Move from “Pay and Pray” to “Stay” with Employee Retention

How do you retain your best employees? What options do you have beyond just increasing an employee’s pay and crossing your fingers they don’t leave, taking a chunk of your customers with them? We understand that the lifeblood of small businesses are the relationships they have with their customers and in their community. That lifeblood extends to your employees as well, and the relationships you keep with your customer front-line.

In an earlier blog we talked about the importance of retaining employees by building strong relationships and providing development opportunities, not trying to compete with the ‘perks’ provided by other companies.  You can accomplish those two things in one simple (and under-utilized!) tool: a stay interview.

When people hear ‘stay interview’, they tend to think ‘job interview’.  So here is how a stay interview is and is NOT like a job interview.

How a Stay Interview Is NOT Like a Job Interview

A stay interview is intended to be a conversation, not a formal process like a job interview.  It isn’t intended that you schedule a specific stay interview meeting (although you can), but rather incorporate the concepts of the stay interview in already established meetings with your employees.  Remember – these are intended for your team members who are most important for you to retain. As you are meeting with employees during your one-on-one meetings, ask a few stay interview questions (examples included below).  Add two to three questions per meeting so you are not asking all the questions at once and the questions can spread over multiple meetings.  

How a Stay Interview Is Like a Job Interview

Think about how you behave in a job interview.  You are curious. You are interested in the person and want to know how they can help advance your business.  You want to have that same level of interest and curiosity in these stay interview questions as well. Many times managers assume since they have worked with an employee for a while that they already know the answers to these questions.  Don’t assume. Ask the questions and truly listen for the answers. Paraphrase their responses back to help them feel heard, and so you can check your understanding right there with them.

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Questions to Ask

Remember the intent is to learn more about your employee, likes, dislikes and career goals.  There are many questions you can ask, but here’s a list of good questions to start.

  • What do you like about your current job?
  • What would a great day at work look like?
  • What accomplishments are you most excited about in your job?
  • If you could change one thing about your role or your work, what would it be?  
  • What particular skill would you like to develop this year?
  • Describe your dream job.
  • What are your career goals?
  • What skills do you have that we haven’t utilized?  
  • What do you love to do that you are not able to do in your current job?
  • When have you been the most frustrated with your job?  
  • What, in your job, are you least excited about doing?  
  • What type of recognition have you received that you feel acknowledges your accomplishments?  

Don’t miss your Opportunity

Yes, we want you to ask a few of the stay interview questions in your normal employee check-in. Beyond that, though, don’t miss your opportunity to share with your employee just how important they are to your business.

Help them connect the dots. Show them how their behavior and performance continues to ripple through your business. For example, “I have noticed that when our customers come in the door, you come out from behind the counter to greet them by name and shake their hand. I don’t know if you see it or not, but that gesture helps us stand out from any other competitor in the area, and is a big reason this customer chooses to shop here. This is one of the many reasons I appreciate the work you do here. Thank you.” Help them understand why they are so important to your business before jumping into some of the stay interview questions.

Now What?

The great part of this process is that now you know what the employee likes and wants to do, you can start to create development opportunities for the employee.  If the employee shared that they would like to learn more about a certain aspect of the business, you can start finding opportunities for the employee to learn and grow in that area.  It is a win for you, a win for the employee and a win for the business!

We want to hear from you! What HR pain points do you struggle with as a small business owner? Share with us directly, and we may feature your question (we’ll keep your name confidential) in an upcoming SPARK. Email Kristen or Erin directly!

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