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Blindsided By Resignations? Stay Interviews Could Be What You're Missing

You’ve probably heard the buzzwords ‘the great resignation’ thrown around a lot in the past year, and with kiwi research showing that two in five employees are planning to jump ship within the next year, it’s no surprise that New Zealand companies are scrambling to keep their employees satisfied.

What you might not know, is that getting on top of your staff retention doesn’t usually come down to whether or not you offer beers on a Friday and or a staffroom pool table (though these perks are nice to have!). More often than not, it’s about building trusting relationships and two-way communication between your leadership team and your employees.

“If our office perks or competitive salary package aren’t enough to keep people around, then what is?” we hear you asking. There’s no denying that these things are an important part of the happy employee ecosystem, but what you might not yet have tried is conducting stay interviews.

We chatted with our Managing Director, Mark Fisher, to get the ins and outs of a good stay interview.

​What is a stay interview?

Typically as a manager, you’d interview your employees at two key points of their journey in your team: their initial job interview and their exit interview. The touchpoints you may be missing along the way are ‘stay interviews’. These are (usually) bi-annual catch-ups, formal or informal, where you sit down and get a read of your employee’s satisfaction.

As Mark describes;

“People do stay interviews in different ways, but basically, it’s a conversation to truly understand what your employee values most about working within your organisation. The goal is to understand what they value most, how things can be improved and ultimately ascertain the likelihood of them leaving.”

It’s important to hold your stay interviews at least every six months to keep your finger on the pulse of how your team is feeling. You can include the conversation in chats you’re already having and approach them informally, or make it a formal chat of its own. Whichever way you choose to go about it, it should give your employees a chance to comfortably express what they’re loving and what they’re not.

Stay proactive, not reactive

One of the most common things we hear from businesses is that they feel blindsided when their star employees hand in their resignations. The natural next step when this happens is to quickly counteroffer, or attempt to explain away some of the pain points your employees are experiencing. Unfortunately, once your key players have one foot out the door, it’s too little too late - that’s why it’s so important to work on your employee retention proactively rather than reactively.

“What we’ve seen is that there’s a lot of assumption that happens in businesses. Leadership assumes that the team loves the company's perks and they’re happy in their roles, and employees can make assumptions about things like the limitations of their role or earning potential. No one actually asks the questions.” Mark explains.

That’s why stay interviews are such a great proactive measure. It’s about building trust, creating a high engagement environment and asking the right questions before frustrations build - which is what inevitably leads to people leaving.

“Often your quiet employees are your best employees, but they’re also often the most undervalued. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, but sometimes if you’re not checking in on everyone, the wheels can fall off without you realising it.”

Who should hold stay interviews?

Another common assumption is that meetings like this need to be held between a manager and an employee, but as Mark describes, that’s not always the case.

“From a leadership point of view, I think it can be anyone [holding the meeting]. With your key people, you may want someone a little more senior like a manager, but as long as the space for the conversation is created and employees feel comfortable to speak up, any conversation is better than none.”

The main thing to look out for is that you’re not cornering people into having conversations where they don’t feel comfortable, Mark explains.

“For example, managers often ask people for their ideas in a group scenario or bring up problems in board meetings. But that’s not enough and people won't speak up. It needs to be a one-on-one space where people can truly say how they feel.”

What questions should you ask?

Whilst a stay interview is a two-way conversation, it really is about extracting what people value.

“A lot of people are designing employee value propositions, without engaging with the team about what they actually value. If you’re going to design improvements to people’s working lives, it should be coming from the employees, and that starts with asking questions.”

But what are the ‘right’ questions? Here’s what we’d suggest, to get you started:

  • Do you feel supported in your role?

  • Are the benefits we provide of value to you?

  • What have you learnt in the last six months? (If they feel as though they haven’t grown - what can we do to help?

  • Do you enjoy our company culture and what could we do better?

  • Are you getting enough flexibility for work-life balance?

  • Do you feel like you’re in the right role?

  • Where would you like to go next in (or beyond) your role?

You’ve asked the right questions, now what?

Like everything, it’s all very well getting the feedback, but if you don’t act on it there’s no point in asking in the first place! It’s key to make sure you show integrity and follow-through, which relies on having a solid process for delivery.

“We use Google Sheets or a live document that’s accessible to collate our feedback and communicate the key messages to people that can make the changes. This is really helpful, as since we’re following up regularly, we can track what we said we’d do versus what we’ve actually done.”

In short: document it, then do it. It can be a challenging feat, but one that’s rewarding for the employer and the employee. As Mark summarises;

“Some companies don’t like to open the can of worms and ask for feedback, but if you’re brave enough to ask and have a thick enough skin to hear the negatives, you’ll only end up with positives - usually in the form of staff retention.”

If you have any questions about staff retention and how stay interviews can help, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We’re happy to help!​