up to you to build an environment that people really want to come to.” So the engagement harkens back to the development work. The development work leads people to the engagement work, and it feels like the right niche. And so I’ve gone deeper and wider in that niche, and brought a large number of people with me. So my organization now is about 40-ish strong. Half of them full-time, half of them permanent part-time, and others now are inventing and reinventing the concepts and working with me to deliver them around the globe. So it’s been exciting. It’s not over. I don’t see myself retiring probably ever. But I do see myself mentoring others and bringing others along and keeping my organization at its most … you know, just keeping it relevant. Relevant, relevant, relevant.

Halelly: That’s not easy to do.

Beverly: No, it’s not.

Halelly: Well, kudos on that. I didn’t mean to cut you off, I hope that you didn’t.

Beverly: No, that was the shortest set I could do!

Halelly: Well, you know, that’s a lot of ground to cover. So you were very lucky that you knew so early, or I guess just had an intuitive luck of the draw that you chose something that, as you said, carried throughout your entire career and formed the foundation. That’s fantastic. Some of us are still looking for it.

Beverly: I think the impetus for that came from a previous career I was in, where I was a college dean, a student personnel dean, a student life dean, and I worked in elite schools that I never could have gotten into, and I watched students think, “All I have to be is an A student and go to an A college and I’ll have an A life and an A career.” And many of them found that wasn’t enough. And I think I began to get interested in those choices from that other career that I was in for seven or eight or 10 years. So it all connects, as you look back, it connects. As you look forward, you have no idea where it’s going.

Halelly: And that’s what makes it so amazing and exhilarating on the way, along the journey, but what an amazing legacy to have when you can look back and see it like that as well. Thank you for that, I do appreciate it. So I know that you said you’re constantly on the edge in what’s new, what’s new, what’s new? And I know that you’ve got this new book because I am fortunate enough to have been able to be an early reviewer for you, as you requested me to give you some ideas and some insights, and so I can’t wait for it to come out so I can share it with others. Hello Stay Interviews, Goodbye Talent Loss: A Manager’s Playbook. So, I know this is a concept you actually already brought up in your other books, this concept of we’re talking to people when they leave organizations about what we could have done to keep them and isn’t that just so ridiculously behind the ball, when we can talk to them throughout and in the course of their career about how to keep them, and then they’ll stay! And they’ll be happy and engaged and high performing. And I know this is, you were sort of expounding on this concept in this book, this idea of the “stay interview,” so I would love to talk about that a little bit if that’s okay with you?

Beverly: Absolutely.

Halelly: Great. So, share a little, if you don’t mind, since you’re the expert on it, share with the listeners what is the stay interview? I mean, what does that mean?

Beverly: So it’s interesting. In the book, the way we start it is we define it. And we make up our own ways of saying what it is. And I’m just going to tell you the five things we say it is. Number one, we say it’s as simple as a conversation between a manager and a valued employee. And that means I stop and I talk with you about you and your interests and what’s going on and what made yesterday a good day or not a good day. Number two, it’s an opportunity to learn more about the employee and show you value them, and you care. And there’s no end to my hearing that employees want to know that they’re valued. And it’s not like rocket science, and I’m married to a rocket scientist, so I say that tongue in cheek. We say it’s a chance to find out what might keep an employee in the organization or on the team, a chance to check out your assumptions. The fourth thing we say is it causes an employee, if it’s done right, to say, “Hey, someone really does care about me.” And it’s a process which is best if it’s repeated often. So it’s not one kind of interview. The words “stay interview” is the easiest word to job someone’s attention, because we usually think of exist interviews. So really it means ongoing conversations. Conversations are something I think we have been saying for a long time to managers. It’s conversation, not necessarily about the task someone does, but about who the person who does who delivers on the task. And it’s that simple and that complex.

Halelly: And it does sound so simple when you describe it like that. You’re right. A lot of times I face this when I’m working with clients and I share something, and you know that as soon as it comes out your mouth it’s got this big “duh” factor, like you smack yourself on the forehead and say, “Tell me somebody in the world who doesn’t know this already!” But yet they don’t practice it at all or they don’t practice it regularly or they don’t do it mindfully. And so you’re right that it sounds so simple, but I’m pretty sure most managers don’t do anything like it or at least not consistently and intentionally. And I also know that as soon as you just said what you said, they’ll have this flurry of, “Yeah, but …” objections. Right? Like, “Oh, that sounds really good, but …” What are some of the objections you’re finding most commonly and then what, just a couple, and then how do you overcome those?

