'Please don't go!' Are stay interviews ever a good idea?

Flashbacks to Chicago aside, why begging your employees not to quit is a 'last resort'

'Please don't go!' Are stay interviews ever a good idea?

With resignations on the rise, employers are increasingly frantic to keep hold of their top talent. In the wake of such high-turnover, HR leaders are turning to ever-more eclectic measures to maintain their people - one of which are stay interviews. And while they may have their place somewhere in the employee lifecycle, desperately talking your people into staying immediately after they’ve handed in their notice may not be the best idea.

“The time to keep someone in your organization is not the time in which they’re trying to leave,” Bob Lockett, Chief Diversity and Talent Officer at ADP, told HRD. “You’ve got to start that process early on. As a leader, you should always check in with your folks, preferably on a weekly basis.  Keeping your associates connected to you, the team and the organization through frequent conversations eliminates the need for a stay interview, which is a last resort. The likelihood of experiencing success on a stay interview is slim. It’s no different than the counteroffer. By the time you learn the employee has a job offer, they are already halfway out the door.”

The sheer amount of employees looking to jump ship this year is concerning to put it mildly. But as Lockett mentioned, once their minds are made up to go, that’s pretty much game over. Instead, HR leaders should be actively monitoring their employee morale levels, productivity, and absenteeism all the time to pre-empt quitting.

Read more: Is HR ready for a four-day work week?

“HR and management need to create a culture where you don't need a stay interview,” added Lockett. “The goal is to stay in touch with your people on a regular basis – even weekly – so you can head off problems and frustrations before the employee starts looking elsewhere. It begins with creating the right conditions for success. This means giving people the opportunity to be seen, valued, and heard for all that they are. Then you get the best outcomes and people want to stay connected to your organization. 

“Let's take pay off the table for a moment. If pay is not a big factor in the employee’s choice to stay or leave, then the focus becomes providing an environment where people can contribute. If people know that they are seen, valued, and heard, and if they believe that they have an opportunity to succeed, then they stay. There's a sense of loyalty, not only to their leader, but to the brand of the organization as well. The key is to check in with your people frequently.”

ADP recently released their report - HRXPS: How to measure the impact of HR through the lens of the employee experience – looking at how managing employee experience can drive morale and ultimately beat the Great Resignation.

Intent to Leave

The data showed that there is a strong relationship between high HRXPS and lower intent to leave and lower active job search. Employees who saw the HR function as adding significant value to their employee experience (“Value-Promoting”) were 3.7 times more likely to have no intent to leave compared to those who don’t see value in HR activities (“Value-Detracting”). The latter were also 3.4 times more likely to be actively searching for a new job.

Performance Attention

Interestingly, in a time when so many organizations are throwing out their performance appraisal systems, the survey respondents identified this aspect of HR as essential. Those who received the most frequent attention on their performance were 4.4 times more likely to say HR is Value-Promoting than those in the “No Attention” category. Even though the HR function may not be delivering that performance attention directly, if an employee is having weekly or quarterly conversations with someone, they still think much more positively of their HR service quality. 

Single point of contact HR

Employees with a single point of contact HR were twice as likely to say HR is Value-Promoting than employees with multiple HR contacts and 5 times more likely than employees with no HR. So, while we know that engaged employees are more likely to see HR as Value-Promoting, having a single HR point of contact makes a measurable difference in HRXPS, regardless of how engaged the employee is.

Read more: Can I fire an employee for refusing a COVID-19 test?

Looking ahead to 2022 and beyond, retention and employee experience will be two of the most important sticking points for HR.

“Both leaders and HR have a role to play in retaining good employees and strengthening the employee experience,” added Lockett. “A manager’s task is to create an environment that helps their employees be the best they can be.”

This requires three key skills:

  1. Be approachable. Make it comfortable for your employees to come to you.
  2. Be clear about expectations. Be clear about what you want them to get done then give them the freedom on how to accomplish the goal – as opposed to telling them what to do.
  3. Be open to feedback. Model the behavior you want to see. If you want your people to receive feedback graciously, be willing to do the same.

“The hybrid workplace is an additional challenge for leaders,” Lockett told HRD. “Many businesses are still trying to find the right balance between in-office and remote working. Again, frequent communication is essential. Scheduling time to talk to your people, being open and listening will go a long way towards keeping them in your organization.

“Keep in mind, though, that turnover is also an expected part of the business. Organizations must evolve if they are to successfully respond to market changes. For example, switching from on-premise to cloud-based technology requires a different set of skills. Some people will leave the organization. But you want people who will challenge your thinking, enhance the business and help it evolve.”

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