Book · January 12, 2022

Mental model to solve your employee retention problem

Yesterday, I was taking a training session on a topic that I have personally made my problem solving capability 10x.

The topic was how rephrasing a problem can completely change the solutions that are going to come to your mind.

When I started building the team in 2008 from ground zero, we started by hiring fresh graduates. The problem we faced was most of these college graduates were not interested in joining us. We were small. No brand name. The only thing we were offering them was fast growth and learning. In the minds of these kids, this was not a reason they should work for long at one place. So they used to switch to another company very fast.

I was determined that – “People should not leave us.”

I implemented all the solutions that came to my mind to solve the above problem –

Asking people to sign a 2 year contract on the day of joining

This didn’t work. Then we came up with another solution –

Changing 2 year contract to 2 year loyalty bonus.

We thought incetivizing would work. This too didn’t work

I tried many other solutions, but all failed. The retention rate in the first 6 months was still very low at 40-50%.

We were not able to solve this problem.

Then, one day, while discussing this problem with my colleague, unknowingly, I described it with different words –

“People should stay with us.”

The type of solutions that came to my mind were completely different from what I was implementing before. I started thinking about how to make onboarding better, how to share more about the future in the company; how to share about growth using different examples, etc.

That was the day I realized the power of rephrasing the problem statement –

People should not leave us.


People should stay with us.

I want to share one more personal example with you.

Before 2012, large corporates were not very open to giving us projects. We were pitching to Google and its counsel told us we can do everything that you do and thus we have no reason to hire you. This was happening to every corporate client we were reaching out to. Every corporate was giving us different reasons, but the conclusion was the same.

I used to ask this every day to my sales team –

Why large corporates are not giving us projects

We applied all the solutions that came to our mind, but none of them worked. Then one day our question changed…. We started asking –

What should we do so large companies can start giving us projects.

Suddenly, we started getting ideas that were very different. Now we work with top company in all hi-tech domains.

Coaching your team member on this skill of paraphrasing can drastically enhance their creativity, innovation quotient, and problem solving capability.

They would shift from asking –

Why I didn’t get a 4 star rating


What did I miss that I didn’t get 4 star this quarter

It is difficult to make our brains immediately adapt to these mental models. It will not start using them the very next day after you read about it.

However, if you keep yourself exposed to various examples of how these mental models are applied at different places. Like we cover here. You expand your exposure. I believe you will go through a similar cycle like me. One fine day, automatically your brians will start using the above narrative without you realizing that this is happening. To you, it would seem you were always like that.

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