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Conversation Guide

7 conversations managers must have with employees

    Intuitively, we know managers impact staff engagement. In fact, the Advisory Board's Survey Solutions team has quantified exactly how much managers impact engagement: Staff who rate their manager as excellent are five times more engaged than staff who rate their manager as poor.

    Strong communication with staff is one of the hallmarks of an excellent manager. But communication can be an abstract concept, so we've identified seven specific conversations managers should have with employees throughout employees' careers—and highlighted the resources we have to help.

    Conversation #1: A behavioral-based interview with your job candidate

    The first conversation should happen before an employee is even hired. Managers should use the job interview to assess a candidate's fit with the role, department, and organization. Behavioral-based interviewing—asking candidates to discuss how they've acted in past situations—is the most effective way to gauge how candidates will perform in the future.

    Not an HR Advancement Center member? Learn more about BBI here.

    Conversation #2: Your first check-in with your new hire

    Nationally, more than 1 in 5 health care employees who leave their organization have less than one year of tenure. Managers need to build a strong relationship with new hires to help retain them—starting with the first conversation they have.

    Conversation #3: 30, 60, and 90-day check-ins with your new hire

    Managers should sit down with their new team members 30, 60, and 90 days after hire to see how staff are settling into the organization and to spot any potential retention concerns.

    • Template: Download our 30/60/90 day check-in template with the questions to ask during these conversations.

    Not an HR Advancement Center member? You can still download the guide here.

    Conversation #4: How to give employees regular recognition

    For many managers, the hard part of recognition isn't what to recognize or when to do it—it's making recognition a regular habit.

    • Practice: A simple way to incorporate recognition into your weekly routine. Learn how one manager does it with a "fishbowl".

    Conversation #5: Conduct a performance review

    No list of important manager-employee conversations would be complete without the formal annual review.

    Staff need fair, accurate feedback about their strengths and development needs in order to improve, but managers often shy away from delivering tough messages. It's hard to share difficult feedback, but planning out the message in advance can help.

    • Worksheet: Prepare a watertight outline ahead of time with this worksheet.

    Conversation #6: Perform a goal-focused mid-year check-in

    Staff tend to pay attention to goals when the goals are first set at the beginning of the year—and at the end of the year when the final numbers come in. That means there are ten or more months during the year when goals may not be at the forefront.

    One straightforward way to help staff stay focused on goals is to set aside time in the middle of the year to discuss progress.

    • Template: Download our full study to learn more best practices to sustain staff interest in goals.

    Conversation #7: Encourage high-value staff to delay retirement

    Finally, managers who have team members nearing retirement should talk with them about potential options for extending their careers. Experienced staff may be able to continue contributing their expertise at a reduced scale before they fully retire from the organization.

    • Practice: Crafting a phased retirement plan for high-value staff is one best practice. Check out our full study for more on how to navigate frontline staff retirements.

    Read more: Performance reviews 101

    Evaluating your staff's performance can feel awkward and subjective, but it's critical that you do so as fairly and accurately as possible.

    Here's how to assess your employees' work effectively, consistently, and appropriately:

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