Before you draft that job description and hand it off to HR or head-hunter to initiate the recruitment process for that key position left open due to your last critical turnover, don't.

What research is saying is that when you develop a culture of upward mobility and create career paths, it will give you better results, not to mention reduce cost. Your CFO will thank you for not putting his signature on another expensive job requisition.

Before I get into the secret behind getting good people to stay, let me get one thing out of the way.

Exit Interviews Are So Yesterday

While I'm not a big fan of traditional exit interviews for so many reasons I won't get into here, you still want HR to conduct them as a formality to dig up negative information that can be used to "improve" (as they will tell departing employees) things like culture, leadership, and benefits.

I'm not keen on it for various reasons. Research says that what is shared in the exit interview is seldom used to improve the organization. Departing employees are catching on to this, and not divulging since it's a wasted effort.

The bigger truth is that it never benefits the departing employee, it's rarely 100 percent confidential, and it can burn bridges if information is leaked.

"Stay Interviews" Are Totally Happening Now

If you're a manager and new to this idea, get on your horse and start conducting them pronto -- especially with those "at risk to leave" employees who may be updating their resumes.

Like the exit interview, you're getting fresh knowledge and insight about what you can do to improve and retain those valued employees--today--not after they have emotionally disconnected and stopped caring.

Stay interviews also have the edge over the traditional, annual employee satisfaction surveys (a dreaded and totally obsolete HR practice that I've written about) because it's based on honest two-way conversations where each side gets to listen, ask questions, and agree to follow-up on ideas and action plans.

Dick Finnegan, author of The Power of Stay Interview for Engagement & Retention, says stay interviews produce data so effective at predicting and reducing employee turnover rates that scores of his clients have abandoned their engagement surveys.

Stay Interviews: A Case in Point

Webroot Software, a 400-employee internet security company, implemented stay interviews right after a reduction in their workforce. Their HR Director, Melanie Williams, went on to say, "the information collected by stay interviews is more actionable than secondary source information because it's specific and forward-facing."

She adds, "You're not filtering through a survey trying to guess what did they mean by that comment or how did they interpret that question? We've gotten feedback from every individual in the organization. We had a 64 percent response to our engagement survey," stated Williams.

The stay interview builds trust in leaders because you're basically telling your valued team member, "Hey, I'd like to get a feel for what's working and not working for you." What employee doesn't want this?

Stay interviews will undoubtedly increase a manager's capacity to lead well, and when conducted the right way, I can guarantee its effectiveness over the long-haul.

The Process of Stay Interviews

If one of your employees is likely to quit, you need to do something about it right away. Andy Grove, author of High Output Management, outlines five steps to saving a valued unhappy employee. Most of these can come out of your stay interview:

1. Meet with them ASAP and ask why they're quitting.

2. Listen to what they have to say, and ask follow up questions

3. Find clear ways to help change things for them to make things better.

4. Follow up and implement the changes you said you would do quickly.

5. Even if you will lose them to another department, you should be trying to keep them in the company.

Five Stay Interview Questions You Must Ask

Stay interviews should be simple and informal -- typically a one-on-one meeting between manager and direct report. But it does require some level of emotional transparency for the transaction to be effective. These are "must-asks."

1. "What do you like about your job?"

You're asking this question to set a positive tone and assess their work. It helps you to clue in to what aspects of the job they enjoy the most and want to experience more.

2. "Tell me about a good day of work you had recently. What does that look like?"

You're asking it to dig into their memory so they can paint for you a clear and specific positive experience at work, what they enjoyed, and how it engaged them. The point here is to learn everything you can about replicating the experience so that every day looks more like that.

3. "Do you feel your skills and strengths are being used to its full potential at work?"

You're obviously asking this question to tap into the wide range of feelings that you'll get from your follow-up questions, depending on whether you get a yes-or-no answer. You may find that this employee has specific strengths or skills that aren't being utilized, or he or she desires some kind of training to make him or her even more effective for you. If the answer is "yes," that's certainly an engaged and happy employee. Take notes of how to continue strengthening that person's role.

4. "Do you feel you get properly recognized for your work, contributions, or achievements?"

You're now beginning to transition into asking "pain point" questions such as this one to gauge frustration levels. Praise and recognition for accomplishments has been repeatedly linked to higher employee retention.

5. "Do you feel like you are treated with trust and respect in your role?"

You're asking this question to assess leadership and team engagement without fingers being pointed, in a spirit of -- what else -- mutual respect. Studies show respect as a key driver in overall employee engagement, and its absence as a contributor to employees leaving.

Published on: Nov 17, 2016
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