Stay Interviews; You Can’t Afford NOT To Use Them

Stay Interviews: You Can’t Afford NOT To Use Them

As of late, I’ve been really focused on writing about employee engagement and retention. Why should a headhunter care about this? Frankly, in my twenty-plus years in talent recruitment I’ve always tried to align myself with organizations that did everything they could to ensure employees were kept happy and challenged, leading to long term success for both sides.

In this regard, I want to focus on “Stay” or retention interviews. Stay interviews are conducted to help managers understand why employees stay with their employer and what might cause them to leave. For remote employees, a Skype conversation will work.

I recently spoke with someone I know well; he told me that he joined his current employer (a very successful company, #1 brand in their category) a couple of years ago and since then has been promoted. He’s the junior in the leadership team who for the most part is comprised of long-tenured managers, all successful in their own right. Although he’s happy in his current role, the company doesn’t conduct stay interviews and he’s a bit in the dark about his future; even though he’s been given more responsibility, he doesn’t really know where he stands should someone retire or leave. He’s uncertain if senior management consider him capable of stepping in and he’s more than willing to learn or take on new initiatives if he knew what it was that the company wanted him to pursue. If asked, he’d also suggest that they try to integrate more millenials as they’re the future of any business today, and solicit their feedback when on board.

Ultimately, he’s happy today but if a recruiter was to call him and outline a position with a company that kept the employees more engaged, he’d listen to what was being offered there.

In my research, I noted that many human resources professionals recommended Dick Finnegan of C-Suite Analytics as the expert on this subject (this is not a paid endorsement). Dick wrote The Power of Stay Interviews, the best-selling book in SHRM (Society For Human Resource Management) history. It appears he knows a thing or two about this subject!

Dick makes a very good point; the first thing a manager has to do is build trust between him/her and the employee. Here’s his take on this:

“Often people ask how can a manager who hasn’t built trust do so by conducting Stay Interviews. We usually then rattle off the four skills we train managers to use: listen, probe, take notes, and take responsibility. They wonder what the latter means but presume they fully understand the first three, including listen.

Most people, though, think listening is akin to hearing. Or sitting silently while maintaining eye contact and bobbing one’s head. In other words, giving someone the full floor to speak without interruption.

We give the greatest indications of listening, though, when we speak. This might sound counter-intuitive, but what we say after someone has spilled their guts matters the most.”

Good is when we tell them we heard what they said. For example, a manager may repeat back the employee’s words, “You said you needed 3 more days to complete the project and I understand your reasons why. Did I get it right?”

Better though, is to identify their emotions. Building onto the quote above for example: “You seem really frustrated by this project, and I know that’s not a good feeling. So, you need three more days to finish it and I understand why. Did I get it right?”

Then, it’s time to put the stay interview process into action.

In an effective stay interview, managers ask structured questions in an informal and conversational manner. Most stay interviews are brief, maybe 15-30 minutes. Here are some sample questions for discussion:

  • What do you look forward to when you come to work each day?
  • 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 skills of yours aren’t being used in your current role?
  • What would you like to learn more about?
  • What motivates (or demotivates) you?
  • What do you like most or least about working here?
  • What can I do to allow you to excel at what you do?
  • What can I do more of or to back from to help you succeed?
  • What might tempt you to leave?

Anyone out there conducting stay interviews that would be willing to share their experience with others? We’d appreciate your feedback or if you have additional questions, email us as well and we’ll address them in an upcoming issue.

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