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Using stay interviews to improve retention

Using stay interviews to improve retention

What’s the best time to find out what your company can do to keep employees from leaving? It isn’t during the exit interview—by then it’s too late. To influence employee attrition and reduce employee turnover, managers must measure employee job satisfaction and engagement on an ongoing basis. One great way to do that is by using stay interviews to improve retention.

Stay interviews, or interviews in which employees discuss what they like and don’t like about their current position, can help reduce employee turnover rates. Experts recommend doing them at least once a year opposite the employee performance review, and twice in the critical period during which your company experiences attrition of new hires (for example the first 40 to 50 days for fast food workers, or 90 to 180 days for engineers).

A source of top-level metrics

Stay interview metrics can supplement secondary and tertiary metrics such as employee satisfaction surveys and exit interviews and can be an essential part of your recruitment and retention strategy.

“Stay interviews encourage managers to sit down and have a structured talk with their teams about what works and what doesn’t work for them,” explains Susan Seip, a human resources manager for Geocent, a Louisiana technology company with 230 employees throughout the Southern U.S. The company includes stay interviews to improve retention as part of its recruitment strategy. “It’s a relationship review,” she says. “What’s your relationship to the company, the project team, and your manager, and what is within your purview to make those better?”

If exit interviews and engagement surveys aren’t moving the needle on your organization’s employee attrition numbers (or even if they are), you may want to add stay interviews to your list of recruitment strategies.

Do stay interviews work?

How effectively can stay interviews help to reduce employee turnover rates? Webroot Software, a Broomfield, Colorado, internet security product development company, implemented stay interviews at a time when the 400-employee company was particularly vulnerable to employee attrition—the period immediately following a recent reduction in force and saw a steady decline in turnover.

The information collected by stay interviews is more actionable than secondary source information because it’s specific and forward-facing, according to Webroot’s Human Resources Director Melanie Williams. “You’re not filtering through a survey, trying to guess what did they mean by that comment or how did they interpret that question,” she adds.

While stay interviews can keep good employees from leaving, it doesn’t mean you should completely abandon the exit interview for those that do leave. Geocent has kept its exit interviews in place because, as Seip notes, “the stay information tells us about things that matter today, the exit interviews are things that are three or four years down the road.”

What to expect in stay interviews

When managers receive stay interview training, the most common fear they express is that employees will ask for raises that aren’t in the budget. That’s often an unfounded fear. “We’ve had very few stay interviews come in with pay being the thing that makes them stay or want to leave,” says Williams. “There were not any requests that we haven’t been able to fulfill.”

If an employee does bring up pay, a promotion, employee training, or something out of scope, the manager should answer truthfully, says Beverly Kaye, co-CEO of Career Systems International, a Scranton, Pennsylvania, strategic talent-management consulting firm, and author of Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go.

If you have a budget constraint, say so. If the person is asking for a job they don’t have the skills to do, talk about employee training opportunities you can add during the next budget cycle. “You say, ‘Salaries are frozen or that job isn’t open. What I really want to do is find things under my control so I can make sure you’re getting what you want and what you need, so what else matters to you?'” she says. “You’ll get seven to 10 things that are in your control.”

Addressing stay interview challenges

Stay interviews are not without challenges for HR professionals, organizational leaders, and managers. Sometimes requests uncover unpleasant truths, such as bad feelings toward executive management, or employees that don’t know about career paths because they’ve never logged into the HR portal. Accountability for responding to these issues can also pose a challenge, particularly for organizations where employees and managers are physically separated.

As the job market changes and as baby boomers move into retirement, employee turnover rates will continue to challenge human resource professionals going forward. Adding stay interviews to your recruitment strategies can help your organization retain critical employees. “It’s the single best tool you can give managers,” says Dick Finnegan, CEO of C-Suite Analytics, and author of The Power of Stay Interview for Engagement & Retention.

Use stay interviews to improve retention and upgrade your recruiting with Monster

Keeping good employees is just one part of the equation when it comes to the success of your business. It’s also important to make sure you’re finding the right people in the first place. It’s not an easy task, but Monster can help. Get expert tips to improve your recruiting strategy, the latest in hiring trends, and more by subscribing to Monster Hiring Solutions.