Overcoming the Most Common Challenges for Managers Conducting Stay Interviews

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.

Impractical Feedback

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.

Overcommitment

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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Career Partners International Coaches Employers to Use Stay Interviews as Valuable Retention Tools

As the working world becomes more complex and employee tenure decreases, organizations are looking for better ways to engage their workforce.  Career Partners International (CPI) works with firms around the globe to align employee and employer goals through a multitude of techniques.  Exit interviews gather useful information about why an employee is leaving. Employee engagement surveys are used to obtain the pulse of the organization.  Stay interviews take this a step further, providing actionable information through direct communication.  This method allows managers to obtain a better measurement of job satisfaction and engagement, ultimately reducing employee attrition within targeted groups.
A stay interview is a structured conversation, usually between a manager and an employee, designed to discover pain points and motivational drivers. Broader than a discussion about projects or performance, a stay interview uncovers the root cause of an employee’s decision to remain in their job. Companies leading the pack in stay interviews often have highly talented people they don’t want to lose or are in industries known to have high turnover.
Stay interviews are more specific and future-oriented than exit interviews.  Organizations can better predict and reduce employee turnover by taking corrective action based on resulting feedback.  An employee can decide to leave at a moment’s notice, or they can decide to stay because their manager took the time to ask a question, show they care, and respond in a meaningful way.  The initial act of conducting a stay interview often generates goodwill with employees.  It is, however, crucial to follow up these interviews with meaningful action to maintain the positive impact.
It’s important to speak with the groups of employees that matter most to the organization based on business and employee retention goals.  Potential interviewees might include:

Emerging leaders and high potentials
Affinity groups such as women, people of color, LGBTQ community
Hard to fill technical skill sets such as nurses, software engineers, or scientists
Newly transitioned employees due to a merger or acquisition
Millennials or Gen Z

There are many ways to conduct stay interviews including surveys, focus groups, and expert HR consultants. Companies may be reluctant to conduct stay interviews because they can be time-consuming and it may be difficult to react meaningfully to the feedback. Hiring a third party to conduct stay interviews can save time and simplify the development of proposals for productive action.  Additionally, using a third party telegraphs the importance of the process and allows for more candid responses.
Another way to get started is by teaching managers to ask stay interview questions during regular employee meetings.  Develop interview guides with consistent questions to better identify patterns across the company. Sometimes managers may ask every question in an interview, other times a talkative, articulate employee may provide deep insights with just a few prompts. Stay interview questions should be tailored to the goals of the organization and might include:

What is different here that makes you proud to be an employee?
Is your manager effective? If so, what do they do that you value the most? If not, what do you wish they would do more often?
What do you like most or least about working here?
What might tempt you to leave?
What talents are not being used in your current role?
What would you like to learn here?
What motivates or demotivates you?

Reluctance to conduct stay interviews may stem from concern over receiving feedback that isn’t actionable, such as a desire for a raise or promotion. There may be no money in the budget, no available position, or the employee may not be qualified to make their desired move. In these scenarios, honesty is the best policy.  Reiterate these conversations are intended to identify how the company can evolve to better support the needs of valuable employees.
When an organization decides to conduct stay interviews, it’s vital that leaders make a commitment to understand the findings quickly then act to show genuine care and follow-through.  With managers and employees invested in the process, it is imperative to make changes within the organization’s control. Initially, changes need not be major; a few small, yet visible improvements can go a long way as more complex and strategic adjustments are analyzed.
Sustaining the momentum of stay interviews requires continued steady attention to connecting with employees. Some ways to keep it going include:

Continue to connect with employees to assess satisfaction and level of engagement
Communicate progress and celebrate successes
Offer workshops for all managers so they can periodically meet with their employees and query them to discover the talent reality
Train internal HR staff in how to conduct focus groups and report findings via a readily available, easy to use tool

Stay interviews are a valuable retention tool when conducted properly. Be sure to spend time coming up with questions that will yield the most valuable feedback. Have that million-dollar question such as, “What is the one reason you stay with the company?” Imagine the value to the organization if managers knew every employee’s response and acted to make it a reality.
 
