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The power of stay interviews

Neil Pickering, Industry Manager, EMEA - UKG

Whether you are a new starter at a company or a long-standing employee, you should always feel comfortable voicing concerns and having open and honest conversations with your direct manager. Employers who do not cultivate a culture of trust are likely to see a high turnover of staff, as employees cannot suppress fundamental issues without it taking a severe toll on their experience at work.

Research from the Workforce Institute at UKG supports this notion, outlining that 74% of staff who felt listened to by their employer were more engaged at work and effective in their role. Therefore, not only does listening to workers improve their overall experience, but it will also have a positive effect on business performance.

So how can employers make sure they are giving staff ample opportunity to speak up? The concept of the ‘stay interview’ is one way.

A stay interview is an open and honest conversation where an employee provides insights into their day-to-day experiences and gives them the chance to express any concerns and suggest ideas that might improve their overall experience. This is valuable information for managers, as it lets them know what steps they can take to retain staff and make them feel more at home.

It is also important that employers act on the feedback they are given during a stay interview– there’s little point encouraging workers to speak up if their concerns are never addressed.

Ultimately, this should be a mutually beneficial process, with employees seeing positive changes in the workplace and businesses rewarded with a more productive workforce.

The statistical case for stay interviews
The statistical case in support of stay interviews is tough to dispute, as highlighted by a recent report from the Workforce Institute at UKG on the Great Resignation where 76% of respondents that had stay interviews said their manager fostered an environment where they could express feelings or frustrations, compared to just 47% in workplaces without them.

Furthermore, the report found that nearly 2 in 5 job leavers who didn’t have a stay interview said it would have made an impact on retention. The tangible impact of stay interviews on reducing staff turnover is abundantly clear, employees won’t hesitate to head for the exit if they feel their concerns are being neglected.

The data collected in the report all points to stay interviews as a vital tool for building a healthy and collaborative workplace, where all staff members feel settled and secure. A culture of trust, belonging and open communication will undoubtedly inspire loyalty throughout the organisation, so it’s difficult to see why more people managers don’t turn to stay interviews as a method for retaining staff.

Conducting an effective stay interview
The best stay interviews are one-on-one interactions between an employee and their manager, as this creates a secure and confidential environment to speak their mind without fear of judgement.

It is important to empower staff members to speak candidly. If they give their honest thoughts and opinions on life at the company, this becomes valuable feedback that can be acted upon to boost the morale of the entire workforce. Sometimes criticism can be difficult to take, particularly if it relates to the manager conducting the interview, but it is important to remember that the whole process is for the good of the company and all its employees.

People managers should emphasise throughout the interview that the employee’s feedback is greatly appreciated, thus reassuring the staff member that they are seeking sincere answers.

They should also provide a rough outline of what the business intends to do with the feedback shared by the interviewee. It is pivotal that employees feel like their comments will lead to change and ideally be able to see that in practice sooner rather than later, otherwise they will be reluctant to voice concerns again.

When constructing a list of points to discuss, managers should focus on finding out the interviewee’s perception of the company, how they think the business runs on a day-to-day basis and also what motivates (or demotivates) them. Managers shouldn’t be afraid to be explicit with their questioning and address issues, such as why a worker might choose to leave the company, directly.

Other helpful tips include keeping the interview between 25 and 45 minutes long, informing employees ahead of time and giving advice on how they should prepare, and offering anonymous survey responses for any employees who are uneasy answering questions face-to-face.

Overall, the key is to make sure that employees feel comfortable enough to speak their mind. Businesses shouldn’t fear genuine responses; instead, this is a sign of trust and a means of building healthy relationships with employees moving forward.

Don’t get drawn into a performance review
It is essential to realise that the structure, tone, and line of questioning for a stay interview differs from a standard performance review. Mentioning performance will put employees on the back foot, and they may even think that their answers could influence their progression at the company.

If employees share doubts about their own performance then managers should engage with this, but instead of being critical they should allow the interviewee to reflect on and evaluate where they can improve.

In response, managers should provide solutions that will put the employee’s mind at ease, for instance organising additional training or coaching on areas that might need development. This approach will engage staff members and motivate them to improve upon any weaknesses, as they will be buoyed by a supportive employer who is willing to invest time and resources into their growth.

Managers must bear in mind that trust cannot be built overnight, it must be slowly developed over time. Therefore, if employees seem tentative or hesitant to begin with it is important to persevere with stay interviews, as this rapport will grow stronger with each meeting carried out.

The merits of stay interviews are clear and for the small amount of time and resources that they require, scheduling regular check-ins should be a top priority. First and foremost, they can transform the culture of a company, promoting open communication between all staff members. And this value extends to the company’s decision-makers, who can deliver positive change by listening to the feedback of employees.

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