The exit interview has become a mainstay at many organizations when an employee leaves the company. These interviews aim to get insights into why an employee is moving on, and what could have been done to encourage them to stay.
While exit interviews can serve a purpose, the downside is these interviews are almost always too little, too late when it comes to retaining high performers.
A better idea? Conducting periodic stay interviews to gain a greater understanding of how valued employees’ view their job and your company—before they start devoting their lunch break to firing off resumes to competitors.
Stay interviews demonstrate to your employees that you value their input and contributions, and they can be part of a robust employee engagement program that includes employee surveys, work-life balance initiatives, and efforts to create a diverse and inclusive work environment. Stay interviews can be a key retention tool in the battle against costly and time-consuming turnover, which can exact a hefty price on your company.
Consider that The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that on average it costs a company 6 to 9 months of an employee's salary to replace him or her. For an employee making $60,000 per year, that comes out to $30,000 - $45,000 in recruiting and training costs.
The costs of high employee turnover add up through:
The painful reality is that turnover can crush your bottom line. Stay interviews can be a cornerstone of your strategy to stem the tide, while providing key insights that allow you to make ongoing improvements that make your company a place where people want to come and stay.
There’s a reason that company leaders often say employees are their most valuable asset.
Because it’s true.
Countless studies have shown that strong employee engagement, satisfaction and morale translates to better profitability and ROI, and can even positively impact the market value of an organization.
High turnover can threaten all of these potential upsides, through the cost and inefficiency of hiring and training new employees, and the ripple effect that turnover has on employee productivity and morale. Over time, high turnover can also have a negative impact on your company’s reputation. Clients and consumers are savvy these days, and some may become wary of doing business with companies in which they are assigned a new account executive every few months, don’t receive the expertise they expect on a service call, or get a sense that the employees they interact with aren’t happy. High turnover can result in the following:
When you make a hire, you’re making an investment. You’re investing time, money, and resources into assuring the new employee fully understands how to excel at their job, and gets a strong sense of your company’s culture, mission, and brand. When you lose a high-performing employee to turnover, you also lose a good chunk of the investments that you made in helping them succeed.
Worse yet, there’s a double whammy to the equation. When turnover occurs you also have to invest in making a new hire. That’s time, money, and resources you could surely have put to good use in helping your business succeed if the turnover hadn’t happened.
Turnover isn’t only about those who leave your company. It also has an impact on those who are left behind. Even the best-run organizations are going to experience some level of turnover. That’s just the reality of business. Yet if your employees start seeing a steady stream of their co-workers leaving for other opportunities, it can start to gnaw away at morale and engagement levels. Employees may start to ask themselves why so many of their colleagues are leaving, and even start mulling over whether they should consider following them out the door.
High turnover can deliver a one-two punch to productivity. The first blow comes from an experienced employee leaving without anyone there to take on his or her full responsibilities.
The second hit comes during the stretch when a new hire is being made, requiring existing employees to take up some of the slack, which increases their workload, but likely hurts overall productivity. Also, with only so many hours in the day, some work might simply not get done. Finally, once a hire is made, those existing employees might be called on to help with orientation and training, creating yet another distraction from their routine duties.
Business continuity is formally defined as 'the processes, procedures, decisions and activities to ensure that an organization can continue to function through an operational interruption.
Informally, continuity can be viewed as keeping the trains running smoothly and on time.
Even the best companies experience change and interruptions, however with the benefit of low turnover, companies can typically navigate through those periods with limited negative impact. However, in high turnover environments, continuity can suffer to the point that it is felt by both employees who find it increasingly difficult to do their jobs, and customers who see a decline in responsiveness, service, and product quality. Poor business continuity can lead to a dangerous spiral that can put the success—and even survival—of your business at risk.
Stay interviews are a key strategy to stave off these potential risks before they become realities. Through stay interviews, managers can stay well connected to their team members to get a better sense of their mindsets, and the issues that may be impacting their productivity, morale, and commitment to your organization.
Stay interviews are scheduled and largely structured conversations conducted to help managers understand why employees stay—and what might cause them to leave. In an effective stay interview, managers ask standard, structured questions in a casual and conversational manner.
Typically, most stay interviews take about a half hour, two to three times each year. Yet while the time commitment is minimal, the potential benefit is considerable in both gaining key insights into what factors are encouraging your employees to stay, and the issues that might be prompting them to consider leaving.
These check-ins can be particularly valuable with high performing employees to connect with them well before they may seriously consider leaving. You can get their direct feedback on what is motivating them to stay with you and what might be enticing them to work for someone else.
Stay interviews offer a true win-win for your company and your employees.
The mere fact that you are conducting these interviews sends a strong message to your employees that their voice matters, and they have the opportunity to share any concerns as well as their appreciation for what is working well.
For your company, stay interviews help you identify any of the early warning signs that could lead to higher turnover. This can be particularly useful in identifying trends that may be impacting several of your top performers. This gives you the time, as well as the rationale, to make meaningful changes that demonstrate that you’re responsive to employee concerns, while reducing the chance of a mass exodus of your best people.
It’s difficult to quantify the precise role that stay interviews play in keeping your best performers and reducing your overall turnover rate. But there’s no doubt that stay interviews can be a key pillar for improving employee engagement. And research has consistently found that companies that have strong engagement benefit in myriad ways, including stronger retention, increased employee satisfaction, and better profitability and ROI.
There’s a tried-and-true saying: “If you want someone’s opinion, just ask.”
Yet a surprising number of organizations fail to do just that – or do it in a meaningful and consistent manner. Some never really ask at all, others talk of an ‘open-door policy’, but do little to encourage it or define exactly what that means. Still others may wait until an exit interview – at which point it’s likely too late to do anything meaningful to convince an employee with one foot out the door to stick around. Even instances in which an exiting employee is convinced to stay for increased compensation, a promotion or other perks typically don’t end well. Some national studies have found that between 50% to 80% of employees who accept a last-minute counteroffer will voluntarily leave the company within six months.
Stay interviews, conversely, offer multiple benefits, including:
Stay interviews are clearly a smart move for organizations both large and small. Yet it’s important to be thoughtful and strategic about how you conduct the interviews so that you get the maximum benefits through candid and clear feedback from your employees. Some of the key considerations when conducting stay interviews include:
So, you have your stay interviews scheduled, you’ve clearly conveyed the purpose, and identified the best place to conduct them. So now what, specifically, are you going to ask? The best stay interviews strike a balance between asking some predetermined questions while also allowing for the conversation to head in other unanticipated directions to gain a deeper understanding of what your employee is thinking and feeling.
The best stay questions should help employees understand that:
The best stay interview questions help you discover:
Maybe employees are feeling burned out by the end of the long week. Instituting a policy that allows employees to log off at 2 pm on Fridays can demonstrate that you heard them and are doing something about it. Or perhaps it’s making some tweaks to your office space to allow for more spontaneous collaboration or greater privacy. These types of actions demonstrate responsiveness and understanding that can, over time, build stronger engagement and loyalty.
You’re typically not looking for yes-or-no answers to stay interview questions. Instead, your focus should be on posing open-ended questions that get employees talking and expanding upon their responses so you can get a clear picture of where they are at—and where they want their careers to go. Some examples of good stay questions include:
Exit interviews may still have a place at your company. Yet adding stay interviews to the mix will help ensure that you are doing less of those exit interviews by keeping your team engaged, satisfied, and productive. SurveyMonkey Enterprise provides all the tools and technology you need to build engagement and drive productivity.