Stay Interviews vs. Engagement

Mr. Danny Nelms
March 13, 2012 — 2,761 views  
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In the world of workforce research (i.e. employee surveys) the key objective is to measure or diagnose specific employee issues that are occurring in an organization. Many organizations offer surveys to measure or improve employee engagement. The reality is that each organization typically defines engagement differently. This lack of a true definition is what makes “surveying” employees to measure engagement so difficult if not impossible. Sure, a lot of companies claim to have the “magic questions” for determining engagement, but the science behind these efforts is still suspect.


Employee Engagement

At The Work Institute, we don’t claim to have the “magic questions” that determine levels of employee engagement. What we do know is that engaged employees most often have a positive feeling about their company, their supervisor, would refer friends to work with them, and also intend to stay at their company for a long time. A new term that is finding its way into human capital vernacular is “stay interview.” Think of a stay interview as the antonym of “exit interview.” Exit interviews have been a best practice in companies for many years and they are a very important tool for understanding the issues creating an at-risk population in your workforce. However, it is just as important, if not more important, to also know what factors are causing employees to want to stay at your company. Intent to stay is one of the most important questions in determining employee engagement, but there is a catch.


Current Opportunity

Practically every employee survey has a questions regarding “intent to stay,” but the most important question is the one that follows – “WHY?” If we only have a statistical measure of intent to stay of our employees, it leaves out the most important answer. We have to know why employees plan to stay for a long time or why they plan to leave in the next 90 days. The only way to really get the answers to these “why” questions is to conduct a stay interviews.

At The Work Institute we conduct forms of stay interviews at varying stages of the employee life cycle. We interview new hires, those in the on-boarding process, and exiting employees as well as interviews in our pulse model that replaces the traditional annual employee survey. Our clients continually tell us that our interviews gather intelligence they have never been able to obtain through traditional survey methods.


The Facts

Consider some of the following:

Engagement – 32% of employees indicated they are seriously considering leaving their organization. (Mercer HR Consulting, 2011)

Disengagement – 21% of employees are not looking to leave their company but are completely disengaged from their work. (Mercer HR Consulting, 2011)

Manager Ripple Impact – On average, a manager’s actions impact 12.4 people in a company. (Watkins, 2009)

Deployment – Only about 20% of employees do what they do best at work. (Buckingham, 2007)

Performance Expectations – Less that 50% of employees know what is expected of them at work. (Stolovich, 2005)

Manager Focus – Managers spend 20% of their time focusing on poor or problem performers. (Sullivan, 2005)

If companies are not diligent in fully understanding the factors influencing their workforce, they could face a wave of turnover in the near future that could cripple them. With studies telling us that 50% of our workforce is looking for another job or totally disengaged from their jobs, what does this mean to our customers? Do we really think our disengaged employees are building the kind of customer loyalty that will drive revenue and profit?

So as you are thinking about your plans for the coming year for “surveying” your employees, give some hard thought to what kind of information is really important. Do you just want an engagement rate or a benchmark comparison to your competitors? Or, do you want to know the REAL issues that are affecting your employees? There is a way to find out – it is called Stay Interviews.


About The Work Institute:

At The Work Institute, we support our clients by providing in-depth customized research programs utilizing our unique proven methodology. Our research gathers the critical information that leaders must understand to better manage their organizations to compete at the highest level.

Mr. Danny Nelms

The Work Institute

Danny Nelms is the Senior Vice President and Managing Director of The Work Institute and an adjunct faculty member at David Lipscomb University. He is a 20 year veteran in human capital management.