Summer Workforce Series: Retention through Accountability

Everyone is talking about retention – but what are we actively doing about it? This blog is the second in a series discussing retention strategies in an environment where talent is hard to find and retaining high performers is harder than ever.

The intangible costs (productivity, culture, expertise) of replacing talent are greater than the tangible cost. The second highest reason employees leave is because they do not feel valued or appreciated in the workplace (Pew Research Center). THIS is where you can have some control. Managers and directors can directly impact this issue.  

Here are three low-cost, high-impact strategies to help with retention through accountability:


You know who they are. They consistently have low productivity and/or low-quality work. They are not team players, and they create office drama. Their performance and behavior undermine your credibility, but most importantly they impact overall productivity by 30-40 percent (Career Trend/Wall Street Journal).

As a manager, you must make a commitment to see if an employee is willing to do the work to change their behavior by providing the tools to help them be productive. There are always second chances. However, if a performance improvement plan does not work, it is the best option to let that employee go.

While there can be significant challenges of terminating an employee, many times managers are avoiding the conflict or the work it takes to terminate an employee. It may seem like an oxymoron to let go of employees while we’re talking about retention, but the truth is: high performers do not want to work in a culture where low performers are tolerated. In my entire career as a manager, I’ve let go just a few employees. Every single time, the change was better for the organization AND it helped the employee find a better fit for their talents and work style.

Ask Your Employees

One of the biggest things we can do is ASK – ask our employees about their work environment, what makes them CHOOSE to work at our organization, what feedback they have for leadership, etc.

The PPMC is currently working with The City of Lawrence to conduct an employee engagement study. This three-step process engages employees and collects feedback of the City as an employer to understand current perceptions and needs. This is a great example of prioritizing employees and making concentrated efforts to hear them. Without feedback, it’s impossible to respond to employees and retain key talent. Just doing the survey is not enough, it’s also key to build trust by talking honestly about results, areas that can be improved, and being direct about suggestions that are not feasible.

High Performers

You know who they are, too. These are your “go to” people. They go above and beyond what you ask of them and set the bar for others. In addition to providing financial reward, identify ways to demonstrate your appreciation for them AND invest in their personal and professional growth.

Most importantly, have conversations with them. “Stay interviews” are a great way to make sure employees feel valued. Finding a good team member is hard; we have to keep them. Managers can offer employees professional development, elevation of their role internally and/or externally, or development of a long-term advancement plan. Be creative in recognition and advancement opportunities.

These three ideas have minimal cost and big pay-off. Go get’ em… or more importantly, go keep’ em.


Heibutzki, R. (2017) Career Trend. The Effects of Poor Employees on Others. Retrieved from

Parker, K. and Horowitz, J.M. (9 March 2022) Pew Research Center. The Great Resignation: Why Workers Say They Quit Jobs in 2021. Retrieved from