The Stay Interview...Key to Engaging and Retaining Talent

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

Sit. Stay. That command works for your dog (maybe). But does it work for engaging and keeping the talented employees you cannot afford to lose? Probably not.

Here’s another approach you can take that will work. It’s called the Stay Interview and it has now been tested and proven effective by thousands of managers.

What will keep you here?

When do most managers ask “What can I do to keep you?” You guessed it: during exit interviews. It’s a great question, but the timing is off. We suggest you ask it sooner.

You want them to stay—at least for a while longer. They are your stars and your high flyers. And they are your solid citizens too—the people who show up every day to do the work you need them to do. Your competition wants them, and you can’t afford to lose them.

You don’t have to cling desperately to your talent. You can keep them pumped up and excited about coming to work for you every day. Find out what will keep them engaged and on your team.

It seems so simple—just ask! Yet most managers will admit they are not conducting stay interviews (and their bosses are not conducting them, either). Why? Often it’s because they’re afraid of the answers.

They ask, “What if I ask my talented people what will keep them and they all say money or a promotion (or a Tesla)?” Good point. So the fear of being unable to deliver on someone’s request gets in the way of having the most crucial dialogue of all. Is that true for you? Here’s an easy four-step process you can use when an employee tosses you a tough-to-deliver-on request.

Four steps for dealing with tough requests

Next time your talented employees ask for something you think you might not be able to give, respond by using these steps:

  1. Acknowledge the requests and restate how much you value your employees.
  2. Tell the truth about the obstacles you face in granting their requests.
  3. Care enough to look into their requests and to stand up for them.
  4. Ask “What else?” — and keep asking. You’ll eventually get something you can work with!

It seems pretty straightforward. But how might it really play out?

Next week, part 2 of the blog will show an example of the four step process for dealing with tough requests.

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