Want to do something that will launch you into the new era of HR? Get rid of your exit interviews and replace them with "stay interviews."
If you're new to this concept, unlike the exit interview, managers are using stay interviews to get fresh insight into improving the work environment or their own leadership skills to retain those valued employees today--not after they have emotionally disconnected and stopped caring.
Fair warning: Stay interviews are only as effective as people's willingness to demonstrate transparency. The whole premise is based on honest two-way conversations between manager and employee, where each side gets to listen, ask questions, and agree to follow up on ideas and action plans.
Webroot Software, a 400-employee internet security company, implemented stay interviews right after a reduction in their work force. Their HR director, Melanie Williams, says, "the information collected by stay interviews is more actionable than secondary source information because it's specific and forward-facing."
The stay interview builds trust with employees, who feel valued because leaders are sending the message that they see them as important and want to get a feel for what's working and not working for them. And then doing something about it.
The 5 Questions
Here's what to do: Make stay interviews questions simple and informal when meeting with direct reports one-on-one. Here are five "must asks" to ensure winning back unhappy employees who are key to your operation's success.
1. "What do you like about your job?"
This question sets a positive tone to assess their work satisfaction and helps a manager clue in to what parts of the job employees like and want to experience more of.
2. "Could you describe a good day of work you had recently?"
Tap into their memories to extract clear and specific examples of positive experiences they've had. Leaders should be asking this question to learn everything they can about replicating the experience so that every day looks more like it.
3. "Do you feel your skills are being utilized to the fullest?"
Best case scenario here is discovering that the employee has skills the company or leader never knew about, which is a win-win: The employee wins by using personal strengths that raise personal motivation and engagement; the leader wins by offering new opportunities to tap into those strengths, which releases discretionary effort that will benefit the company, project, or team.
4. "Do you feel you get properly recognized for doing good work?"
A leader will gauge frustration levels by courageously asking this question and openly accepting the response and, if it's negative, brainstorming solutions together. As Gallup has observed in its extensive research, praise and recognition for accomplishments have been repeatedly linked to higher employee retention. How regularly are we talking? Praise should be given once per week.
5. "Do you feel like you are treated with respect?"
Leaders should ask this question to determine the health of the team. Is there blame traveling in different directions, and are people pointing fingers at each other? Are there silos, heavy politics, stonewalling, or people being thrown under the bus? These toxic behaviors suggest a total lack of mutual respect as a cultural trait. Studies show respect is a key driver in overall employee engagement, and its absence as a contributor to employees leaving.