Retention Strategies To “Never Lose An Employee Again”

Episode 4.19: Hiring is tough – in the current climate, that’s a given. And while there are strategies upon strategies on how to win this “war for talent”, not nearly enough is said on the absolute best way to win that war: which is simply to avoid job vacancies in the first place. Every employee you retain is a new hire you won’t have to find – not to mention onboard, train and socially integrate into your team. Joining us today to help us better understand this challenge is Joey Coleman, the Founder and Chief Experience Composer for Design Symphony, perhaps best known for his Wall Street Journal Bestseller Never Lose a Customer Again. His latest book, Never Lose An Employee Again: The Simple Path to Remarkable Retention will be released later this summer. Here, he explains:

  • The importance of retention, with regard to customers and employees;
  • How loyalty interacts with retention - and what organizations commonly get wrong about loyalty;
  • The eight phases of the journey to improve employee retention; and
  • What you can do right now to improve employee retention in your own workplace!

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Why Study Customer and Employee Retention?

  • Retention is a prominent theme in Mr. Coleman’s writing because of a human being’s biological imperative of being predisposed towards “the chase, not the catch and retain.” 
    • Retention is also important to Mr. Coleman because he believes businesses focus too much on marketing and sales. 
  • His first book, Never Lose A Customer Again, provides a framework and methodology for enhancing customer retention for companies.
    • Its cover uses the symbolism of a balloon, to illustrate a lack of retention in an organization. 
      • If customers aren’t retained, they usually don’t storm in and fire the business aggressively. It’s instead like a balloon – a slow, quiet drift away.
      • The same goes for employees, despite often having more notice. Employers can still be surprised or caught off-guard by an employee giving two weeks with (seemingly) no cues or signs. 
  • Examining retention allows individuals to think strategically, systematically, and intentionally about keeping customers and employees.


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How Loyalty Interacts With Employee Retention

  • Loyalty and retention work hand in hand. Loyalty is the aspirational goal of retention. The organization will likely retain employees who feel loyal to the organization.
  • What organizations get wrong about loyalty is that there is an expectation that it should be given instantly. There is no other situation or environment where individuals expect this to be the case. 
    • Mr. Coleman gives an example of a bad first date due to assumptions about loyalty. 
      • “We're sitting at the first date, and the waiter or waitress comes over to take our order. And before they've even taken our order, we're asking the other person, ‘so when do I get to meet your parents? I'm thinking this is going really well.’ We wouldn't do that in our dating lives. And yet, when we bring on a new customer, or we bring on a new employee, our perspective is, ‘well, now they're in, right? They're going to stay unless something goes wrong.’”

Understanding Never Lose An Employee Again

  • Writing on Never Lose An Employee Again: The Simple Path to Remarkable Retention began before the pandemic. When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many lives in the United States, he asked his publisher to pump the brakes on writing his book. 
    • While Mr. Coleman wasn’t afraid it would change the frameworks he built in his book, he knew it would likely change employee expectations of office culture in unforeseen ways. 
    • He recognized that failing to wait out COVID-19 to assess how retention would be impacted once the pandemic subsided would harm the findings in his book.
  • A silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic was that society began to recognize that they could trust their best employees to be productive and do the work they needed, even without direct supervision.
    • This causes the employees to respect employers more because they feel they're being treated like adults. 
    • This trust yields more loyalty going back and forth between both parties.
  • As another outcome of the pandemic, the typical employee “realized that the emperor had no clothes.” 
    • The employee realized that their employer, statistically speaking, was likely taking them for granted in the work environment.
    • An employer still lived under a decade-old fiction: "if you’re working for me, you must sit in front of me.” 
      • Many employees had at least a 30-minute commute to work each day and could recognize that it was a waste of everyone's time and effort. 
      • It also had a bad impact on employee morale and the environment.

