Stay Interviews for Employee Retention

From “Love Em or Lose Em” by Kaye and Jordan-Evans

Brief notes from Chapter 1 of this excellent book on building a team that lasts. This book was recommended to me separately by two veteran managers in the software space, and so I am taking detailed notes to help me absorb it fully. Chapter 1 alone was worth the price of admission.

Author Credentials
Authors met with 100k managers, and surveyed 17k people about their e-sat. This book is data-driven. Most of the knowledge here is timeless.

People are obviously critical to the success of any business. Want to minimize expensive turnover, hiring, retraining.

But learning about e-sat (employee satisfaction) from exit interviews is too late.

Solution: Use “stay interviews”

  • Cover this early and often. Ask directly about e-sat, what makes them stay, what would make them leave.
  • Asking in itself demonstrates respect
  • Authors say this may be the single most important strategy in the book

Top factors for e-sat (“why do you stay?”) from 17k surveys, (this is the full list of top 20 factors in order of importance):

  1. Exciting/challenging work
  2. Career growth, learning, development
  3. Working with great people
  4. Fair pay
  5. Good/supportive management
  6. Being recognized, valued, respected
  7. Benefits
  8. Meaningful work/making a difference
  9. Pride in the org, its mission and product
  10. Create work environment and culture
  11. Autonomy, creativity, sense of control
  12. Flexibility: hours, dress, etc
  13. Location
  14. Job security and stability
  15. Diverse, changing assignments
  16. Fun on the job
  17. Being part of a team
  18. Responsibility
  19. Loyalty, commitment to the org or coworkers
  20. Inspiring leadership

Pay often does not dominate. Insufficient pay is a risk (“hygiene factor”), but more pay does not compensate for lack in other areas.

Stay interview questions (paraphrased/compressed, Full list pp15):

1. What excites you/bores you about this job?
2. What would you miss most, what would you change?
3. What one change could make you want to move on?
4. What could I as manager do more or less of?
5. What makes for a great day?
6. How can we make your job more satisfying, support your career goals, recognize you (do you get enough recognition?)
7. What do you want to learn this year

When to do stay interviews?

  • Orientation
  • Performance reviews
  • Every quarter
  • Monthly 1:1s
  • Development discussions
  • Coffee/lunch

Often managers assume people want more pay and promotions. Authors found often other things are needed.

So: Ask soon, ask often, and find out.

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