Over the past few years, the job market has become increasingly competitive. As a result, workers are gaining more power and have a greater say in where they choose to share their talents. Many organizations have seen a growing number of departing employees, despite no obvious decrease in happiness. Quarter after quarter employee surveys show the same results, and yet top talent continues to leave for greener pastures. To proactively retain their workforce, leading companies utilize stay interviews.
When implemented properly, the direct communication of stay interviews uncovers meaningful data and actionable patterns. Without the right training and preparation, stay interviews are rarely implemented properly and can cause more harm than good. One of the key causes of failure is a lack of management training on the process of conducting stay interviews. These types of conversations come naturally to very few leaders. The ability to hold these conversations in a way that allows for data collection and analysis is an even more elusive skill.
Career Partners International has over thirty years of global executive coaching experience helping organizations and managers navigate difficult conversations that lead to meaningful change. The following are just a few examples of issues untrained managers often encounter while conducting stay interviews.
Interviews are Time Consuming
Most managers are busy juggling multiple projects and chasing deadlines. Their days are packed and adding new activities can cause additional stress. It is imperative that leaders have the mindset that stay interviews are an investment in their function’s capability and capacity, not a task or to-do. This enlightened thinking makes stay interviews a priority and an investment that delivers a solid return. The information gathered is valuable and participation is expected. It may not be necessary for a manager to conduct stay interviews with every employee. Targeting key workers, those with the most strategic importance to the organization, for example, high performers, individuals that enhance diversity, or those in high demand fields.
Responses are Anecdotal
A leader implementing stay interviews should target the collection of specific information. If managers are left with broad expectations, they may not be able to collect actionable feedback. Interviewers should prepare a set list of questions to conduct the interview. The interview should be conversational with the list acting as a guide. This subtle but important skill can either enhance or diminish the depth or breadth of information offered up. At the same time, if each manager is asking similar questions and recording the responses patterns should begin to arise. This will elevate the actionable feedback from the individual level to the strategic organizational level.
Known Issues Become a Focus
There is always room for improvement, this is true for all organizations. It is important that managers do not allow stay interviews to focus too heavily on issues that are already known. If brought up, managers should be coached to acknowledge the challenge and move on. Utilizing the set of standardized questions will allow a manager to pivot to more productive areas of discussion.
By nature of conducting stay interviews, managers will be opening discussions about employees’ futures at the organization. This will often lead down an employee’s expected career path or future positions. Occasionally an employee may discuss raises or promotions with a manager that had not been previously considered. In these instances, honesty is the best policy. Managers should let employees know that they are valued, and although a specific role or opportunity might not be readily available, they should provide support to further the valued employee’s career. Together the manager and employee can develop a plan to achieve these goals.
Throughout the course of a stay interview, there will be multiple instances with potential corrective action. It is important for managers not to overpromise throughout the conversation. This is an opportunity to listen and to collect data. Managers should let employees know that they have been heard and understood and that their suggestions will be taken into consideration. Managers should be coached to provide an expected timeline to complete their assessment of the stay interviews and begin identifying opportunities for improvement.
Stay interviews can be an invaluable tool for improving engagement and reducing employee attrition. To set the organization up for success managers will need to be supported throughout the process. Well trained managers with good backing will be able to draw out the most impactful feedback from participants. By focusing on well delivered interviews, fully thought out questions, complete analysis of responses, and implementing change organizations will be better able to provide their workforce with a reason to stay.
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