Beverly: So you know, the biggest is when I introduce it, or when my team does the work – because let me just say the stay interview is a new book but not a new concept. It’s a concept that we spoke about when the first edition of Love ‘Em came out in the late 90s, and we’re up to the fifth edition of Love ‘Em, but it was, when we thought about it, a gigantic takeaway. So managers who reacted to that idea told us, “This is bigger than a breadbox.” And I think that’s why we wrote a whole book just around that one idea. And like you said, I think there’s a real knowing/doing gap. So managers, you’re right, nod, yes, yes, yes, but that makes sense, but then don’t move to doing. And maybe one of the reasons they don’t move to doing is that they have a certain amount of, “Well, what if?” Sharon and I call it the fear factor. And it’s that it’s easier for me to keep guessing than to ask you and have you tell me that it’s something I can’t give. So for instance, it is, “What if I sincerely ask and you name something like money. You name something like that promotion, or you name something that I just can’t give. If I can’t give it, aren’t I just causing more trouble? Aren’t I opening a Pandora’s Box?” And we say, “Yes you are, but you’ve got to take the conversation to the next step.”

And you’ve got to, and we talk about four steps for dealing with any tough request. And it’s acknowledge it – okay, I hear you want that 20-percent raise. Tell the truth about the obstacles you face in granting the request – here’s why I don’t have the ability to do that now. Number three, care enough to look into the request, and stand up for them. Is there any way that I can do something around that request, or if not in dollars, are there other currencies that this individual might want? That would be in a way a way to tell them how much they’re valued. And then if it’s an impossible door to walk through, ask what else. And I think if you admit, “I can’t deliver on that, but let’s talk about what else.” Our research says you will get four or five things that are absolutely within your control. So I think the acknowledge, the tell the truth, the care enough saying “I hear your request,” and the asking “what else?” And maybe it’s step four that should have blinking lights on it. It’s what else matters? I think if you dig deeply, you’ll find that there are things absolutely within the manager’s control.

Halelly: I love how optimistic that is, or inclusive and expansive – I don’t know what’s the word for it – but it’s just sort of thinking about opportunities in a less binary way. And being empowered to feel less limited about what there is to offer that ends up in a win-win, because so many people view value or the value exchange in such a limited or narrow kind of way, and you are helping them expand that perspective.

Beverly: Right. And the, maybe it’s the … and you said it well, it’s the exchange that really matters, as much as the output of the exchange – which I’m not saying is not important. It’s the exchange itself, I think, people are hungry for.

Halelly: That you’re offering to even think and talk about it.

Beverly: Right.

Halelly: And the other thing that strikes me when I listen to you and when I read your work about this is that in a way, sometimes this fear about bringing something into the light that strikes fear in their hearts, but if it’s lurking in the dark and it’s any way there, aren’t you more able to deal with it when it’s in the light and when you show up with an intention about this sort of kind and hopeful intention about it, and showing up as someone who cares and wants to try and work through it, rather than just allowing that person to think this but not say it, and maybe even just kind of like spiral out of control in their own little limited view cesspool of “I don’t get what I want,” when there is maybe a potential they could get it or get something else they don’t realize they want that could fully satisfy their needs.

Beverly: Absolutely. And you know, it’s like if managers fear putting ideas in people’s heads that they’re not going to get, it’s like, “The ideas are there anyway! Let’s at least get them out.” And I think that’s a fear. And sometimes managers, the other fear is it’s just not like me to ask. It’s just not my style. In fact, if I asked, someone would probably say, “Well, what course did you just come from or what book did you just read?” And maybe the manager absolutely could say, “You know, I did read a book. I did get this idea. And this conversation isn’t easy for me, so hang in there with me. I don’t want to lose you. And let’s talk about it.”

Halelly: That vulnerability and that transparency. I mean, I think that goes so far.

Beverly: Exactly. And just the other day I was interviewing, I’ve got to give a keynote speech around this topic, and I was interviewing seven or eight VPs in an organization that is losing talent. And others in their space are poaching their talent. And they are really concerned and they’re addressing their concerns with retention bonuses, while they know that the bonus helps for a little while. And it doesn’t help forever. And so even though they know that, they’re still, they see that as the only tool in their shed. And I think the conversation will give them more possibilities.

Halelly: Absolutely. I totally think you are expanding the horizons and expanding the conversation with this kind of work. It’s so important. It’s so helpful and it’s something that is completely within reach for every single manager out there. It is not something that requires them to go to get some kind of a special advanced leadership degree.

