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The Magic of Stay Interviews—and How to Use Them

Sharon Jordan-Evans Posted by Sharon Jordan-Evans, President, Jordan Evans Group.

SHARON JORDAN-EVANS is a sought-after executive coach and popular keynote speaker for Fortune 500 companies. She is the co-author of Love ’Em or Lose ’Em, Love It, Don’t Leave It and Hello Stay Interviews, Goodbye Talent Loss.

The Magic of Stay Interviews—and How to Use Them

An Interview with Sharon Jordan-Evans and Beverly Kaye

Why did you write this book?

We wrote the first edition of Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em for busy managers who were struggling to retain their good employees amidst the talent wars of the late 1990s. Managers needed engagement and retention tips that were accessible, actionable and low to no cost to implement.

The most popular strategy in Love ‘Em was (and still is, five editions later) the stay interview. We’ve wondered why managers wait for the exit interview to ask "What will keep you here?” Managers worldwide have welcomed the idea and said, “Why didn't I think of that? Or....that sounds easy!”

We, and our team of facilitators, have delivered keynotes and workshops around the globe, to give thousands of managers the chance to practice stay interviews. They loved the concept and skill-building, but said they wanted more; more examples, more questions to ask and more detail about how to conduct the most effective possible stay interviews. We decided the topic deserved its own focus and voila – Hello Stay Interviews, Goodbye Talent Loss was born!

How do stay interviews effect new hires in the workplace?

If talent is scarce (and it is) and if recruiting and on boarding costs are high (and they are) attention to new hires makes dollars and sense! Stay interviews can be done by the recruiter, the manager, a team of recruiter and hiring manager, or by an HR professional.

Your risk of losing talent is greatest in the first six months on the job. We believe it is crucial to hold stay interviews early and often. Some organizations take this seriously and ask new hires to schedule appointments with their managers at 30, 60 and 90 days.

Not sure what to ask the new recently hired person? Try these: In what ways did the job surprise you? Delight you? Disappoint you? What can be done to turn that around or improve? What is the best part of your work so far? What skills did you bring to us that we aren't yet using? How have your colleagues been helpful? What opportunities did we miss for coaching, and mentoring you?

What do you tell HR professionals who face push backs from upper management about this idea?
Managers need a little help getting started! Many are worried that employees will ask for something they (the managers) simply cannot give. Actually, that’s a realistic concern. Here are four steps to effectively respond to a challenging request:

  1. Acknowledge how much he matters to you and the team: “You are worth that and more to me.”
  2. Tell the truth about obstacles you face: “I’d like to say yes, but I will need to investigate the possibility. I’m honestly not sure what I can do immediately, given some recent budget cuts.”
  3. Care enough to look into the request: “But I hear your request. I’ll chat with Human Resources and my manager about it and get back to you by next Friday with some answers and a possible time line for a raise.”
  4. Ask “What else?”: “Meanwhile, what else matters to you? What else are you hoping for?” (Note: keep asking what else until she gives you something you can work with, e.g. a new learning opportunity, a chance to mentor or be mentored.)

Now… make sure managers collaborate with their talent to follow up on requests!