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Optimum Talks Blog

Stay Engaged With Your Top Performers

by Optimum Talent
November 10, 2015

When is the best time to find out what your company can do to keep high-performing employees from leaving? It isn’t during the exit interview – by then, it’s already too late.

The new offer has been accepted, resignation notice given and the personal contents box already packed. Now is not the time to start solving your exiting employees’ work issues. That would be like asking your spouse to discuss any relationship problems the day you’ve been served with divorce papers.

A superior approach would be to engage valued employees before they become dissatisfied by conducting periodic retention based “stay” interviews. A stay interview is a one-on-one interview between a manager and a valued employee. Its aim, quite simply, is to learn what makes the employee want to keep working for you as well as what might make employees want to leave. It is a meeting about how their job is working for them.

I advise clients to conduct stay interviews quickly and frequently. For new hires at the 3-month mark and then every 3 to 6 months thereafter. The stay interview is perhaps a manager’s most honest grip on employee engagement. The interviews do not have to be long, structured and formal meetings, in fact they are more meaningful if they are kept light and informal. I often suggest clients conduct the meetings outside the office at a coffee shop, over lunch or end of day beverage. The tone should be easy flowing, casual dialogue.  You’re really just checking in to see how they are doing and feeling. Just like when your server at a restaurant pops by after your meal has been served to simply ask “how everything is tasting so far, can I get you anything?”

Unlike engagement surveys and many other retention tools that are focused on what excites a large number of employees, this approach is customized to a single identifiable individual and their wants. Engagement surveys can tell you average information about your average employees, but a stay interview will help you learn the unique needs of your high performers. It is a great way to find out what is working and not working specifically for them. Conducted properly, they will build trust, make your employees feel valued and build better relationships. Stay interviews give you great insight and knowledge about what the organization can improve on and ideas on how to retain your valued employees.

There is no standard set of questions that should be used in a stay interview. I recommend managers tailor the questions to fit the relationship and style of the employee they are conducting the interview with and be as direct as they comfortably can be. Keep the questions to no more than five to seven and dive deeper to expand on areas that surface, problems or concerns.

Some sample questions could include:

  • What is the one thing this job is missing from your dream job?
  • What would entice you to leave the company?
  • What is the one thing we could do today that would make you stay?
  • What about your job makes you want to jump out of bed?
  • What about your job makes you want to hit the snooze button?
  • If we asked you to suggest one change to your current role, what would it be?
  • What makes for a great day at work?
  • Are you currently doing the best work of your life?

Don’t miss the boat and have key employees jump ship because you subscribe to the notion that best employees will “naturally” stay at your firm without ever having to take action. Regularly conducted stay interviews are your best defense against employee attrition. Give them a try and digest the valuable insights into employee sentiment before they start walking out the door.

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