The Stay Interview...Key to Engaging and Retaining Talent - Part 2

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Stay whats holding you backThis is the second post in a two-part series on using the stay interview to engage and retain talent. This post gives an example of a conversation between a manager and their employee and shows how to deal with tough requests.

Content adapted from Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans new book, Hello Stay Interviews, Goodbye Talent Loss, Berrett-Koehler, 2015.

He Dared to Ask

Antonio set up a meeting with his plant manager, Ken, for Monday morning. After some brief conversation about the weekend activities, Antonio said, “Ken, you are critical to me and to this organization. I’m not sure I’ve told you that directly or often enough. But you are. I can’t imagine losing you. So I’d like to know what will keep you here. And what might entice you away?”

Ken was a bit taken aback—but felt flattered. He thought for a moment and then said, “You know, I aspire to move up in the organization at some point, and I’d love to have some exposure to the senior team. I’d like to see how they operate—and frankly, I’d like them to get to know me too.”

Antonio responded, “I could take you with me to some senior staff meetings. Would that be a start?”

Ken said, “That would be great.”

Antonio delivered on Ken’s request one week later.

Well, that was easy. But what if Ken had asked for a raise? Here’s how the discussion between Antonio and Ken could have gone.

Following Antonio’s question about what will keep him, Ken replied immediately, “A 10 percent raise will do it!”

Now, some managers would say things like “Are you kidding?” or “Why do you think you deserve that?” Either response shuts down the dialogue and makes a key employee feel less than key. Antonio was ready for this possibility, though. Here is how he would have responded to Ken’s request for a raise, using the four-step process.

  1. Acknowledge: “You are worth that and more to me.”
  2. Tell the truth: “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: “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, Ken, what else matters to you? What else are you hoping for?”

Research shows clearly that people want more from work than just a paycheck. When you ask the question “What else?” (possibly several times), we guarantee there will be at least one thing your talented employee wants that you can give. Remember to listen actively as your employees talk about what will keep them on your team or in your organization.

Bottom Line

If you’re not yet holding stay interviews, you are guessing at what your talented people really want—from you, from the team, from their work. You could be guessing wrong. Stay interviews are just one of many strategies in a successful manager’s playbook. But they are absolutely key to engaging, motivating, recognizing, and retaining talent.

Take the time to conduct stay interviews and take action on what you learn. Conduct these conversations early and often, with everyone you hope will bring their best and stick around for a while. Your return on investment will be an increased understanding of those on your team. And what might that lead to? Increased commitment, productivity, innovation, and success for you, your team, and the organization.



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