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Jessica McKenzie Peterson: August 2010 Archives

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Everyone goes through an interview as part of the job hiring process. Some people even go through an exit interview when they leave an organization. And for managers and supervisors that need to be reminded, there are "stay interviews," or simply put, ways to communicate with employees that help them feel more worthwhile at work. Good managers conduct informal stay interviews on a consistent basis and benefit from their value in the form of better employee retention and productivity.

During a time when more and more employees are thinking about jumping ship (or should I say jumping plane, like flight attendant Steven Slater’s departure out of JetBlue’s emergency exit, beer in hand), it’s just hard to understand why more managers aren’t trying their best to engage employees about ways to make their work environment less stressful and more fulfilling. According to CareerBuilder, one-third (33 percent) of employees will start hunting for jobs when the economy picks up.

Taking the time to ask your employees questions and listen to what is really going on doesn’t cost anything. The cost of replacing employees who leave? It starts at about 150% of whatever salary they were making when they left. Read this for more information on exactly what costs (e.g., training, recruitment, etc.) go into calculating employee turnover, depending on the particular position and size of your organization. And consider the impact your lack of interest in your employees’ well-being has on their intentions to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Good managers invest time in their employees and help them grow in their positions while checking in every once in awhile to see what could be better. And better doesn’t always mean more money. Plenty of employees would be happier to work from home once a month or have more flexibility to spend doing non-work stuff, but you will never know what motivates your employees unless you ask them.

As Roberta Chinsky Matuson points out in her Fast Company blog post Employees Taking Flight, if “someone would have taken the time to listen to the concerns Slater had regarding his work as a flight attendant” maybe JetBlue’s PR disaster could have been avoided. Matuson further points out the important of going beyond an annual review – “employees need to talk to a real live person who can respond with empathy and who can influence management to take a serious look at some serious matters.” Sounds like the same principles behind a stay interview to me, but maybe the word interview is misleading, perhaps stay “discussions” or “check-ins” would be more accurate.

Either way, the real question is, how could you afford not to ask?

For tips on ways to conduct a stay interview, check out this Good Company Blog post: Ask Now or Pay Later.