HR departments are finding that retention interviews—conducted with current employees to measure their job satisfaction—are the perfect antidote to exit interviews.
With the rise of job hopping and competition to hire and retain employees, many companies have found that performance reviews help reduce turnover while increasing worker output and satisfaction.
Kate Grimaldi, senior director of enterprise talent strategy at Paylocity in Chicago, has used casual interviews for residencies for several years. But over the past six months, she’s encouraged managers across the company to incorporate light “whereabouts” questions into their regular one-on-one meetings.
“We are now seeing happier employees who are happy to come or sign up for work and contribute,” Grimaldi said. “And leaders have become more effective because they know what people care about personally and professionally and what really motivates someone to stay with us.
“These discussions have resulted in exciting new assignments, new learning paths, or simply improved relationships with employees and their line managers, which really has an impact on employee retention.”
Grimaldi said residency interviews have significantly improved employee engagement as they show the company has an active interest in improving employees’ work experience.
“Formal meetings can seem rigid and distant,” Grimaldi said. “We try to create moments when employees can express their feelings to managers so that they feel valued within the organization.
“When a manager takes the time to sit down with an employee, really listen to their values and priorities, and then show their commitment to responding to the employee’s needs, the response is always positive. You can defuse the employee’s thoughts that say, ‘If I go, ‘Nobody would care today’ and get everyone working together again. Exit interviews are more up to the employer, but stay interviews benefit both sides.”
Paul Rhodes, director of maintenance at The Life Properties in Woodstock, Ga., said he sees exit interviews typically providing canned answers that aren’t designed to “burn bridges.” Employees often offer little to improve the corporate culture.
“By regularly talking to your team about their performance and what they enjoy about working for your company, it opens a healthy line of communication that can build trust and loyalty and help managers identify team members who are at risk of that they can quit and do their best to keep them,” Rhodes said.
With trust and alignment, people feel heard
Stacey Berk, founder and senior consultant at Expand HR Consulting in Rockville, Md., said interviews for residencies in the last six to eight months have become a bigger trend as her clients strive to understand the reasons for attrition.
“Most employees are eager to share their feedback and would like positive changes in certain policies and protocols, greater flexibility in their schedule, and of course compensation and benefits,” said Berk. “When [stay interviews are] correctly communicated and positioned, employees participate and readily share feedback on a variety of topics. The key to having conversations that stay, regardless of how they’re conducted, is for HR and managers to ensure employees can share their thoughts comfortably and without fear of retaliation.”
Amy Zimmerman, chief people officer at Relay Payments in Atlanta, said stay-at-home interviews help managers become more aware of what their team members are looking for and that more trust is built on both sides and relationships appear to be stronger.
“When there’s trust and alignment and people feel heard, they’re less likely to make a change,” Zimmerman said. “Our turnover is incredibly low and I’m sure the residency interviews are one of many reasons for that.”
Boost manager confidence
Amy Mosher, chief people officer at isolved, a human capital management software company in Charlotte, NC, has seen a 10 percent increase in annual employee retention over the past two years. She attributes the improvement in part to the interviews.
“We trained managers on the importance of understanding why employees stay and what might make them leave,” Mosher said.
Mosher’s company refers to appointments as “engagement check-ins.” She noted that her employees say that this is often the first time in their careers that they have managers who regularly review their commitment, motivation to stay, challenges and future opportunities.
“We feel the name conveys a high-trust environment as opposed to a transactional one,” Mosher said. “While the motivation is similar, our approach is to ensure employees know they are trusted and are empowered to share information about what’s happening today and where they see themselves tomorrow.”
To prepare its managers for the meetings, isolved gives them materials on what’s expected and what to ask employees. For example:
- What do you look forward to every day when you come to work?
- What do you like most or least about working here?
- What is stopping you from working here?
- If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
- What would make your job more satisfying?
- How would you like to be recognized?
- What talents are not being used in your current role?
“Managers can then use those starting points to go in and make the discussion their own,” Mosher said, adding that managers were told these meetings were not meant to “just get answers”; is about the manager, the pay or the performance; or involve training or coaching.
“They shouldn’t be structured, lengthy, or haphazard, and shouldn’t just be planned when there’s a problem,” Mosher said.
She noted that two of the key positive outcomes her organization sees from regular engagement check-ins are: First, “Managers become more confident when they ask their team what motivates them, how the manager can better support them , and do these open feedback sessions. No. Not only do we support the employee, we also improve the leadership skills of our managers to ask direct questions and adapt to feedback where necessary.”
Second, these calls are also more informal.
“The trickle-down effect is even more common, ‘How are you?’ Conversations,” Mosher said. “If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that we need to ask each other how we can support the person, how they’re really feeling, and if there’s anything we can do to improve their situation.
“Our managers tell us it makes them feel more prepared for performance reviews. The overwhelming feedback was that by regularly consulting with employees specifically on the topic of engagement, they have a better idea of where their team can next upskill, where there may be a risk of attrition, and how to better serve their team.
“From a non-managerial perspective, our support and communications pulse surveys have increased, as has our overall employee engagement rating by 8 percent.”
Paul Bergeron is a freelance writer based in Herndon, Virginia.