Mentioned in Stop Top-Talent Turnover

By Ken Wysocky in Municipal Sewer and Water in July 2020. Read the full article here.

But how can employers determine what keeps key employees happily moored? The professor of management at San Francisco State University recommends what he calls “stay” interviews, in which managers periodically sit down with top-performing employees and ask key questions to suss out the fundamental reasons why they like their jobs.

“It’s too late if you’re asking people why they’re leaving,” says Sullivan, a well-known expert on human resource issues who specializes in strategic talent management. “You have to ask them before they leave — ask them why they stay, then reinforce those things. Then they’ll never leave.”

The concept isn’t exactly new. In fact, Sullivan — who has written more than 1,200 articles and 10 books about talent management, including the book Stay Interviews and Other Powerful Retention Tools — says he invented the concept back in the late 1990s. But given the problems so many companies have with high employee turnover, it’s easy to imagine that not enough organizations use this commonsense solution to stop the steady drip, drip, drip of workplace brain drain.

Furthermore, the cost of employee turnover is staggering. Estimates about these costs vary widely, but based on his own research, Sullivan says the number is at least three times an employee’s salary.

So what exactly is a stay interview and how should it be conducted? Sullivan defines it as a structured, one-on-one retention interview between a manager and a top-performing employee. It can also target crucial employees who are high risks for departure.

The interview should last about an hour. The primary goal is to identify the factors that drive employees to stay, as well as identify and minimize factors that could spur their departure. Such interviews should be scheduled at least twice a year and more often for top employees identified as flight risks, Sullivan says.

“If job circumstances change for an employee, you may have to do the interviews more often,” he explains. “Volatility matters if it changes employees’ ‘sticky’ factors — the things that make a difference to them and keep them on board.”

What if nonkey employees learn that colleagues are getting stay interviews and ask why they aren’t? Candor is critical. “Most managers will lie,” Sullivan asserts. “But it’s better to hold a meeting and talk to them about their performance and contributions to the organization. Point out that when they perform like the people who get stay interviews, they’ll get one, too.”

“They make people feel appreciated,” Sullivan says. “You only need to look at the data to see that stay interviews work. Research shows that 50% of turnover is preventable and 95% of it is predictable. So if I can stop you from quitting half the time, there’s no reason not to do so.”

Read the full article here.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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