Stay interviews: Answer to the Great Reengagement or a waste of HR's time?

It's a divisive topic in HR circles – and the debate is only just heating up

Stay interviews: Answer to the Great Reengagement or a waste of HR's time?

The unemployment rate may have fallen to a new pandemic low of 3.8% last month, but employers are still on edge. As the Great Resignation continues to plague us, the only way to truly understand how workers feel about their employee experience is to ask them. So how can employers and HR leaders do this in a way that delivers authentic results that’re easy to act on?

The question of ‘stay interviews’ is a pretty divisive one in HR circles. Supporters say it’s a great way of fixing any issues before you talent leaves – but critics say by the time an employee is handing their notice in it’s simply to late to change their mind.

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Whatever side of the camp you’re on, opening up lines of communication with your people is never a bad idea. In fact, sitting down for regular catch ups – or stay interviews – is a great way of keeping your finger on the pulse. In the hectic role of an HR leader, it’s easy to get swept up in bigger picture issues. So, could stay interviews be the answer? Or should we be looking for other ways to engage our people?

What are stay interviews?

Stay interviews are face-to-face touchpoints with employees to obtain real-time feedback on an employee's sentiment toward their job and the company as a whole. Speaking with Patrick Manzo, CEO of Kazoo, he advised leaders to stick to some core topics throughout these talks.

“Topics include specifics on why employees have stayed at the company, what motivates them, and what might cause them to leave,” he told HRD. “On the other hand, an exit interview collects sentiments focused on why an employee is leaving, and how to improve the employee experience. While both gather employee feedback, stay interviews provide people leaders an opportunity for actionable changes while the employee is still with the organization. By providing this additional check-in with employees, employers can address attrition before they lose an employee."

What are some alternatives to stay interviews?

Employee pulse surveys are another great tool organizations can use to gather employee data and feedback. These short surveys – typically run online – ask participants to share their opinion on a certain topic, giving an employer a snapshot of employee sentiment.

“These surveys are easy to implement and provide real-time feedback from employees,” added Manzo. “For example, an employer can run a pulse survey around what their employees are saying about company culture, leadership, engagement, an in-the-moment concern, or any other subject of relevance to their organization.”

These surveys are usually confidential to allay concerns of employees who may not feel confident speaking up to share their real feelings with a manager or HR leader. From there, the data is analyzed in aggregate to identify patterns and trends across all of the responses.

“A best practice when running surveys is to share the results with employees and initiate discussion about what is going well, what can be improved on, and what steps leadership will take to make those changes,” explained Manzo. “Pulse surveys are a great way to catalyze deeper conversations in 1-on-1 discussions and stay interviews, bringing increased transparency and communication throughout the organization. This directly translates into a more engaged, satisfied workforce."

Act on the employee data you’re collecting

Asking your employees what they want is all well and good – but if you’re not acting on that data then what’s the point? The only effective way to build trust between employee and employer is to not only listen to their concerns but take action on them.

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"When an organization fails to make a change based on the feedback they receive from employees, trust erodes between employee and employer,” Manzo told HRD. “In the instance of a stay interview, it takes courage for employees to offer honest feedback to their managers or the larger organization. If their feedback is ignored and no real change is enacted by leadership, the purpose of the initial stay interview loses value. The same applies to pulse surveys; inaction tells an employee that their opinion does not matter enough to warrant change within an organization."

Turning the Great Resignation into the Great Reengagement

Stay interviews may work for some employers, they may not for others. With most things in HR, as Angela Champ says, ‘It Depends’. The key is not to put all your eggs in one basket. If the pandemic taught us anything it’s that through trial and adaptation of new ways of working that we really thrive.

“Ensure managers are proactively providing positive feedback to their direct reports since an employee’s relationship with their direct manager can make or break employee satisfaction, engagement, and ultimately, retention,” added Manzo. “This is a great way to integrate a simple act that directly boosts employee confidence and builds the foundation of trust between ‘coaches’ and ‘players’ that’s needed when more constructive feedback is necessary. There are a multitude of ways to retain employees that don’t involve a raise and most of them centre around the idea of showing employees that you care about them as a human first and employees second."

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