Deloitte said recently that U.S. companies, including non-profits, are spending $1.53 billion each year to improve employee engagement and retention. I would suggest we substitute the word “spending” with “flushing” to make it more accurate as Gallup says employee engagement has shown no improvement for 15 years.

One thing non-profits cannot afford is to “flush” money away, especially on where the majority of money is spent without showing improvement: engagement surveys, exit surveys…and then more engagement surveys and more exit surveys. One way or another, vendors have convinced us that surveys improve engagement and retention. They don’t of course. They just give us data but no solutions.

Here are the facts, and some of them are hard to swallow. Employee turnover is higher in non-profits than the corporate sector and the number one concern is keeping qualified staff with limited budgets.1 So the data from employee surveys and exit surveys say employees want more engagement, but employees don’t stay or engage more for employee-of-the-month events or more town hall or team meetings. Nor are most employees motivated by better benefits. What they are motivated by is having more engagement with a manager they trust. Hard data proves this.

Whether you are non-profit or not, a direct, can’t miss way to improve trust is for leaders on all levels to conduct Stay Interviews. And the good…no, GREAT…news for all companies, including non-profits, is that once managers are trained or certified in Stay Interviews, the cost to use over and over becomes zero. No surveys, no reports, no new programs or team action plans. Sometimes simple is better and this is one of those times.

Stay Interviews are structured discussions a leader conducts with each individual employee to learn the specific actions she must take to strengthen that employee’s engagement and retention with the organization. Structured means ask 5 specific questions, followed by probes to learn all you can. Leader means first-line supervisors and no one else because those supervisors must build trust.

Here are the 5 questions we’ve built on research and have confidence in:

1. When you travel to work each day, what things do you look forward to?
2. What are you learning here? Want to learn?
3. Why do you stay here?
4. When was the last time you thought about leaving our team? What prompted it?
5. What can I do to make your experience at work better for you?

Importantly for non-profits, there are no costs once leaders are trained. No surveys, no detailed reports, no new employee programs. Just leaders from each level using their training in Stay Interviews to talk directly with their employees one-to-one as to why they stay and what could keep them longer.

Try this! You’ll be glad you did, now and a decade from now.

1. 2016 Nonprofit Employment Practices SurveyTM Results. Copyright © 2016 Nonprofit HR. All Rights Reserved.