I’ve written about this before so it should come as no surprise that I’m not a fan of exit interviews. Most people are not fully transparent with their answers for a variety of reasons. Some don’t believe the company they are leaving will actually act on anything they say. Considering most of the people are leaving because the company never listened to them it’s easy to see how they would feel that way.
Some just don’t care. They have emotionally moved on to their next job or their next opportunity and they want to make the exit interview as short as possible.
But the big reason I do not like exit interviews is because they fall into the “too little too late” category. Finding out why someone left after they have made the decision to leave is far less effective in building a strong work force than finding out how you can keep them from leaving in the first place.
So I am a fan of a “stay interview.” A stay interview is something that happens on a semi regular basis. A leader can either conduct a more formal interview asking a series of questions all at once or they can “deconstruct” the interview and ask the questions here and there over a longer period of time.
I am a bigger fan of the deconstructed method because it drives more consistent dialogue between a leader and their people. Either way here are a few examples of the types of questions I suggest for a stay interview.
What part of your work do you find most enjoyable? The point of this question is simple, do you know what your people like about their job. Do you know what it is that keeps them engaged and committed? It’s interesting to note that in 25 years working in corporate America I have never heard of a single employee asked this question by their leader.
What might make your work life easier? Many leaders don’t ask this question because they simply don’t want to know the answer. Knowing what they could do to make life easier for their people causes the leader to have a sense of responsibility to do it. Authentic Leaders accept that responsibility, lesser leaders do not.
What three ways would you like to be recognized and rewarded? Here’s another question that many people in leadership positions don’t want to ask. But recognition is a form of reward in itself. Leaders who know how their people want to be recognized can target much more impactful recognition instead of the more common “one size fits all” approach.
When was the last time you were recognized by me or the company? Leaders most often decline to ask this question because the answer is frequently awkward…since the answer is too often, “I have no idea.” But this is a leadership accountability question. If your people don’t feel as if they are being recognized then they aren’t being recognized, no matter if the leader thinks they are or not.
What can I do to ensure we never lose you as a member of our team? Be prepared for some surprising answers, many of which you would have never thought of on your own.
What different jobs or roles might you envision yourself doing in the future? Leaders grow their business by growing people. Don’t “plant” your people in a field where they have no interest in growing. Feeling “stuck” leads people to disengage. Authentic Leaders know that the most expensive employees are not the ones who are paid the most, it is the ones who are least engaged.
What would cause you to leave our company? Yep, ask it. Might take a bit to muster up the courage to ask this but this is where the rubber meets the road. This question alone could bring the “Great Resignation” to a screeching halt. But somehow, many many leaders are too afraid of the answer to ask it. Authentic leaders ask it then they act on it.
How can I be a better leader for you? Let me assure you that your people don’t have to be leadership experts to answer this question. Give them some time to gather their thoughts on this one. Maybe circle back with them later in the week. Your success as a leader is completely dependent upon the success of your people. You can help them be more successful but they can return the favor…if you’ll let them.
Above all your people need to know you’re asking these questions because you care about them as people. They need to know there are no consequences for their answers, only possible improvement. Improvement in their situation, improvement in your leadership abilities and improvement in the company as a whole.
Don’t wait until you’re asking your people why they are leaving. Ask now what you can do to ensure they never do.