It’s a question that employees the world over will ask themselves at some point.
These moments present a big opportunity for organisations to understand what drives these dilemmas. So why aren’t we capturing them? It’s a mystery!
We might discover why a colleague chose to leave if they reveal their reasons on a public review site like Glassdoor. You may get to hear the gossip through the grapevine internally. Or maybe they’ve shared their thoughts in a more formal conversation. Exit interviews can tell us where we went wrong, what we could have done better and how we should have tried harder. But they often end up being a futile flashback to a missed opportunity.
Are we in the Upside Down?
Surely, we ought to be exploring the issues our employees are facing before they leave rather than waiting until it’s too late! That all sounds a little upside down and back to front!
The detail we can glean from stay interviews is likely to be much richer and way more compelling than after thoughts from an exit interview.
When we ask the right questions stay interviews can help us to…
- Understand the drivers and motivations of our employees
- Help them feel content and more inclined to stick around
- Identify damaging patterns or potential areas for change
Kate Bates, Chief People and Culture Officer at Workwell is an avid supporter of the stay interview: “It’s a great concept and helps people to normalise feedback, sharing their frustrations. Conducting stay interviews has helped us as a business to make some adjustments to support employees’ asks and it’s enabled us to retain some people that may otherwise have decided to go. Retaining talent, listening to our staff and in turn supporting the skills within the business.”
With all that good stuff in mind, here are five ways we can make the most of stay interviews:
People may feel uncomfortable about opening up in a group environment or in front of colleagues or managers. Keep it private by kicking out anyone that doesn’t need to be there and reassure people that their responses will remain anonymous.
Linked to that, you’ll want to create the right space for people to share their thoughts openly and honestly. Set the tone from the start: this is an open forum where your views and opinions will be valued and appreciated. And keep things clear and consistent to help identify themes and trends.
Kate adds: “During the stay interviews I conducted I asked all 30 people the same 10-12 questions to keep things consistent. They gave feedback on gaps in how they were inducted, some training and job understanding and shift patterns they didn’t like.”
You spin me round
Stay interviews are not an opportunity to ‘defend’ the organisation or to put a positive spin on things. It’s a moment to listen intently and respond appropriately. So don’t try to brush over or sugar-coat the gloomy stuff.
We’ll meet again
Don’t treat this as a one-off moment. Stay interviews should be happening regularly to maintain those open lines of communication and spot current trends and sentiments. Plan ahead and devise a strategy that allows for a consistent and standardised approach.
Never ending story
The rich information we gather is just the start of the story. Taking ongoing action comes next. A study by Karian and Box revealed that a 74% level of engagement was achieved from UK employees who say leaders DO listen to their feedback in contrast to a shocking 28% level of engagement from employees who say leaders DON’T. So in addition to listening, make sure you commit to an action plan that addresses the issues raised and keeps people informed through a range of channels that include senior leadership comms.
To quote the wise words of Dustin Henderson:
“You say we should never stop being curious, to always open any curiosity door we find. Why are you keeping this curiosity door locked?”
Exit interviews have their place and should be part of the employee journey to leave the gate open for potential returners – research shows that ‘Boomerang employees’ are on the rise. LinkedIn data reveals they accounted for 4.5% of all new hires among companies on the social platform in 2021, up from 3.9% over the same period in 2019.
But too many leavers have admitted that they simply weren’t open and honest in their exit interviews for fear of burning bridges or causing other repercussions.
Let’s all get curious and have these conversations at the right time. Perhaps we can avoid some employees and organisations going their separate ways. Stranger things have happened!
By Caroline Roodhouse for Alive!