A Retention Checklist for your Team

Updated: Apr 23

Paloma Medina, owner of 11:11 Supply and a public speaker on topics from equity to inclusion, has brilliantly outlined the core needs of employees in her BICEPS model. As we reflect on employee departures we’ve seen over the years, it’s clear that there are always gaps in one or more of these core needs.

Your goal is not 100% retention. Not all turnover is bad. There are plenty of times when a role, priorities or skills may shift out of alignment.

Great managers cannot get so distracted trying to fix and retain problem performers that they miss the warning signs from top team members.

Your goal is to understand the importance of each of these core needs (and how things are stacking up!) for each of your team members.

As you read the following, check the boxes you believe to be true for your team member. If you’re not sure about the answer, ask them!

Feel free to add additional checkboxes specific to your own environment. For example, if the team member is making steady contributions in Git not just by volume but by complexity and value.

1. Belonging

⬜ They disagree with you and other members of the team clearly and verbally whether on many small topics or significant larger ones. Risk - someone who used to disagree more often and has gone relatively quiet.

⬜ You observe participation in at least 1-2 forums that suit their comfort level and preferences. For example, not everyone is going to joke around in Slack. But there should be some visible sense of where/how this person is connecting with others even if that’s in code reviews.

⬜ Conflict is handled peer to peer rather than through managerial intermediaries.

⬜ ______ (Add something specific you notice your most engaged team members do regularly.)

2. Improvement/Progress

⬜ > 50% of the role seems to be “clicking” and projects are progressing visibly.

⬜ They have had at least one stretch project in the last quarter.

⬜ They can name at least 2 skills they’ve acquired or grown within the last year.

⬜ There is a clear, shared written plan for advancement including at least one tangible measure such as title or salary.

3. Choice

⬜ They set their own hours.

⬜ Their input shapes their projects, work and goals.

⬜ This person is empowered to make changes if something isn’t working and has done so recently.

⬜ 1:1s with this person focus on goals and strategy rather than minutia or micromanaging.

4. Equality/Fairness

Note: This is not whether *you* believe these things are fair. This is about whether *they* believe these things are fair.

⬜ They feel they have fair and equal access to information compared to their peers at the company and elsewhere.

⬜ They feel they are paid fairly.

⬜ The rules apply to everyone and leaders follow the same rules as everyone else. In other words, actions they observe from managers and peers align with the standards that they are held to.

⬜ Promotions and performance management decisions are applied fairly across the organization. For example, assholes are not rewarded for bad behavior.

5. Predictability

⬜ Sudden jarring surprises to work, challenges or team are infrequent or minimal.

⬜ Payroll, benefits and incoming work are steady.

⬜ Leaders are in control of their own emotions and the team is not subjected to panic, yelling or other distracting behaviors.

⬜ In general, others on the team including leaders follow through on their commitments and obligations. More is done than said.

6. Significance

⬜ Work is recognized by leadership including skip levels.

⬜ Work is recognized by peers.

⬜ Meaning to the work is clear and reinforced.

⬜ This person can clearly articulate how their work ties to company goals and strategy. (This is more rare than it should be - ASK.)

Count up your checkmarks.

> 18 = low risk

Action: Reinforce what’s already happening and continue regular 1:1s focused on future planning. Determine which areas are most important to this person and see how you might expand there.

12-18 = moderate risk

Action: Look at the largest gaps and determine if those areas matter somewhat, quite a bit or not at all to the individual. Remedy as needed and monitor closely.

<12 = high risk

Action: Start spending more time with this person ideally in a less formal setting than a meeting. Look into how things have gotten misaligned. Your action plan may need to be vigorous and you should be checking in on progress across these categories weekly.

Download Retention Checklist PDF →

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