Repaving the broken path to retention
By all accounts, business leaders are being challenged to hire at unprecedented rates and retain good employees, who seem to be racing for the exits. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 47.8M workers quit their jobs voluntarily in 2021 – the highest number of yearly resignations on record (Novid Parsi, “6 strategies for building employee loyalty,” 3.26.22; SHRM.org). We have become very familiar with the “Great Resignation” phenomenon, requiring employers to reduce hours and levels of customer service because they cannot meet basic staffing requirements. The direct impact on business operations, such as manufacturing, marketing and sales, affects profit margins.
After experiencing loss of valuable employees, many companies now realize the importance of keeping a close pulse on the level of satisfaction and engagement of their workforce. By taking just a few minutes to pro-actively listen to and express appreciation for loyal, hardworking employees business owners can make a tremendous impact on shared financial success.
“The time has come for companies to become environments of employee support,” says Jane Rogan Dwight, a Communications Strategist and Consultant. “Business cannot afford to lose their brain trust with the mass exodus of early retirees. Nor can they afford to lose their best and brightest over the need to customize flexible hours and days. The most forward-thinking companies enabled these programs for years prior to the pandemic. It’s time we all caught on.”
Typically, when an employee is leaving your company, an exit interview is conducted to glean their insights on what is and is not working with regard to their work environment and level of job satisfaction. As HR professionals and business owners, we often hear the reasons employees are leaving during the exit interviews and we may ask ourselves, “Could I have prevented this?” Unfortunately, once you’re in an exit interview it’s too late. Your valuable employee has already decided to leave your company.
Using the ‘stay’ interview as a tool to understand – then plan
By crafting a brief stay interview, employers can discover what their employees need to be happy and satisfied in their jobs, and how the company can support their growth. Gaining these insights before valuable employees decide to leave is crucial to retaining your star performers. Follow up the stay interview with a planning session to ensure your best employees remain employed with your company.
In an effective stay interview, managers ask standard, structured questions in a casual and conversational manner. Most stay interviews take less than half an hour.
Opening the Interview
To open the stay interview, a manager may use the following (or similar) statements:
- We value the work you are doing with us. I would like to talk with you about the reasons you stay with (Your Company Name) so I understand what I can do to make this a place where you love working.
- I’d like to have an informal talk with you to find out how the job is going so I can do my best to support you as your manager.
You should have several open-ended questions on hand. We recommend seven to ten questions for a 30-minute meeting. The following are questions you may want to ask during a stay interview. It’s important to listen and gather ideas from your employee about how you and your organization can form a retention plan.
- What do you look forward to when you come to work each day?
- What do you like most/least about working here?
- What keeps you working here?
- If you could change something about your job, what would that be?
- What would make your job more satisfying?
- How do you like to be recognized?
- What talents are not being used in your current role?
- What would you like to learn here?
- What motivates/demotivates you?
- What can I do to best support you?
- What can I do more of/less of as your manager?
- What might tempt you to leave?
Closing the Interview
To close the stay interview, summarize the key reasons the employee gave for staying or potentially leaving the organization, and work with the employee to develop a stay plan. Be sure to end on a positive note.
Examples of closing statements include:
- Let me summarize what I heard you say about the reasons you stay at (Your Company Name) as well as reasons you might leave. Then, let’s develop a plan to make this the best place for you to work.
- I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me today. I am committed to doing what I can to make this the best place for you to work.
We are all facing tremendous challenges in managing our workforce. This is a simple approach that will help you to retain a skilled and engaged workforce.
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