Conducting Stay Interviews To Strengthen Employee Engagement

As an employer, you probably don’t need another reminder of how challenging it is to find qualified workers. Well, here’s another: According to data released by the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate plunged to a 21-month low of 4.2% in November 2021.

Fewer people looking for jobs means it’s even more important to hold on to the good employees you have and, to the extent possible, dissuade them from joining “The Great Resignation.” One approach to consider is conducting stay interviews.

Why Do It
Essentially, stay interviews are one-on-one conversations between employees and their supervisors focused on strengthening engagement and improving retention. A common reaction to the concept is, “Why conduct stay interviews when we can just deal with these issues in a performance review or through an employee survey?”

A good reason to separate stay interviews from performance reviews is each discussion has a different purpose. Performance reviews should focus on specific objectives and whether the employee has accomplished them. Stay interviews address the broader issues of motivation and job satisfaction.

Employee surveys can be useful for gathering broad workforce data to establish certain trendlines. But you won’t likely get many specific, personal details. And often the best way to prevent good employees from leaving is to address the distinctive, specific reasons they may have for thinking about leaving.

Best Practices
There are various best practices for conducting stay interviews. For starters, provide employees plenty of time to learn about the purpose, format, and tone of the conversation. This will allow them to reflect on their employment situations and, one hopes, fully articulate their thoughts and feelings.

Stay interviews should ideally be face-to-face, in-person discussions involving the employee and their supervisor. However, as is common in the current environment, many people may be working remotely. So, conducting the interview via virtual meeting technology, or even just on the phone, is fine.

Generally, supervisors should keep the initial stay interview as simple and brief as possible. Doing so should lessen some of the natural anxiety of such a conversation and build the employee’s confidence in the process.

Using a scripted introduction is often helpful. State upfront that you may not be able to address every concern or grant any request brought up in the interview. You don’t want to create an implied contract. For example, a supervisor could say, “I’d like our focus to be on subjects I can help you with every day,” rather than setting a narrower agenda focusing, perhaps, on compensation.

Choose questions carefully. A stay interview should elicit responses that help you better understand each employee’s motivations and aspirations. Commonly asked questions include, “What aspects of your job do you look forward to every day?” and “How can I help you do your job better on a daily basis?”

You can even ask tougher questions about whether an employee has ever considered leaving your organization and, if so, why. Of course, you’ll need to factor in the possibility that some employees won’t be completely honest in their responses.

A Variety Of Tools
As ever and always, retaining employees is usually much more cost-effective than finding and hiring new ones. And this is even more apparent in today’s uncomfortably tight labor market. Fortunately, employers have a variety of tools to monitor and improve engagement — stay interviews are certainly one of them.

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