Start Talking Now: Improve Engagement with a Stay Interview

A fact of running an organization is that employees leave and new ones need to be hired. Sometimes employees leave because they have a change in lifestyle, while other times they leave because they are not happy.

To find out why, don’t wait to talk to an employee when they are leaving the company. Be proactive and start having stay interviews. They will not only help you retain employees, but they can help you address issues that will improve engagement for all employees.

The need for stay interviews is even more important as the economy changes and perceptions about companies and company loyalty change. In the current economic climate, it is becoming more commonplace to change jobs frequently. According to recent surveys, 25% of workers will have 5 jobs by the age of 35. That means that the  average job tenure is about 4.5 years.

While most employers expect new employees to stay less than 2 years, it does not mean that employers have to sit and wait for their employees to leave. It can be difficult to attract and retain talented employees. It can cost the company resources to have a lot of turnover. Stay interviews are an excellent addition to retention methods.

The basics of the stay interview

Stay interviews are designed to do just what they state, make an employee stay. Many companies are starting to have stay interviews in order to avoid having exit . A stay interview is usually a sit down meeting between a manager and an employee that takes place at regular intervals during the year. The intention of the stay interview is to learn about an employee’s perspective: what is working, what is not working, and how to keep the employee satisfied and motivated.

These stay interviews can make it known that employees are valued and that the company wants to keep them. They can also provide feedback about the company from employees who want to stay. Changes can be made on a continual basis in order to keep ahead of any potential problems that could result in turnover.

In a recent survey of 100 HR executives, only 27% stated that the company was conducting stay interviews. 24% stated that the company would plan to have stay interviews in the near future.

For companies not in the 27%, there are many reasons why having stay interviews can be beneficial for the organization. 

The reasons to start having stay interviews right now

They provide important information

Employers have the opportunity to receive information about many important topics:

What employees love about their jobs
Why employees stay at the company
What the company is doing right
What the company can do better
What kinds of frustrations or struggles employees have

They can increase employee engagement

Most employees are happy to provide feedback and share opinions about the job and the company. The opportunity to share gives employees the sense that employers care about them and are willing to take the time to listen to what they have to say. Therefore, these interviews are a good step toward creating better employee engagement.

They also have the potential to improve morale, productivity, and employees’ perceptions of the company. According to neuroscience research, one of the reward centers in the brain is related to control. Conducting interviews and seeing the results can give employees a sense of control over their work lives, improving engagement.

They can improve retention

When employers use information gained from stay interviews to make changes in the company, they can be useful in improving retention. Employers can take the feedback and show employees that they listen and will make adjustments to better the work experience. These changes can increase retention for the interviewed employees, but also for all employees. 

They provide personal interactions

Stay interviews give employers and employees a chance to sit down and discuss various aspects of the job and work experience. The interviews provide the opportunity for employers to connect with employees on a more personal level.

In relation to neuroscience, the brain is a social organ. Positive social interactions motivate people. These interviews provide opportunities for positive interaction and increased brain activity in the reward centers of the brain related to social relationships and empathy.

They are cost-effective

For as much information as they can provide, having employers conduct interviews with employees is extremely cost effective. The cost of these interviews is basically the time it takes to conduct them.

They can help employers help employees

Employers can use these interviews to help employees improve their performance. Some employees may be very stressed or lacking in productivity. Employers can help employees evaluate the job fit and possible career goals. The interviews can also give employees a chance to explain why they have been struggling. The employer then has the chance to help them create new goals and interventions. 

How to set up the perfect stay interview

Creating up a plan for establishing a system of stay interviews is important for making stay interviews a lasting aspect of company culture.

When to have interviews

Most people agree that companies should have stay interviews on a regular basis. This can mean once or twice a year or this can mean quarterly.

Who should take part in interviews

Employees – While it would be ideal to interview all employees, everyone from entry-level to upper management, this is sometimes not possible due to time or resources. Some companies interview a group of employees that can represent all the segments of the organizations. Others may choose certain employees who are high or low performers in order to find out how to keep and attract high performers and how to boost the productivity of low performers.

Employers – Similar to an exit interview, deciding who leads the stay interviews can be a critical decision. Some companies use members of HR, while others use managers or supervisors. There also needs to be a team in place to analyze the information and create action plans based on the feedback.

Outside agencies – In an effort to get the most useful information from employees, some companies hire outside agencies to conduct the interviews. The thought is that employees will be more willing to be open and honest with a third party than they would be with a manager or member of HR. The downside is that this adds to the cost of conducting interviews. 

How to conduct the interviews

Employers who conduct stay interviews should prepare for the worst. If companies are really invested in interviews, they should encourage honesty. With honesty comes good and bad news.

Interviewers need to encourage honesty by letting employees know that the information they share is confidential and that there will be no consequences for whatever the opinions shared.

What should interviewers ask

No matter who is interviewed, the types of questions asked should provide relevant information to the company about the employee’s thoughts, feelings, and opinions about the company, the job, leaders, and their performance.

Some of the following questions can be helpful when conducting interviews:

What do you like best about the position?

What tasks to like performing?

What could we do to make your job easier?

How can we help you build a career?

How can we help you be more effective?

How satisfied are you with your manager?

How satisfied are you with the leaders of the company?

How can we help you improve your life?

Tell us about a recent great day and what make it so excellent.

Tell us about a recent bad day and what make it disappointing.

What to do after the interview

After companies start conducting stay interviews, they should begin to share results with management and employees. Along with information they should share action plans and change initiatives. It can be more damaging to have the interviews and not to create change than it would be to not have the interviews at all. It can be very demotivating for employees to feel they have taken their time to share their opinions, but then see that their opinions did not really matter.

As companies start the process of conducting stay interviews, the set up can be difficult at first, but the rewards can be worth it. Retention and engagement are vital to the health of an organization, especially as turnover and job mobility increase more and more. Using stay interviews can be a great health check for an organization and help avoid the need for so many exit interviews.

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