Written by Kim Littlefield, Senior Vice President, Keystone Partners. A CPI Firm
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Six Principles for Conducting an Effective Executive Job Search

In today’s dynamic and competitive job market, the elements of an effective executive-level job search are very different than what may be utilized for non-executive roles.  With over thirty years of global experience, Career Partners International (CPI) has helped thousands of executives land their next role.   Many executives have not had to search for a new role in decades, leaving them unfamiliar with the new recruiting ecosystem.  Our expert coaches quickly and efficiently guide candidates into new positions that fit their unique talents utilizing advanced technology, cutting edge tactics, and proven networking strategies.
It can be seductive to spend time on job boards responding to advertised openings—but this is a low probability exercise. The three channels of activity that drive any effective professional job search are networking, targeted direct outreach, and executive search firms. Actively working all three channels through specific and sustained activity yields the best results.  This is especially true for an executive-level search as the level of competition is intense, and there are fewer opportunities at this level than at lower levels.

Getting started

An effective job search begins with a realistic assessment of skills, background, and experiences to define the value proposition that you bring to the market. With a realistic assessment of yourself, the next step is to define the range of industries, organizations, and roles that have a need for your unique combination of skills and experiences, and in which you would likely bring value. Resume, biography, and social media accounts (i.e. LinkedIn) are then created, or updated, to reflect and highlight your relevant background and experience as they relate to the industry, function, and/or opportunity you are trying to secure.

Limit the time spent on job posting websites

Most people spend way too much time trolling around job posting websites, but this is usually a time waster that does not yield success unless coupled with other more active efforts. Online postings typically generate hundreds of eager and well-qualified responses. However, the typical applicant tracking system uses algorithms to filter the pool of applicants so only a select few are ever seen by the people involved in the hiring process. It’s a very efficient process for the hiring company but it is unrealistic to expect a positive outcome if an individual is passive and simply waits for opportunities to present themselves.  For those times when direct contacts are limited, CPI has developed a program designed to highlight gaps between the resume and job posting, allowing for greater success in making it through the applicant tracking system.

Spend a lot of time networking

The most important factor in an executive-level job search is the sustained effort to secure introductions, conversations, and interviews with individuals and organizations who might have a need for your skills.  Networking involves a pragmatic approach to identifying and connecting with people who can provide information, insight, or connections that bridge to potential opportunities. Effective networking requires an investment of time and commitment to follow-up and follow-through on potential leads even though many will not directly result in a job. Some conversations yield valuable information or connect directly to a specific immediate opportunity while other networking conversations lead to connections with new networking contacts. Be patient and maintain the effort.
While networking often starts with those who are close, it should expand as a job seeker stays connected with their personal network. The expectation is that the broader group will then provide additional insight and connections within the industry or with specific organizations or opportunities.

Do targeted direct outreach

While networking seeks to leverage the strengths of personal relationships, business connections, and social interactions, direct outreach involves proactive outreach to targeted organizations and individuals without the benefit of prior relationship or a network referral. Direct outreach is as simple as connecting with a targeted individual to see if they would be receptive to an initial conversation to explore the possibility of mutual interest.
There are two things that make direct outreach effective. One is targeting so there is a clear and obvious connection between your skills and background and the potential needs of the organization. The more alignment, the more likely there will be a positive response to the direct outreach.
The second key to successful direct outreach is the breadth and depth of the outreach. In terms of breadth, there needs to be enough activity to generate a positive result. If someone only reaches out to two organizations, they would need a 50% response rate to secure one follow-up. If that same individual reached out to 10 organizations, a 10% response rate would yield a meeting. Extend that to 100 organizations and apply the same math, and it could result in 10 follow-up meetings.
Successful direct outreach requires appropriate follow-up to help increase the odds of a positive response. If a job seeker sends a single email to a busy executive, it is not likely they will hear back. If on the other hand, they send a follow-up email a few days later or they reach out by phone as well, the odds of contact and conversation are greatly increased.

Tap into executive search firms

Many executive-level roles are filled through executive retained search. The larger and more visible the role, the more likely it is an organization will hire a search firm to manage the process. To be considered as a candidate for these roles, the job seeker must first gain visibility and credibility with the external recruiter. This is typically done through networking and direct outreach.
Since search firms are retained to find the best overall candidate for a specific role, they are evaluating and screening potential candidates on a variety of tangible and intangible factors. A retained search process usually involves the screening of 100 or more candidates to create a pool of four-to-five that are interviewed by their client. Those who have the requisite skills, background, and experience are in the initial screening pool of 100 or more. The few who have the greatest demonstrated alignment with what are perceived to be the most important success factors for that specific role at that specific organization make it to the interview process.
Some interactions with search consultants will lead to interviews and job offers while others may lead to disappointment, but the disappointments can also lead to valuable insights and information. While you may not be identified as the best fit for one role, you may be an ideal fit for another. A candidate will not be presented to more than one client at a time, but search firms keep track of those they interact with. If a candidate makes a positive (or negative) impression, search consultants remember and factor it in when they, or their colleagues, are working on other similar searches.

