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March 7, 2016

Will They Stay or Will They Go?

Rachel Salaman

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BevKayeWhat keeps you in your job? It might be the regular paycheck, interesting work, the camaraderie, or maybe a sense that you're contributing to something larger than yourself. Or perhaps you feel unfulfilled and are just going through the motions. In fact, you may be looking around for something else, because you feel you've reached a dead end with your current employer.

If you're a manager, wouldn't you like to know where your team members stand on this crucial question? It would give you insight into what matters to them, so you could make sure that they're doing tasks that interest and energize them. More importantly, it would raise flags when something was amiss, giving you an opportunity to change things and prevent a talented team member from quitting.

This is the point of "stay interviews," the brainchild of Dr Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordon-Evans, who first introduced the idea in their bestseller, "Love 'Em or Lose 'Em." While they were researching their book, they sought out people who had chosen to leave one job for another, curious to know their reasons.

"We found them and we asked them, 'What was it that you didn't get in the old job?'" Kaye explains, in our Expert Interview podcast. "They told us what it was and when we went back and talked to their supervisor in the old job, the supervisor said, nine times out of 10, 'Why didn't he just tell me?' 'Why didn't she come to me?' That's part of it, because it’s not all on the manager, but did [the manager] ever ask?"

So the concept of the stay interview was born: an open conversation to improve retention. The idea struck such a chord with managers that the authors have now produced a manual that explains it in more detail, "Hello Stay Interviews, Goodbye Talent Loss, A Manager's Playbook."

Stay interviews can be conducted anywhere and they can last for any length of time. They can even be a spontaneous two-minute chat in an empty breakroom. Ideally, all your team members will get them, regularly and throughout their time with you, from onboarding all the way through to that dreaded moment when they tell you they want to move on.

Given how much can be gained from using this technique, from happier colleagues to lower recruitment costs, it's surprising it's not more widely used. According to Kaye, many managers think they don’t have the time for stay interviews, or they may assume they already know the answer to that key question, "What will keep you here?"

Above all, though, they're usually worried that they may not be able to deliver on the answer, especially if it's more money or a promotion. Kaye and Jordon-Evans heard this concern expressed so often that they developed a four-step process to handle tough requests.

"Number one, acknowledge," Kaye suggests. "[Say] 'I understand that that's what you want and I can understand how that would be important to you.' Share with them what you just heard them say."

Step two is tell the truth. You need to say: "'I hear that you want that salary raise, and right now I cannot deliver on it." It's important to be straight with the team member about the obstacles you face.

Then you need to ask a vital additional question, "What else?" The idea is that if you keep asking this question, you'll eventually find something you have a degree of control over and can deliver.

The final step is to care enough to look into the requests that have been made, and to stand up for your team member. All of this will build trust, which, in turn, feeds into improved retention.

Stay interviews depend on openness on both sides, and this may be a bit of a shift for more traditional managers, who are used to a more "top-down" approach. In this audio clip from our Expert Interview podcast, Kaye shares her advice for managers who think they'd be uncomfortable using this technique.

Listen to the full Expert Interview in the Mind Tools Club ¦ Install Flash Player.

Do you conduct stay interviews with your team? If not, would you consider doing so? Join the discussion below!


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