Get a Pulse on Employee Satisfaction

By Tom Faricy, SPHR, Trupp HR.

It’s certainly no surprise that the economic downturn and the subsequent high unemployment rates have kept the majority of people from switching jobs over the last few years. As companies have been forced to downsize and “tighten the belt”, many employees have experienced increased workloads, longer hours; often with fewer pay increases and decreased benefits. The added pressure has left some looking to greener pastures.

Experts are predicting that the improving economy will support an increase in new jobs as companies begin to ramp up for growth, but it’s likely that the first surge in hiring may draw largely from currently employed people. We all have an employee or two we would like to have “move on”, but unfortunately it is your best employees that are most in demand!

Finding great employees is not an easy task. It takes time, effort, and a significant amount of money. In fact, the cost of recruiting and bringing on a new employee can be anywhere from 50%-250% of their annual salary and that doesn’t necessarily guarantee a good hire. Clearly, retaining your top talent is in your best interest and conducting stay interviews may be your best strategy to hedge against losing your star performers.

A Simple Strategy for Retaining Great Employees

Establishing a stay interview program allows an organization to get a pulse on overall employee satisfaction and acts as an early indicator of problems before they become more serious. Employers are able to discover what drives and engages current employees, why they continue to work for the company and what prevents them from searching for a new position.

During a stay interview, employees meet with their direct supervisor and are asked open-ended questions about their requirements to stay with the company. The focus of the interview is to discover any obstacles to high performance and personal development needs that may be present.

Sample Stay Interview Questions:

When you are traveling to work each day, what are the things that you look forward to?

If you’ve thought about leaving us, what are the key things I could do to change your thought process to want to stay here?

Guidelines for Successful Stay Interviews

It is important that employees have a high level of trust in the conversation and can speak freely about any concerns or needs they may have. Be sure to take notes while the employee is sharing information and fully engage active listening skills.

Active Listening Guidelines

80/20: Allow the employee 80% of the talking time and the leader 20%.

Probe: Ask questions like “tell me more,” and “elaborate on this,” to more deeply understand the employee’s interests and how the leader may be able to fulfill those interests.

Commit to Action: Identify commitments that the leader can make to the employee and then follow through on commitments made.

Check In with Others When Needed: Recognize that some matters may involve complex or difficult solutions that require additional discussion before making a commitment. If that happens, let the employee know that you will need to consult with others and schedule a follow-up time to discuss the resolution.

Don’t Pass the Buck: Resist the urge to defer responsibility to policies or others for dis-satisfiers that the employee may identify.

Avoid Avoiding: If tough discussions are required, resist the urge to bypass them. Be responsive and commit to resolving the dis-satisfier. If you need to prepare your thoughts before sharing them, schedule a second meeting.

Stay Interviews Build Employee Trust and Loyalty

Stay Interviews provide an opportunity for you, as a leader, to build and strengthen trust with your employees. Various research and findings on the topic of trust report the following:

  • Relationships consistently “score” with employees over technical expertise or competence.
  • Leaders who are authentic, even exposing flaws, can increase engagement with employees at a rate of 1 in 2 employees (versus non-trust leaders achieving a 1 in 12 engagement ratio).
  • Highly engaged employees result in higher profitability and customer satisfaction.
  • Low trust contributes to inefficiency and increased cost of doing business.

Don’t wait for your top talent to present you with their notice before addressing employee dissatisfaction. Be ahead of the curve by having proactive conversations with key employees and implementing actions that increase their desire to stay. You’ll have more engaged employees and a better bottom line; it just makes good business sense!