Eight Phases Of The Employee Journey To Improve Employee Retention

  • The eight phases of the employee journey are similar to the eight phases of the customer journey. 
    • The reason is that both journeys involve managing and interacting with human beings.
  • These eight phases start with the letter A – so that if an organization is doing it correctly, they can get metaphorical “straight As on their report card.”
  • The phases of the employee retention journey are: 
    • Assess: This phase is where a prospective employee is trying to decide whether or not they want to come to work for an employer. Employee retention efforts should begin for employees before they are hired. 
      • The reason is that an employee is already forming an impression about the organization before day one.
      • Employees form an impression of an organization when they explore its social media accounts, go to the About Us page on a website, and read the job description for the position the organization is attempting to fill. 
      • There's an opportunity to bring the experience of the organization’s brand and spirit into the conversation using these channels. 
      • In an increasingly competitive marketplace, the best employers will stand out and be able to attract the best talent that fits their organization.
        • Good job descriptions can also filter in good and bad candidates. 
    • Accept: This phase is when the employer makes an offer to the candidate, and they accept it – this is the transition from prospective employee to officially being an employee. 
    • Affirm: This phase affirms the employee’s choice to come to work for an organization, attempting to correct for “hires’ remorse.”
      • Hires’ remorse is the same concept as buyer’s remorse, an unwanted side effect in the buyer’s journey when someone buys a product and immediately regrets it.
      • New hires' remorse is increasing because of the opportunities available to employees.
        • Fifty years ago, most employees worked for an employer whose headquarters was less than 30 miles from home. Likely this HQ was in the same town as them. 
        • “Now, the practical reality is the competition is not your industry. The competition is every employer on the planet.” - Joey Coleman
        • Organizations should understand to shift their interactions and strengthen relationships with existing employees. By doing so, they can cultivate loyalty and commitment among their workforce.
    • Activate: This phase is the first day on the job – and only the first day. The goal is to make the employee’s first day remarkable, making it a day that makes them excited to go home and tell their families how optimistic they are about their new job. 
    • Acclimate: This phase is weeks- to months-long when the employee gets used to their job. This is where most organizations get off track. If an organization does a good job here, the employee is invited into the next phase. 
    • Accomplish: This phase is when the employee achieves the often unwritten goal they sought when they originally decided to accept the job offer. 
      • Sadly, most employers think the only thing the employee hopes to accomplish is a paycheck every two weeks. That is not what the employee wants – even if they seek pay for their work.
      • Employees want new skills, to be a part of a culture or community, to have a sense of purpose, or have the opportunity for job advancement. 
      • An employer should track what that employee is trying to accomplish and celebrate with them when the employee does accomplish it. 
    • Adopt: This phase is when employees become loyal and committed to an organization. This means they won't pick up the call from the headhunter – they are bought in.
    • Advocate: This is the Holy Grail phase – when an employee becomes a fan. This can look like the employee going on Glassdoor and writing reviews of an organization, additionally recruiting their friends and colleagues to work for the organization. 
      • Advocates can be made unintentionally, but this is fairly unlikely.
  • Communication plays a role in all eight phases of the employee retention journey. Many people don’t understand that communication is a two-way street – there is the intention of what is communicated and the reception by the other party.
    • Communication tools (like email, Slack, or Microsoft Teams) have the potential to create a positive emotional experience –  if you want them to.

What You Can Do Right Now To Improve Employee Retention

  • Let your employees know you value them and express appreciation for them. It doesn’t require redoing the entire HR department, spending millions of dollars, or buying new HR software.
    • An annual review with a pay raise or a title bump is insufficient to counter 364 days of unappreciative experiences an employee can have at an organization.
  • A straightforward and quick way of improving your retention effort almost immediately is shooting a brief video on your phone that:
    • Uses the person’s name,
    • Discusses why you, as an employer or manager, appreciate their contribution,
    • Dives deep into specific things they do,
    • Reiterates how much you appreciate the employee’s contribution.
    • Send the video to the employee for them to watch. They’ll likely feel appreciated and save it for the days when work is challenging or they need a pick-me-up.

Designing Remarkable Employee Experiences

  • Mr. Coleman, at his company Design Symphony, helps employers keep their employees and customers. 
    • His goals are to help organizations with retention, increasing profits, and increasing the longevity of an organization. 
  • These goals are also echoed in his new book Never Lose An Employee Again: The Simple Path to Remarkable Retention, which publishes on June 27, 2023 and is available for preorder. 

Joey Coleman Background 



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