We have suggested surveys as a means to listen to and solicit feedback from your employees. We think those are an excellent way to get started; however, the stay interview is even more powerful than a survey. In a time when so little is certain, and your employees are scared and worried, now might be a good time to figure out how you can keep them and keep them happy.

How managers can help improve employee engagement & retention

First, we need to discuss how integral managers are to an employee’s experience at an organization, whether positive or negative. Employees relationship with their manager directly impacts how they feel about their job and the company. If they hate their manager, they likely hate the company. If they love their manager, it’s more likely they have good feelings about the company, despite the CEO and other factors.

  • Gallup finds that only 21% of employees strongly agree they are managed in a way that motivates outstanding performance.
  • Managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units, says another Gallup study.

Managers are responsible for being two-way communicators, between their employees and upper management. They have to be active and caring listeners. People often say emotions have no place in the workplace, but times are changing, especially in times like these. People are under enormous amounts of stress. They are worried about their paychecks, about paying their mortgages, about keeping their families healthy, about childcare and so much more. Caring isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s a good business practice.

What makes a good manager?

Gallup provided this list of five traits that make great managers. It’s worth taking the time to see how you can develop these attributes and make them their own to improve your relationship with your employees. Great managers:

  • motivate every single employee to take action and engage employees with a compelling mission and vision.
  • have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
  • create a culture of clear accountability.
  • build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
  • make decisions based on productivity, not politics.

Stay interviews require managers to actively listen, care and relay important information to other team members, managers or executives. If managers don’t know what their employees are going through, how can they help? Below we explain how a stay interview can be your secret weapon in the times of coronavirus and beyond, to keep your employees engaged and happy.

What is a stay interview?

A stay interview is the preferred alternative to an exit interview. By the time you do an exit interview, it’s often too late to get a talented employee to remain with the company. A stay interview is proactive and allows you to ask questions about why an employee stays at your company and why they might want to work somewhere else. The goal is to see how you can improve and keep them before they decide to leave.

Importantly, stay interviews are a trust building exercise. Your organization should not be conducting them if they don’t plan on using what they learn to make changes.

Not to mention, disengaged employees pose a risk to your organization. Stay interviews can help cut turnover, improve productivity, reduce errors and increase profits.

When should you hold a stay interview?

We recommend conducting stay interviews at least once a year and group your interviews together so employees are interviewed around the same time. This gives you the chance to compile feedback, analyze trends and make actual, meaningful change. You can do them more often, maybe every 6 months, but you don’t want to do them so often that they become a burden to managers or employees or so frequently that you can’t make real lasting change before the next interview.

What should you ask in a stay interview?

This is not an interrogation; this should be an informal, comfortable conversation. You aren’t going to fire an employee for what they say, and you don’t want to burn bridges. Just because you don’t agree with an employee’s view, does not make it wrong. These feelings and experiences are real to your employees’ and getting defensive or making excuses will undermine your goals. This is a valuable learning experience with the goal to be retaining your best employees. You want to show that your organization really cares about its workers, and not just the bottom line. Don’t forget that.

Below is a list of questions you can ask your employees during a stay interview. You don’t want to ask all of them. Pick three to five questions to start with and let the conversation flow naturally. You might end up somewhere you didn’t expect that could give you some great insights you wouldn’t have gotten by robotically asking questions and checking boxes. An interview should last between 30 minutes and an hour.

  • What do you look forward to when you come to work each day?
  • What do you like most or least about working here?
  • What keeps you working here?
  • If you could change something about your job, what would that be?
  • What would make your job more satisfying?
  • How do you like to be recognized?
  • What talents are not being used in your current role?
  • What would you like to learn here?
  • What motivates (or demotivates) you?
  • What can I do to best support you?
  • What can I do more of or less of as your manager?
  • What might tempt you to leave?
  • Do you feel that your work makes a difference in the company? Does your work noticeably impact your customers or the world?
  • Do you feel fully utilized in your current role? What makes you feel fully utilized? What can we do to more fully take advantage of your talents and interests?
  • Do your colleagues, teammates and managers listen to you and do they value your ideas and decisions?

Your stay interviews might take on a different tone with the pandemic. It’s not so much about why they stay, but what are they feeling and how can we be a part of the solution so they are happier and more productive at work? During these times, there might be more focus on an employees’ wellness and flexibility and what is impacting their work day-to-day. Some additional questions you could ask prior to (in survey format or in person) could help you assess how you might need to adjust the questions you ask in your stay interview.

  • Do you feel well prepared to do your job?
  • Do you feel like we (your employer) have communicated a clear plan of action in response to COVID-19?
  • Does your immediate supervisor keep you informed about what is going on in the organization?
  • Do you feel like your organization cares about your overall wellbeing?

Take notes during the interview and give employees a recap of what you discussed at the end of the interview. Let them know you heard them and understand what they are saying. If anything was miscommunicated, you can clear it up here.

As you close, make sure to express your appreciation for your employees. It might feel difficult or risky for your employees to open up about how they feel about their work, the company, and their work-life balance. Your job is to assure them you are committed to making this a great place to work for them. As long as you expect to continue these conversations, remind them that this is an ongoing, open conversation so they can feel comfortable bringing up ideas and issues in the future.

If you have more questions about stay interviews or other HR concerns, feel free to contact us here.