Use “Stay Interviews” to Retain Valued Employees

Most managers can quickly tell you the names of their most productive and valued employees, but few share that information with the individuals themselves. “Stay interviews” are annual or semi-annual meetings that focus on improving the retention of valued employees. These critical meetings set the stage for discovering what motivates a superstar or uncovering any reasons the person might leave. It is a proactive way to retain employees who may feel overlooked or undervalued, even when the exact opposite is true.

In a recent blog post, HR consultant Mary Lou Parrot suggests six questions to ask during a stay interview:

  1. What kind of feedback or recognition would you like about your performance that you aren’t currently receiving?
  2. What opportunities for self-improvement would you like to have that go beyond your current role?
  3. What kids of flexibility would be helpful to you in balancing your work and home life?
  4. What talents, interests, or skills do you have that we haven’t made the most of?
  5. What have you felt good about accomplishing in your time here?
  6. If you could change one thing about your job, team or company, what would it be?

Most employees will keep thoughts about these topics to themselves unless they believe someone cares. Stay interviews are a way to start a conversation and learn a lot about what motivates employees and how they are feeling. Even someone who is not a superstar may have self-improvement needs or hidden talents. Why not interview everyone?

Once you have the conversation, what do you do with the information? Try to avoid “instant cures” if you hear a lot of needs or get an earful of complaints. Write them down and express your appreciation for their candor. Let the person know that you take their job satisfaction and work-life balance seriously and set up a follow-up meeting in a relatively short time frame. The worst mistake a manager could make would be to ask the questions and do nothing in response.

Is a stay interview in your future?



Guidance for Managers During Turbulent Times

Unfortunately, 2018 is beginning much like 2017 ended. We continue with a climate of political and international unrest, natural disasters and violent shootings. The complaints of workplace sexual harassment have risen to an all-time high. Is this the new normal or an anomaly? Managers have an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of their employees.

Whatever 2018 brings, it’s a good opportunity to look around your workgroup to see how people are doing. Does anyone look particularly “down”? Are you aware of someone who’s been more affected by these disturbing times than others? Has someone in your group experienced personal tragedy or loss this year on top of the uncertainties in the world?

Although employees usually hope to escape their problems when they come to work, it is impossible to leave them totally behind. As a manager, taking a minute to really look at someone and ask how they are doing can make a big difference in that person’s life. Everyone has to find his or her own words, but saying something like this can be exceptionally meaningful for a struggling employee.

A few talking points:

  • “I know it’s been a difficult couple of months for you. I’m wondering how you are doing.”
  • “Is there anything I could do to help during this time?”
  • “Do you have people in your life who are supporting you?”

Depending on the responses, you might wonder whether the employee knows about the support services offered by the EAP.

  • “Are you aware that we have a confidential counseling program?”
  • “Could I get you some information about the Employee Assistance Program?”
  • “The EAP is free and confidential. I won’t even know whether you’ve used it or not.”
  • “It sounds like you have a lot on your plate and I’m wondering if the EAP could help you with any part of it?”

Managers are in a unique position to notice when someone is struggling. EAPs have been known to provide comfort and save lives, simply because a manager noticed an employee in trouble and encouraged them to access the EAP.

Despair can take many shapes and sizes. Is there anyone you are worried about today?

Complaints of Sexual Harassment

In early blog posts, I discussed how important it is for managers to be prepared for a sexual harassment complaint. In a second post, I talked about the negative impact that harassment can have on an individual. But never did I imagine the flood of complaints that would hit the media during late 2017.

Proactively, make sure you are aware of the protocol HR has put in place for reporting sexual harassment complaints. It’s important that you are familiar with your HR department’s policies and practices and the role and expectations of a manager should a complaint come directly to you.

If an employee comes to you to discuss a complaint of sexual harassment, make time to talk to the employee immediately. During that conversation, explain the company’s harassment policy, and also explain that you are NOT able to keep this information confidential and are required to notify HR or some other established entity that is part of the reporting process. Share the protocol with the employee and if possible and appropriate, immediately facilitate a connection to the correct resources. It’s important to extract yourself from the process and for the prescribed protocol to take over.

Things to remember:

The following are tips to assist you in the moments following an employee coming forward to you with a complaint. The HR process/protocol currently in place in your organization supersedes the following tips.

  • If an employee comes forth with a complaint, this becomes your top priority. Make the time and find a private place to talk with the employee.
  • Don’t promise the employee that the complaint will be kept confidential. Confidentiality is not possible because an investigation will have to be conducted. You can explain that the information will be shared only on a “need-to-know” basis.
  • Let the employee share his or her perspective without interruption and take notes..
  • In your conversation and in your notes, don’t speculate or embellish what you heard the employee say. Give your notes to HR as soon as possible.
  • Don’t ask judgmental questions. e.g. “Couldn’t you have just talked to your colleague instead of making a complaint?”
  • Don’t offer explanations or excuses for the conduct the employee is complaining about. You could be viewed as trivializing the complaint or questioning the employee’s honesty.
  • Always defer to HR or another designated entity if asked a question by the employee.
  • Other than HR, don’t talk to anyone else about the allegations. Do not tell the person who is being accused. You could undermine an investigation, and doing so could be used against you should litigation be filed later.

You may have a tough time believing that discrimination or harassment could be happening within your group. Keep an open mind and treat every person who comes forward with dignity and respect. Don’t make assumptions or come to any conclusions, let the company process play out.

As always, keep Human Resources informed and use your EAP for emotional support.


Why Managers Dread Giving Performance Feedback

Do you become anxious at the thought of giving performance feedback? If you are a manager and the answer is yes, you are in good company. Results of a recent Gallup poll of 2,000 managers found that 69 percent of managers have difficulty communicating in general, and 37 percent find it hard to give negative feedback to a subordinate. Why is it so hard?

Some of it has to do with personality style and history. If a manager is reserved or grew up in a family where communication was problematic, he/she may be more apt to struggle with difficult conversations. Work conversations can add another level of complexity to what may already be a challenging situation. Avoiding performance discussions may provide immediate relief, but makes it more difficult in the long run for both you and the employee.

Most employees want to have regular communication with their managers. They like knowing where they stand and getting feedback about their performance. No one likes to hear that they are disappointing others; however, employees would rather hear it now than find it out later.

How Managers Can Improve Communication:

  1. Start building a relationship by getting to know what motivates each person. Have a conversation with your direct reports and ask them their thoughts about receiving feedback. Share your philosophy about feedback and the positive aspect of it even when it’s intended to correct an aspect of performance.
  2. Set a regular time to check in with your direct reports and keep those appointments. Don’t save up constructive feedback because it may take on a life of its own. Create an agenda for frequent, short meetings and ask employees to come prepared with their discussion topics as well. These meetings are the foundation of effective communication.
  3. Learn how to blend positive and negative feedback so you are routinely giving some of each. Check in after a conversation has occurred to see what the employee heard and how he/she is feeling. Ask questions so that you can truly understand. Ask for feedback from your direct reports. Things like, what do they need more or less of from you. The key is to LISTEN.

It’s important to move forward with employee communication, even if it causes you discomfort. Studies have shown that employee engagement is higher when there is good communication within work groups. From an employee perspective, knowing where you stand with your manager reduces stress and makes work more enjoyable. Managers also find that when they improve communication with their employees, they also improve their own job satisfaction.

Do you need to set up a one-on-one today?