Using interviews as a retention strategy

This article was published in the June 2015 edition of NTEA News

An NTEA Distributor member recently shared how he lost — and eventually regained — one of his top mechanics. This quality employee was offered a job “just down the road” that seemed to present “greener pastures.” Upon his resignation, the company president asked him to participate in an exit interview. As the organization had about 100 employees and three locations, the mechanic was surprised his decision to leave caught leadership’s attention. During the interview, the discussion covered job satisfaction, morale, internal challenges and opportunities in a spirit of mutual respect, appreciation and goodwill. Surprisingly, the mechanic did not find the grass greener on the other side. Just a few months later, he called his former employer, asking to return.

While this situation may be unique, it does provide some insight into today’s workplace. From your perspective, perhaps business seems to be going well, and your employees are happy. Even still, have you asked them lately? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 95% of jobs accepted in March 2015 were filled by workers already employed elsewhere. Let’s face it — employee loyalty has changed in the last decade.

At a time when finding quality employees is hard enough (let alone the time and expense invested in recruiting, onboarding and training), what are ways to keep your good employees? How do you demonstrate they are critical to the team and you want them to stay? To do this, it’s important to identify what will keep them in your company and what could potentially entice them to leave.

Implementing a few no-cost ideas might just help you retain the employees you value most.

Stay interviews

Stay interviews can keep employees feeling engaged, motivated and appreciated. Identify the most irreplaceable team members in your operation. Then, take 30 minutes to sit down with them and just talk. These conversations give you the opportunity to find out what’s really important to them, including frustrations or challenges. Use the information to address any issues and reduce the chances of “jumping ship.”

Remember that the meeting is not meant to serve as a dumping ground for complaints. Rather, it is intended to identify problem areas and effect favorable change. Be sure to focus on the positive by recognizing employees’ skills and competencies, empowering them as contributors to your company’s strengths and successes.

While a stay interview may be conducted as a dedicated meeting, this tool can also be merged into the performance review process. 

Maximize the interview

  • Suggested goals for this meeting:
  • Gain a snapshot of employee satisfaction levels.
  • Identify any issues or potential problems.
  • Determine if your company is fulfilling its promises to employees.
  • Pinpoint any areas that prevent employees from performing at their best.
  • Develop feedback opportunities (valued by employees).

Hear from your staff

Ask simple and direct questions, such as:

  • What do you most look forward to in your workday?
  • What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
  • What parts of your job do you enjoy?
  • How are we helping you learn and enhance your professional skills?
  • How can the company help you be more successful?
  • What can I do to make you more successful and improve your job satisfaction?
  • What are some reasons that might cause you to consider leaving our organization?

Learn from resigning employees​

Traditionally, exit interviews allow you to gain perspective on the work culture. While these meetings may offer valuable insights, they likely won’t help you prevent employees from leaving. The earlier example of the mechanic who returned to his former company is rare.

Some sample questions to consider during an exit interview include:

  • What does this new company offer that encouraged you to join?
  • What do you value about our company?
  • What do you dislike about our company?
  • How was your relationship with your supervisor?
  • What could your supervisor do to improve his or her management style?
  • What did you like most about your job?
  • What did you dislike about your job? What would you change?

End the exit interview on a positive note. Commit to using the information to improve your workplace. Wish your departing employee success in the new endeavor.

Onboarding practices

New employees are highly vulnerable to turnover. Asking them about their motivations and preferred work styles will improve your ability to help them adapt, form work relationships and find a place within the organization. To help you smooth the transition for new employees and build long, successful relationships, NTEA plans to share more onboarding best practices in the future.

Additional resources

NTEA provides members with resources on employee recruitment and retention.

Webinar: Employee retention: How to keep the good ones
Webinar: The building blocks of resistance to organizational change
Webinar: How to lead your people successfully through change
NTEA Careeer Center