Something is very wrong with employee engagement and retention. Consider these facts:
- Voluntary quits have increased during each of the past six years and are racing to their all-time high
- Gallup tells us employee engagement has hardly budged since 2000
- Another study says we spend $1.53 billion each year to fix these things
If our government was spending one billion-plus each year to fix something with no results, republicans would blame democrats and vice versa and CNN would produce a special report. These outcomes are critical for organizations of all sizes, yet we march along to the same beat as though our current solutions are working. They are not.
What are those current solutions? Surveys. We gather results from exit surveys and engagement surveys and assume the data bridges easily to solutions. If all employees want more recognition, the thinking goes, give them employee appreciation week and employee of the month. Or if they want better communications, have town hall meetings and shape up the newsletter.
The missing piece is this: employees stay or leave and engage or disengage mostly based on whether they trust their boss. It’s not that complicated. Yet we continue to build “solutions” that work around the boss as though they are invisible…or too busy to participate. Busy doing…well…what? Isn’t their job to lead, engage, and retain their teams?
Stay interviews, then, are the ultimate solutions…and the anti-survey, because they treat all employees as individuals, as people, rather than a line item on survey results that assume if the average score is this then all employees feel that way. They don’t. And if high-performers put out four times more work than the rest, as studies tell us, don’t we especially want to know their opinions separately from everyone else’s?
The point is, solutions to employee engagement and retention must be individualized because people are people, people work for people, and people are imperfect and inconsistent compared to each other. And we want to feel as though there is individualized, special treatment for us. Stay interviews, then, provide the platform for managers to ask each employee, one-on-one, five questions to learn precisely what that manager must do to engage and retain that employee. The five questions are:
- What do you look forward to when you come to work each day? To get off on a positive start and shape the employee’s thoughts to day-to-day issues
- What are you learning here? To bring attention to job and career growth if this is important to the employee, as well as to learn what critical gaps exist that block productivity
- Why do you stay here? This is a stumper as few employees have considered this questions…but unlocking the answer gives incredible clues to leverage
- Why might you leave? Let’s get this on the table so we can address it
- What can I do as your manager to make working here better for you? This is the broom at the end to capture any leftover, critical thoughts
Doubters might say, “They’ll all want a raise, and I can’t give it to them. Then what?” When writing The Stay Interview, I interviewed many managers and asked what things employees wanted to talk about the most. The answer? Obstacles to personal productivity, as in change this process, fix this equipment, ask this department to meet their deadlines. They mostly gave suggestions so they could produce more work. How’s that for improving engagement?
Stay interviews ARE here to stay. Whether you run an organization or just a chunk of one, get off that survey addiction and connect with your employees one-on-one. Your own productivity and even your career will benefit as a result, I promise.
Check out Richard Finnegan’s book The Stay Interview: A Manager’s Guide to Keeping the Best and Brightest.
Don't let your top performers slip away. Learn how to keep your team engaged with these AMA resources and seminars.