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How to Conduct “Stay Interviews”

This article was based on episode 185 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Get Christine’s most potent leadership tools in infographic form so they’re easy to learn and share with your team and a discount on coaching with her when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join.


In the past two years since COVID began, employees have had a lot of time to reflect on what kind of job (and life) they really want. Just about everyone is looking around in search of a job that will better align with their vision of life in the post-COVID reality. This may mean a career shift, more flexibility to work from home, fewer hours, or increased pay and benefits. Managers who want to retain great talent need to think proactively. That’s why “stay interviews” are so essential right now. Human behavior expert and New York Times bestselling author of Power Your Tribe Christine Comaford joins me to explain her version of the “stay interview” method.


START HOLDING STAY INTERVIEWS


In order to convince your team to stay, you need to make it worthwhile for them. To do that, you need to know what they’re looking for. The idea of a “stay interview” was first developed by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans. In the book Love Them Or Lose Them, they explain that the stay interview isn’t like a year-end review. If you’re only checking in on your staff’s pulse once a year, chances are you’ll miss out on the chance to change things for them before it’s too late. Instead, try for quarterly check-ins to establish open conversations and hear where they’re at. Another key difference is the focus of the conversation. Instead of discussing the person’s performance, you’re exploring their experience and desires.


What To Ask During A Stay Interview

Great questions for stay interviews include asking what gets them excited about their job and what they dread, what past positions they enjoyed, and what they would change about their current role if they could.


Common things employees look for in a job are feeling challenged and like they are making a difference, working with great people, a supportive boss, feeling valued, pride in the organization, and a healthy work culture. Check in with your employees about how they feel in each of these categories.


You don’t need to barrage them with every question at each stay interview; by holding check-ins throughout the year, you have the opportunity to sprinkle in a few questions at each session.


HOW TO MAKE GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE


One of the greatest incentives for employees to stay in an organization is the opportunity to grow and develop skills. While Individual Development Plans can be life-changing for employees, way too few companies use them.


Christine breaks an IDP into a system of Leadership Levels that develops a common language for managers and their staff to discuss expectations and goals. Leadership Levels are a way of measuring how an employee shows up at work which complements the traditional performance plan that centers how the person performs the work itself.


Use Leadership Levels

Each Leadership Level has specific skill sets that an employee is working to reach. Each level has a ranking between 0 to 5 for demonstrating such skills as planning, accountability, quality of work, and communication. For example, LL1 is waiting to be told, LL2 is asking what to do, while LL5 is about leading others.


Self Assess And Create Plan For Action

During a quarterly review, ask your employees to self assess themselves within the Leadership Levels. Discuss any discrepancies between how they see themselves and how you view them. Develop a plan together for how they can reach the next Leadership Level or higher ranking within a certain amount of time. Having specific goals and ways to assess employees creates an inspiring, supportive atmosphere of growth.


Write An Impact Description

These Leadership Levels can be used from the get-go during hiring. Creating an “impact description” rather than, or in addition to, a job description will help current and prospective employees understand what is required of them. Include specific Leadership Level expectations with each role so that applicants have clear insight into the job and can opt in from the beginning.



IF YOUR EMPLOYEE SAYS THEY WANT TO LEAVE


If an employee approaches you about leaving their position, don’t despair. A great boss helps their team members understand the benefits and drawbacks of staying and leaving so the individual can make the best decision for themselves. Sometimes, the right thing is for the person to move on.


Be Their Thought Partner

Every employee wants to feel like their boss has their greater wellbeing - and not just the bottomline - in mind. If a team member approaches you about leaving, have a supportive conversation with them. Help them weigh the pros and cons of their decision. Explore what could be different about their role if they stay. Help guide them through the decision that will be best for them.


Help Identify Differences

If the offer comes with a significant pay raise and you’re not willing or able to match it, examine the other aspects of the offer including the role responsibilities, likely expectations and company culture. Is the organization requiring them to add on a significant amount of hours? Would they have to start going into the office again? Point out more than just the pay differences between the offer and their current situation.


Spell Out All The Benefits You Provide

Employees often aren’t aware of all the extra things you provide beyond just the paycheck. Benefits may include employee awards, health care benefits, cultural programs, and learning and education opportunities, as well as work location flexibility, a great boss and colleagues, and future career opportunities.


Retaining great talent is an incredibly important part of a manager’s role. At a time when everyone’s looking around for the next best job, don’t take for granted that your people are happy where they’re at. Check in with them quarterly to understand what is/isn’t working for them. Develop an Individual Development Plan so that they can understand their expectations, self assess, and track their progress forward. And keep the conversation open if your employee does find another offer. Help them figure out if it’s really the best option for them. Getting the right people on your team isn’t finished when the hiring process ends. Keep your people engaged with periodic stay interviews so both you and they continue to be aligned.


KEEP UP WITH CHRSTINE:


Get Christine’s most potent leadership tools in infographic form so they’re easy to learn and share with your team and a discount on coaching with her when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join.


This article was based on episode 185 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.

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