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Jessica McKenzie Peterson: February 2008 Archives

I recently ran across a podcast on employee engagement on the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) Web site -- also covered in the January 2008 issue of T+D, p. 44. I found the topic of the stay interview to be interesting, as employee engagement is a key component of a solid retention strategy. The stay interview can serve as a temperature gauge to assess what’s working, what’s not, and what would make the employee happier.

There is no either/or argument between the exit interview and stay interview – both serve a purpose. The exit interview is intended to collect information about the organization and uncover what’s driving turnover. At that point it’s too late to ask employees what could have made them stay, let alone provide employees with incentives. Alternatively, the stay interview is proactive and should be both personal and specific to each individual.

The stay interview shifts the focus from HR (leave the exit interviews to them) and places the responsibility of employee engagement on managers. Chances are some of your top managers may already be informally conducting their own versions of the stay interview with the employees they manage. The interview process need not be formal – just consistent. Allow managers to decide the style and schedule of the interviews, as they are likely to better understand each employee’s needs and decide whether once a month or once every three months is right for their employees.

During the interview, remember to be receptive to suggestions and listen actively. By doing so, you will increase the chances of reaching a collaborative solution, for instance, the ability to work from home once a week might be more appealing than a raise to some employees. Keep in mind that your reactions will influence the effectiveness of the interview – interrupting or shutting down is unlikely to produce the results the interview was intended to foster. Organizations simply can’t afford not to do this. If your employees can be honest and tell you what they need to stay, there’s a chance you can deliver. As a result, you won’t have to incur the high costs of hiring and training an employee to replace them.

Take away: Encourage managers to take their employees out to coffee or sit down with them every month (or every few months) and ask employees questions such as whether they have the necessary tools and resources to do their job or what projects/opportunities they would like to pursue.
For more ideas on questions to ask during a stay interview, ASTD recommended the book: Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em