Beverly: Right. And it’s one more idea, and I think what managers need now – because they’re busier than ever. They have more to-dos on their plate – it’s some easy things they could do, they could ask about. And the granting of it will come if I know more about what matters to each of my people.

Halelly: Oh my God, what a difference that would make. It’s just exciting to think about it! I hope, I know that many will actually transform their own management and leadership style and as a result, transform the experience for so many employees and organizations. It is such valuable work. So, we are almost out of time, but I do want to ask you one other thing. I know that you’re talking to these senior leaders and to people really in all aspects, in all areas, of the organization. And employee engagement is just this beginning that is weighing heavily on losing talent. How do I keep people? And if I keep them, how do I keep them happy and motivated to do good work? I think these bonuses are an example of something that’s kind of shocking that people even still think that they will work. Is there anything else that you’ve seen that kind of surprises you, either in a positive or a negative way, about what organizations are doing or maybe not doing to try to resolve this employee engagement puzzle?

Beverly: I’m surprised that they aren’t talking more about the conversation itself. I’m surprised they’re not looking at issues of development, and I know that the whole area of career development is an area that you focus on too. And I’m surprised they’re thinking of it as a … in a transactional way. What will keep you just a little bit longer? And it comes down to the dollar factor. And maybe, just maybe, here’s an idea, that if every organization had a time when, like we call it an Alas Clinic, like if managers got together and talked about, “Here is somebody that I did not want to lose and did.” And looked at what could have been done, maybe then you end up with a checklist of, “Okay, now for next time, there’s something I might have done there that I can apply for the next time.” Instead, we mourn the loss of a talented person who goes, but we don’t double-click on it long enough to say, “Okay, what did I Learn from that? What did it teach me?” And maybe that’s what, I think, is important.

Halelly: Really good insight. And if they do what you’re suggesting – which is don’t wait until that – they’ll be in an even better place. And in the meantime, that can be something that can help them create a bridge, perhaps, between the old way and let’s hope the new way.

Beverly: Right. And maybe create the bridge that is a very nice way to leave your audience thinking about, “What’s a question, what’s a bridge, what’s something I need to create and with whom?”

Halelly: Can you give an example of what you mean by that?

Beverly: Thinking on your way into work, maybe, “What’s something that I’m curious about? About my admin, about a meeting I have today with my lead engineer. What’s a question I have not about the task we’re going to do, but about them? Or about what matters to them?” And think about that and set it up in your mind, so that when your meeting happens, you have something else to add that shows that you thought about that person and you value that person.

Halelly: Love that.

Beverly: That would be a neat drive into work exercise.

Halelly: And you don’t have to schedule a meeting, book it in advance, 30 minutes in the conference room. You can just ask them in passing, right? Or at the coffee, or something.

Beverly: It’s tucked into what you are already doing.

Halelly: Great. I love that. That’s a great way for us to wrap up this conversation, Bev. I am so appreciative of your time and willingness to share your insights with my listeners, and just tell them, where can they find out more about you? I will share it also in the show notes of course, I’ll share links to your website and so on. But where can people find out more about, what would you like them to know about what you’re doing next?

Beverly: Come, come, come to our website. It’s careersystemsintl.com. And we, like everybody else, we try to improve it, improve it, improve it. And we have a lot of papers on there, a lot of information on there. It tells where in the country I am and very willing to answer any questions that anybody has.

Halelly: Fantastic. And it is a really, I mean, that website is rich with content. I’ve found so many interesting things on there. So I do encourage everyone to check it out. So Bev, with that, I thank you again and can’t wait to talk to you again soon and to have that book in my hands. And in the meantime, enjoy a great day and thank you.

Beverly: Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity.

Halelly: My pleasure. Isn’t that amazing? Be sure to check out her bio and the links to her website and her books on the show notes at TalentGrow.com/podcast/episode2. Hey, listen, have you subscribed to the show on iTunes or Stitcher? That way you’ll never miss an episode. Also, consider giving us a rating and a review on iTunes because that helps other aspiring and current leaders discover the show and get the value from it. Plus you can share this episode with other people who you think might find it of value. I really appreciate your support and your tuning in, and I hope you’ll make it a great day. Thanks, take care.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to the TalentGrow Show, where we help you develop your talent to become the kind of leader that people want to follow. For more information, visit TalentGrow.com.

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