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Stay Interviews: Feeling The Love This February

Are your employees feeling the love this February?  Chances are, you may not necessarily know the answer to this question, and not knowing can be costly.  While the numbers vary, experts estimate that the cost of a single employee’s turnover can be anywhere from $10,000 to two times the employee’s annual salary.  And while employee turnover has consistently been a hot topic among HR professionals, there are some new ideas as to how to best combat it.

One of the ways employers have historically tried to determine the cause of turnover is by conducting exit interviews.  While HR Works highly suggests that exit interviews are a part of your offboarding process, there’s a fundamental flaw with solely relying on this data for retention and engagement purposes; data from exit studies is a lagging indicator.  In other words, by the time you’ve collected the information obtained from exit interviews, employees have already decided to leave.

As discussed in last month’s Focus, employee engagement surveys can also be a valuable tool for gathering comprehensive information about what employees, as a whole, are looking for.  This information can be very useful when determining what organizational benefits and programs are hitting or missing the mark.  However, they do not provide information on what motivates individual employees.

So, what can employers do to ensure they gather information that helps to address employee concerns prior to the point of no return?  Stay interviews.

Stay interviews provide insight.

Employers should think of stay interviews as reverse performance appraisals. Is your company meeting or exceeding the expectations of your employees?  Stay interviews, when done correctly, will tell you.  Stay interviews provide employees with the ability to share ideas and receive focused attention, which is particularly attractive to Millennial and Generation Z employees.  And with Millennials making up the majority of the workforce and being the most transient of the employee generations, employers need to actively create opportunities that allow for real-time feedback on employees’ day to day experiences at the company. 

Stay interviews build trust.

Richard Finnegan, author of The Stay Interview, says “hard data proves the top reason employees quit is they don’t trust their managers. Stay Interviews are the absolute best trust-building activity…and therefore the best retention tool.”  Research shows that managers who engage in ongoing, meaningful conversations with employees are those that benefit from high degrees of trust, and high-trust cultures benefit from higher engagement, retention, and productivity.  Stay interviews, combined with ongoing performance management discussions, provide managers with an opportunity to directly convey to employees that they are important and that they contribute to the company’s success.

Stay interviews mitigate risk.

Though many of the benefits associated with stay interviews are related to employee engagement and retention, HR Works also suggests using stay interviews as a way to ensure harassment and discrimination issues are reported.  Incorporating questions regarding the overall culture of the company and asking about any concerns about harassment and discrimination not only reinforces the company’s commitment to a harassment-free workplace but provides a record that the employer is doing its due diligence in providing employees the opportunity to report any potential issues.

Ready to move forward? 

First: Determine if this is the right time.  Companies that are struggling with a lack of trust or communication issues may not yet be ready to conduct stay interviews on a large-scale.  Instead, consider conducting these interviews only with new hires, after a period of 3 to 6 months.  For the employee base at large, begin to look at some team building initiatives to help address some of the underlying issues.  Once employees recognize that the company is serious about improving the work environment, the company can begin to develop a communication plan to roll out the stay interviews.

Second: Ensure your managers understand the importance of stay interviews and how to conduct them.  Consider providing training to managers ahead of time on how to conduct the interview and, specifically, how to respond to employees who may not be currently feeling the love for their position, the company, or their manager.  In order to ensure that the overall experience is one that builds trust, the manager should know how to listen effectively and engage employees in open-ended conversations.  Managers must understand that the point of a stay interview is not to gather only good news, but information that ultimately helps the company understand how it can better meet the needs and improve the experience of the employee.

Third: Determine what questions to ask.  Select questions that will have the most utility for your company.  What is the company struggling with?  Where would input from employees make the most impact?  Even the sequence in which questions are asked should be considered. Similar to interviews conducted when recruiting for positions, start with the easy, ice-breaker questions before getting to questions that may be more difficult or uncomfortable to answer.    

Fourth: Be prepared for how your company can and will respond to employee feedback and what measures will be put in place to ensure that managers are following up with employee suggestions.  Employees will expect something to come out of the stay interviews.  So, before you begin to consider stay interviews, ensure that your company is prepared to implement some changes based on the feedback.  Equally as important is to ensure that neither the manager nor the company is making promises that it can’t keep.  Employees should understand that stay interviews provide an opportunity for them to provide insight.  However, the company ultimately decides what changes can be made.   

Stay interviews may seem like a big endeavor to take on.  When done correctly, they do take time and effort on the part of HR, managers, and the leadership team.  However, research shows that this type of initiative sets employers apart and helps to keep all employees, especially the younger generations, engaged.  Need some help moving forward?  Clients of HR Works can reach out to the Helpline for a stay interview template.  Need more than that?  Reach out to helpline@hrworks-inc.com to request additional information.  We have consultants who can work with you directly to design, communicate, and rollout a stay interview initiative so that by 2020, you’ll know the answer to whether or not your employees are feeling the love.

© 2019 HR Works, Inc. All Rights Reserved

HR Works, Inc., headquartered at 200 WillowBrook Office Park in Fairport (Rochester), New York, with an office in East Syracuse, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.