Wondering How to Retain and Engage Your Employees?

With the Great Resignation still in full swing, retaining employees is big on the minds of leaders across the world. For many organizations, the go-to answer of throwing money at the problem isn’t an option anymore. While a raise or a bonus is always helpful, money doesn’t tend to engage a disengaged employee. And, as recent Gallup data has revealed, the percentage of actively disengaged employees has been steadily increasing, while the percentage of happily engaged employees has dropped, narrowing the gap between the two. Picture1The data is clear – now, more than ever, action is required to keep your best people around. So, what does the data tell us about how to keep them around? Gallup revealed that some of the factors lessening engagement in early 2022 included employees feeling they lacked clear expectations, the right materials and equipment, and a connection to the mission or purpose of their organization, in addition to the continuing trends of prioritizing their wellbeing (when their employers failed to do so) and an increased interest in remote work opportunities. Another report revealed that the main contributions to employees resigning for a new position included not just pay and benefits, but career development and work structure or flexibility.

Now that we know why people are leaving, what do we do about it? We recommend implementing a “stay” interview. A stay interview is a conversation with each of your employees to really get into the details of why they want to stay with your organization and what drives them. When combined with regular performance coaching conversations, a stay interview can boost engagement in quite a few ways. Over more than a decade of working with organizations both large and small, we’ve found that effective performance coaching conversations can:

  • Help employees feel heard and valued
  • Help employees understand the results, outcomes, and tasks they are expected to work towards
  • Help employees connect more intimately to the organization’s mission, values, and purpose
  • Provide clear, actionable feedback both to help the employee and the organization make improvements
  • Encourage employees to keep up the good work and help them feel recognized and appreciated

If you’re not having regular feedback conversations, formal and informal, with your teams, download our free Performance Coaching guide for some great tips and instruction. The stay interview specifically takes your regular performance conversations one step further, building on the relationship you’ve built with your team members and eliciting feedback from them instead of giving them the usual feedback. As Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Chief Innovation Officer at ManpowerGroup advised in a recent FastCompany article, “Even if organizations do not impose it, it’s extremely advantageous for managers to conduct stay interviews. These may not always deter someone from leaving, but they will likely improve managers’ understanding of what their teams like and dislike, which should help them retain other valuable people.” Picture2Let’s talk about how to conduct a stay interview, and some factors to keep in mind to make this successful.

  1. Keep it private. Just like all of your feedback conversations, a stay interview should be done in a private, one-on-one conversation. This helps your team members feel confident that what they have to say will be kept confidential. Ideally, these should take place in a neutral location as well, where both your managers and team members can be comfortable and at ease.
  2. Start with a solid explanation of what you hope to gain from the conversation. If your team members are used to most one-on-ones focusing on their performance, this conversation may come as a surprise, so be sure to go in letting them know what the goal is – to understand their thoughts and opinions on the company, the organizational culture, and their individual role. It’s also very appropriate to tell them that you hope to learn more about why they choose to stay, and to use that information to improve the organization for them and for others. Transparency is very helpful in this situation.
  3. Ask questions focusing on the present, and look together towards the future. Here are some questions we’d recommend to help focus on how each team member currently feels about the organization as it is today:
    • What do you like most about working for our organization?
    • What do you like most about your role, specifically?
    • What do you look forward to about your job, your role, or our company?
    • What do you like least about working here?
    • How do you feel you connect with our culture? Our mission? Our company values?

    Here are some questions that focus on looking ahead to the future:

    • What are things that our organization needs to improve or change to help people want to stay?
    • What can I do, as your manager/supervisor/leader, to positively impact your role?
    • If you were in my role, what is something you would do differently?
    • What are some of your goals, and how can we help support your achieving them?
    • If you were to leave our organization in the next couple of years, what do you imagine might have caused you to leave?
    • Knowing that our goal is to improve the organization, our managers and leaders, and each team or department to encourage people to stay, is there anything else you would add to our conversation today?
    (SHRM has ideas for additional questions if you’re not finding these to be effective.Picture3
  4. Recap to ensure you fully understood what each team member had to share. Ensure that the manager conducting this interview takes thorough notes. At the end of the conversation, recap a few of the main points or takeaways to be sure that the information was effectively communicated.
  5. Sincerely thank each team member for their time on this important task, and set a date to reconnect with them on any items that require follow-up. This shows just how valuable the experience was, and helps the team member know that their concerns are heard. There will very likely be some follow-up needed, so set a date, and be sure to at least reconnect to share what progress has been made, no matter how little.
  6. Gather the information from all of the stay interviews, and review it as a leadership team. This is an especially important time to ensure that everyone approaches with an open mind, as we know receiving feedback can be difficult. Start the conversation with an acknowledgment of the value of the work to be done in improving the organization, and keep it positive. In this meeting, commit to focusing on a few important or common items, and set the others aside for a later date. In addition, use this time to discuss how and when your managers will follow up with their individual team members.

We are confident that when combined with regular performance conversations, holding annual or semi-annual stay interviews with each of your people can greatly improve your organization’s retention, and improve your culture and the employee experience for the better. Let’s commit today to put the work in and making our organizations better for our employees and customers alike.


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