What’s stopping people on your team from leaving?

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A standard approach is to conduct exit interviews to understand why employees are leaving and come up with a solution. But zooming in on why people leave can come at a cost: neglecting loyal and engaged employees who want to stay with the organization. Instead, managers should spend just as much time understanding why employees choose to stay in the company through “stay interviews.” These discussions include asking your loyal employees important questions that address common retention issues. These questions include: What is your mood today? Who do you feel connected to at work? Which barriers can I remove for you? What new thing do you want to learn that will excite you and help you grow at work?

Amid the massive layoff, executives are wondering why. They conduct exit interviews, try to understand why people are resigning and come up with solutions to the problem. But zooming in on why people leave can come at a price: neglecting loyal and engaged employees who want to stay with the organization. These employees, when ignored, can also feel powerless and choose to leave, causing a negative spiral.

Managers should spend just as much time understanding why employees choose to stay. If we know what keeps people attached to their current workplace, we can use this information to adopt more deliberate and proactive practices.

One way to gain insight into the motivations of employees is to conduct residence interviews. Not only do these provide valuable information from the perspective of our team members, but they also work to re-engage our employees and stop the bleeding of talent from our organizations.

The key to staying interviewed is asking questions related to what you would learn from exit interviews. These four questions are about common retention issues. Fold them into your existing one-on-one meetings with your employees, or if you don’t have regular one-on-one meetings, consider having a monthly residency interview.

What is your mood today?

In your conversation, encourage people to express a full range of emotions. Whatever is shared, don’t try to fix the problem or deny their experience. If someone says they’re feeling unmotivated, respond by saying, “Thank you for honestly sharing how you feel,” and ask for more information. To normalize their experience, recognize that you have days when you feel energized and hopeful and others when you struggle.

Our well-meaning human response when faced with another person’s pain is to try to extinguish their fear immediately. But general assurances of resilience and hyped enthusiasm about the company, especially from those in authority, inadvertently indicate that it’s not good for an employee to struggle or express their authentic emotions. If they are not allowed to do this, employees will feel disappointed, not seen or understood, and they may seek alternative locations.

Who do you feel connected to at work?

Friendships at work foster a bond that works like gravity. The toxic combination of too many meetings just to get work done and not enough connections outside of business dealings is draining us of energy. And in its employee engagement research, Gallup found a strong link between having a best friend at work and employee performance.

In your residency interview, ask, “Who do you feel connected to at work?” Based on their response, explore what you can do to help them deepen those connections, such as assigning them to collaborative work or finding ways to create unexpected combinations. Perhaps people from different departments can work on a company-wide event, cross-industry initiative, or participate in virtual discussion groups. The glue that connects us to our colleagues also connects us to our companies. Finding ways for people to socialize and build relationships on a regular basis will extend their shelf life in the organization.

Which barriers can I remove for you?

Research shows that the greatest motivational action managers can take is to remove barriers that prevent employees from achieving their goals. Yet we more often give compliments or rewards, such as gift vouchers for coffee. These remedies can make us feel better about our work as managers, but do they really have an impact on our employees and their jobs?

During your stay, ask: “What barriers can I remove for you?” Then communicate what action you are going to take and follow up or brainstorm with your colleague how you can be most helpful. Instead of saying, “Well done,” make sure your direct report can do their job well.

What new thing do you want to learn that will excite you and help you grow?

Instead of talking about what your employee can do for the company, ask what they would like to do for themselves. This question indicates that you care not only about what this person has done for you or the company, but also about what you can do for them to encourage their development and help them achieve their dreams and aspirations. In turn, it also increases employee loyalty.

We all want stability and reassurance in a workplace where we feel seen, heard, connected and productive. As managers, our first attempts to provide these benefits to our employees often fail. We put pressure on them instead of reassuring them. By spending time conducting residency interviews, we strengthen our skills as managers and the desire of our employees to stay with us.


This post What’s stopping people on your team from leaving? was original published at “https://hbr.org/2022/03/what-stops-people-on-your-team-from-leaving”

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