Angie Williams

Why Do You Come Back?

I was recently talking with our summer intern about her experience as a tour guide. As tour guides they experience extensive training to memorize routes, statistics, and attraction facts. But what really stood out about their training is that they’re instructed to emphasize why they continue to return to the college. It’s not as important to say why you picked the school, but explain why you stayed. It’s that moment that lets the heart of the university shine through and people can (hopefully) better imagine themselves or their children as part of that community.

What if this same tactic was applied to improving employee engagement?

As HR professionals, we end up learning more about why people leave than why they stay.  Don’t fall into the trap of asking employees why they originally chose the position or why they’ve decided to leave, instead ask them why they remain a dedicated employee. The reasons employees continue to walk in the doors of your organization day in and out is what matters most. Those motivations can be obtained in a stay interview.

Stay interviews are a relatively new and worthwhile concept that companies looking to further engage their employees should embrace.

The basic idea is to have a conversation with employees in order to obtain a better understanding of why employees stay. It helps to identify the strengths of the firm and gain the knowledge of what benefits and attributes are effective within your company. There are also advantages to identifyingwhat frustrates the employees. It creates a space for sincere discussion and the opportunity to brainstorm what can make their job more satisfying.

My top recommendations for conducting effective stay interviews are:

  1. Establish a routine and structure to when and how often stay interviews are conducted.
  2. Create a consistent cadence for each meeting.
  3. Set expectations with employees so everyone knows what you want to accomplish out of the meeting.
  4. Meetings should be between the employee and their direct supervisor.
  5. Create a protected forum for employees to share their honest thoughts and frustrations.
  6. Utilize the information to ensure no one feels like their time is wasted.

The key is conducting the interview before an employee is unhappy or dissatisfied. Be proactive – don’t wait for it to turn into an exit interview when they resign.The best way to be proactive is to make the interviews ongoing. Ideally these interviews would be done at regular touchpoints and become a part of a company’s retention strategy. They should turn into natural conversations between an employee and their manager.

Also keep in mind that the right tone has to be set – these meetings are so you can do more of what makes an employee, less of what irritates him/her when possible.  The idea is NOT to have a tone of… gee, it is weird that you have stayedhere, why are you still here anyways?

There are countless benefits that come from these open conversations. Stay interviews prevent surprises and make it easier to retain employees and mitigate the risk of losing valued talent. This continuous dialogue between employee and manager will result in the reduction of turnover costs within your company.

Conducting stay interviews improve employee morale and engagement overall. The dynamic communication leaves employees feeling valued and it builds trust and credibility within relationships. Make stay interviews a part of your company’s retention strategy and catch them before they go about asking why they stay. If you find your conducting more exit interviews than stay interviews, maybe it’s time to take a deeper look at your organization’s employee retention problems.

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