Balanced activity yields the best outcome

There is a high correlation between the effort and activity people put into their job search and the success of the search. Greater success will come more quickly by engaging in active and ongoing networking combined with a high degree of direct outreach and targeted interaction with executive search professionals. Individuals who leverage all three will generally land better positions faster than those who put more limited effort into networking, outreach, and navigating the executive search arena in favor of simply responding to open online postings.
The executive job search has always been a difficult process, and it has been made more complex with the introduction of various online distractions and increased connectivity.  With the right coach and a structured approach, job seekers can take advantage of this new reality to land in a firm that values their contributions.  CPI coaches are experts in their local markets, with the knowledge and technologies to support and guide executives on their way to a new career.
 
Written by Rob Croner, Vice President of Senior Executive Services at CCI Consulting, A CPI Firm
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Career Partners International Expands into the Pittsburgh Market

One of the key strengths of Career Partners International (CPI) is the unique combination of a global presence with local Partners serving as experts in their own communities.  We are proud to announce that, coming off a record year, CPI Firm Promark, is expanding their presence from Cincinnati, Ohio into Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  With over 50 years’ experience, Promark officially enters Pittsburgh, a city in which they have already established a long and intimate history.
Promark welcomes Bill Harmon as their Managing Director of the Pittsburgh expansion.  For over 30 years, Bill has had the privilege to contribute as an executive leader, start-up entrepreneur, and business owner throughout all stages of global human resource and marketing leadership.  He is passionate about helping individuals and organizations get to their next level and has successfully done so many times in the Pittsburgh business community.  Additionally, Bill has worked alongside Promark for over twenty years and has shown his values to align with their vision.
“Promark has long been a valuable Partner of CPI and we could not be more excited about their expansion into the Pittsburgh market.  With world-class coaching, technical expertise, and Bill Harmon’s guidance we expect Promark to provide unrivaled support to the Pittsburgh professional community,” states Bill Kellner, President of Career Partners International.
Pittsburgh’s business community is committed to working with local firms with a vested interest in solving business challenges, and we are grateful to lock arms with the community in that effort.  The city has gone through a powerful reinvention, moving from a heavily industrial base to an epicenter of technology innovation.  With experience and expertise in helping companies achieve their business results throughout the entire Talent Lifecycle of attraction, retention, engagement and even transition, Promark and CPI embrace Pittsburgh’s spirit of progress and evolution.
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How To Build Mutual Respect, Trust And Support Between CEOs And Boards

Deloitte’s Chief Executive Program published a paper yesterday on “Seven steps to a more strategic board.” Its insights are well worth reading. They did, however, bury the lead. The seven steps add up to the importance of CEOs taking a leadership role in managing boards and building relationships rooted in “mutual respect, trust and support.” That’s the lead.
Deloitte’s Seven Steps:

CEOs, it’s really up to you – Take an active role in board management.
Be fearlessly transparent – Be open and humble.
Take advantage of tension – Grow through debate.
Facilitate the board experience, not just the board meeting – Build relationships over time.
Curate information, and then curate it again – Give enough, but not too much information.
To chair or not to chair? Think about it very carefully – Choose your level of influence.
Say your piece on board composition – Build the right board over time.

Relationships rooted in “mutual respect, trust, and support” don’t happen by mistake. They are built together, deliberately, and over time.
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Compliments And Criticism – Why And How To Encourage More

Everything communicates – everything you are, do and say, to what you pay attention, and the way you react to others. Receive compliments in a way that impacts how others perceive themselves – essentially by saying, “Thank you” with your words and actions. React to bad news about yourself or others by appreciating it in a way that encourages those messengers to give you more of it in the prompt, straightforward and unvarnished way you want it delivered.
Long ago in a galaxy far away someone suggested the best way to respond to a compliment was by saying “Thank you.” He urged us to accept compliments as the fully formed gifts they are meant to be. There is no need to build on them, defer them, or deny them.
Last year someone complimented me on something I wrote. I replied, “I’m not sure it was that good.” She jumped all over me, saying “Don’t ever say that again. It makes aspiring writers lose faith in themselves.”
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