Are ‘stay interviews’ the new fad?

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Stay interviews are being increasingly preferred over exit interviews and employee- satisfaction surveys. 

Exit interviews were quite a fad once, wherein the HR spoke to the employees after they had resigned, to find out the reasons for their decision to quit. The idea was to identify the possible reason for employee exits, take cues and rework on the organisational culture so that other employees do not follow suit. There was also a last attempt to retain the employees.

However, these were as good as crying over spilled milk and trying to make amends after the damage was already done. How fruitful these exit interviews were in changing the decision of the employee was questionable.

One learning that organisations have got from exit interviews is that they should act before it’s too late. So now, we have a new fad called ‘stay interviews’. It certainly sounds better and has a positive tone. Instead of ‘exit’ which is negative and a lost battle, it’s ‘stay’— a more hopeful approach.

WHAT’S A STAY INTERVIEW?

A ‘stay interview’ is a structured conversation, often between a manager and an employee. It is designed to find out what’s happening in the employees’ professional life, identify their pain points, and get to know what keeps them motivated.

The idea is to have a lighter conversation that goes beyond projects or performance and uncovers what’s at the root of the employees’ decision to remain in a job, and what makes them feel fulfilled. It’s a smarter alternative to asking the employee,“why are you here?”

Worldwide, this practice of stay interviews is being increasingly accepted in organisations. In India, though we may not have had a structured one, bosses are known to commonly ask –– aur kya chal raha hain (what’s happening in your life?). In Indian organisations, the work culture is less formal than in the advanced economies or in the West. Stay interviews are a formal and structured way of doing the same thing.

HOW ARE STAY INTERVIEWS FRUITFUL?

It’s not just the feedback that the manager gets from the employee through a stay interview. The very process of stay interviews makes the employees realise that the organisation cares about them. It’s a great way to build trust!

Yes, as a byproduct there is a chance to assess the degree of employee satisfaction and engagement that exists in a department or company.

Stay interviews work well, provided the organisation gathers and rightfully identifies the need of the employees and also acts on them.

STAY INTERVIEWS ARE NOT EMPLOYEE-SATISFACTION SURVEYS

They may sound similar but stay interviews are not employee-satisfaction surveys. First, stay interviews are two-way conversations, whereas employee-satisfaction surveys are just one way. In stay interviews, there are chances of follow-up questions, one can immediately identify an issue, delve deeper into it and above all it’s more human than the robotic, automated employee-engagement or satisfaction surveys.

Besides, stay interviews have the ability to deal with immediate employee happiness or concerns, not with how the employee felt last month or over the past quarter or the year.

STAY INTERVIEWS ARE NOT TO BE CONDUCTED BY HR

Exit interviews are conducted by HR but stay interviews need to be done by the manager for them to work. However, one needs to check on the relationship between the manager and the employee. If the relationship between the two is positive, it works wonderfully as it strengthens the bonding and real answers emerge. In case the relationship between the two is already sour, the stay interview becomes pointless—it will just not work. In such cases, a skip-level manager or an HR leader can conduct the interview but the entire conversation has to be transparent, positive and not just a venting machine.

STAY INTERVIEWS ARE AN ONGOING PROCESS

Conducting stay interviews once or twice a year doesn’t make sense— they will not be much different from employment-satisfaction surveys. Instead, stay interviews have to be an ongoing process. One should remember that the trust is not built in a day. When the employees realise that they are being heard and the company is acting on their suggestion(s), the trust deepens. The same employees are expected to open up more in the subsequent stay interviews.

Stay interviews can take the manager by surprise. The manager may get a feedback that is unexpected or totally out of the blue. It is advisable not to react and be defensive but be responsive and lend a careful and patient ear. At the same time, the manager should never trivialise the employees’ feelings/opinions and also not build an opinion. HR has to ensure neutrality.

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