Even with all the uncertainty that the last couple of years has brought the job market, there is a fact that remains true throughout it all – employees will always be looking for greener pastures.
Whether they’re successful in finding them or not is another story entirely, but in the meantime, the cycle of recruitment, onboarding, retention, and offboarding continues.
There are two tools in particular that organisations and HR leaders can use to get an insight into the underlying motivations of employees as they move through this cycle – exit interviews and stay interviews.
Uncovering the reasons employees leave
Replacing employees who choose to leave is an expensive endeavour – costing businesses anywhere between 30-150% of an employee’s salary to replace them.
Once an employee is leaving, exit interviews can be extremely helpful in revealing the reasons that they’ve decided to take that step.
From a recent Pew Research Center survey, it’s clear that discovering these reasons is extremely valuable, because the reasons are so varied. In 2021 alone, 20% of surveyed U.S workers reported that ‘working too many hours’ was a major reason for their departure, while 16% reported that they left because they were working too few hours. It’s a reflection of the job market at the moment, but it’s also a reflection of the varying needs that employees have. If an organisation can’t meet these needs and adjust according to each employee, they will lose them.
Exit interviews are highly valuable, helping businesses of all sizes to understand what’s really going on for employees. But, often, exit interviews come too late in the game, leaving businesses with insights that they can only act on to keep future employees, rather than to boost retention.
Instead, it’s time to take the question ‘Why do employees quit?’ and flip it on its head: what is motivating your employees to stay?
The benefit of stay interviews
Unlike exit interviews, stay interviews are conducted during an employee’s time with an organisation. They’re also usually reserved for an organisation’s ‘best and brightest’ – the employees who are ‘model employees’, with the kinds of attributes, skillsets, and attitudes that you’re looking to attract and retain moving forward.
Understanding the motivations of these employees is crucial. Not only can it help you to know how to attract more employees like them, it also gives you key insights into what the risk factors are with your current best and brightest employees.
For example, a stay interview might produce the following phrases:
“I’m looking for a job that pays a little bit more, but I’m reluctant to leave the great team here.”
“The remuneration is great here, but I wish we had a better social culture.”
The possibilities are endless. Every single employee will have different values and goals in their own careers and personal lives and it’s almost impossible for one organisation to be ticking so many boxes for so many employees. A stay interview helps you to find the patterns and, most importantly, it helps you to identify the areas in which you can improve.
Can you afford to replace an employee, knowing it can be a costly exercise? It might be worth acting on increasing remuneration if this is an identified roadblock. It will be cheaper to increase pay for the long term, rather than to go down the road of replacing them in the short term, especially if higher remuneration is something that several employees raise as an issue – it’s likely that salary expectations are rising across the board, outside of your organisation, so hiring new talent will see you increasing pay regardless. Stay interviews help you to get these insights before it’s too late.
The elephant in the room – employees leave because of bad managers
A 2018 Udemy study found that nearly half of employees surveyed had quit because of a bad manager. Of course, in a stay interview, employees can be reluctant to share their negative experiences with their manager – they still need to work alongside their manager, so they can shy away from being honest.
However, if a manager is a problem within your organisation, you need to know.
To make sure employees are comfortable sharing their true experiences that give you the best, most accurate insights, consider having stay interviews conducted by a third-party provider.
Stay interviews work best when insights can be gathered accurately and those insights can be acted upon.
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