Note: Part Two is now available. Click here.
Employee retention is one of the most critical tasks which an HR is charged with. This because losing employees can be extremely costly for an organization. Some estimates put the cost of replacing an employee at between 50% and 90% of their annual salary. For top talent, the cost can reach up to 200% of their annual salary. This is incredibly expensive.
As such, HRs usually try their best to retain their star employees. In most cases, HRs try to improve retention by first of all determining why employees leave. They do this through exit interviews. They also try to find out other turnover-related aspects like job satisfaction, employee engagement and motivation. They typically do this through employee surveys.
Although these approaches are great, they are not the best for improving employee retention. Exit interviews come too late. Even if they unearth some insights, they won’t apply to the interviewee. Surveys on the other hand are distant and impersonal. They can reveal some useful general information; however, they do not unearth info which applies to specific individuals.
The most effective way for improving employee retention is through stay interviews. A stay interview is a structured retention interview which is carried out on high valued employees who are at risk of leaving. The goal is to identify the reasons why the employee has so far remained with the organization. It is also identify any specific triggers which may cause the employee to leave.
Stay interviews are an effective strategy for employee retention for a number of reasons. First of all, they are proactive. Unlike exit interviews which attempt to find out an employee’s reasons for leaving after they’ve made a decision to quit, stay interviews preempt the decision. As such, any information gathered from the interview can be used to design interventions aimed at convincing the employee to stay.
Secondly, they are personal. Employee surveys are great, but they are largely impersonal. Stay interviews are extremely personal. They are carried one-on-one with the employee. As such, they can reveal detailed insights which apply specifically to the employee. For the employee, this one-on-one approach makes them feel special, appreciated and valued highly. Just this gesture alone can increase the employee’s chances of remaining with the organization.
The personal approach is useful for revealing information which can be used for carrying out a targeted intervention in the specific employee. Their primary goal is to find out why an employee has remained with the company. As such, it reveals what the employee likes about the organization. This information can then be used to create conditions which can increase the likelihood of the employee staying at an organization.
The best part about stay interviews is carrying them out is quite cheap. Unlike surveys, they require almost no investment. A typical interview can be carried out by a manager in just an hour. As such, the only investment which is required is the time. A manager doesn’t need to have any specialized skills to carry out the interview. As such, any organization can use stay interviews.
However, for a stay interview to be successful, it has to be carried out right. A successful interview is one which reveals actionable information i.e. information which can be used to inform HR decisions. The decisions are of course those aimed at improving employee retention.
Such an interview can be carried out under the following guidelines:
- Make The Employee At Ease – some employees may become nervous especially if they have never participated in a stay interview before. Some aren’t comfortable speaking about their frustrations – especially to superiors. You have to handle such nerves. Make sure the employee is at ease enough to speak openly.
- Use A Conversational Tone – It is normal to have a list of questions prepared in advance. However, the entire interview should be carried out in a semi-informal manner. It should feel more like a chat than an interview.
- Listen Actively And Probe – The aim of a stay interview is to get to grips with an employee’s thoughts and feelings. As such, the interviewer should do more of the listening. A good standard is the 80/20 where the employer speaks 80% of the time and the interviewer 20%. Even then, the interviewer should listen actively, and use probes to reveal more information.
- Be Open Minded – A stay interview can sometimes unearth unexpected information. For instance, an employee can express some rather critical views of management. In such cases, the interviewer needs to remain calm and impartial. They shouldn’t become defensive. Basically, the interview needs to be approached with an open mind.
- Take Action – An interview should be followed up by visible action. Some decisions have to be made on the basis of the information unearthed. Otherwise, if no action is taken, then the interview will have been carried out in vain.
Basically, those are a few helpful tips for carrying out effective stay interviews. These of course have to be accompanied by other standard interview practices like privacy, confidentiality and friendliness. For an HR, the best thing is to develop an interview toolkit for managers. Such a toolkit can include interview questions, probing techniques and some possible retention actions which they can commit to during the interviews.
In terms of scheduling, stay interviews need to be carried out at regular intervals. The regularity depends on an organization. However, a good timing can be carrying out the interviews at least once a year. Of course such intervals are mere guidelines. A stay interview should be carried out whenever the HR deems it fit.
However, the interviews shouldn’t be carried out on every employee. Stay interviews are especially reserved for employees who are highly valued by the company. The focus is on those who the company suspects may be tempted to leave. Basically, the stay interview is the HRs secret weapon for handling retention of high value employees.
In a nutshell, stay interviews can play an important role in reducing the turnover of highly valued employees. They do this by enabling the HR to unearth useful info which they can use to preempt the departure of such employees from an organization. Therefore, if you are an HR who is looking for an effective way of increasing employee retention, the stay interview is gold. It is simple, effective and costs almost nothing to stage.