Labor Leg-Up

April 8, 2022

Use stay interviews to boost retention in a competitive labor environment.

Facing one of the most intense competitions for employees in years, quick lubes are finding they can hang onto to valuable employees longer by engaging in “stay interviews.”

Recruiting experts say these interviews ensure current employees feel valued, while uncovering problems that sometimes fly beneath the radar and could lead to abrupt departures.

Plus, they can also spare quick lubes the often arduous process of onboarding a promising new hire—if they can find one.

According to Matthew Burr, owner of Burr Consulting, stay interviews let staff members know that operators want to take part in their professional development. 

"We care about what you have to say, we value you as a part of our organization, we are assessing workplace culture, workplace communication,” Burr says.

Jim Peacock, owner and principal, Peak Careers Consulting says that stay interviews communicate that you as the owner wants to hear from the employee.

Stay interviews also dispel the common notion that money—and the pursuit of more of it—is the overwhelming reason why employees disappear back into the workforce.

"Most employees who leave don't "start looking for other opportunities because of dissatisfaction with pay, perks or benefits," says Beverly Kaye, co-author of Hello Stay Interviews, Goodbye Talent Loss.

Instead, Kaye says employees are more likely to bolt if one of these key reasons to stay are lacking. Those are meaningful or challenging work, a chance to learn and grow, a good boss, or a sense of being a part of a team.

Conducting the Interview

It's much better for your quick lube to develop the fine art of conducting stay interviews than becoming a master of the exit interview.

Here are key tips from recruiting experts on how to develop your own stay interview and save yourself the hassle of going back into the marketplace to experiment with yet another new hire.

Use the same script and questions. Burr recommends standardizing your stay interview. This will enable managers to analyze information and insights on an employee-by-employee basis. Plus, the collation and analysis of these standardized interviews may enable you to develop business-wide policies based on concerns widely shared by your employees.

Make sure the employee's manager —and not HR—is the primary interviewer.  Given that an employee generally has a day-to-day relationship with a manager, it's critical that the manager conduct the stay interview, according to Christopher Mulligan, CEO of TalentKeepers.

Be ready to be the listener and hear some things you'd rather not hear.  

“The employee should talk the majority of the stay interview, as the interviewer listens and takes notes on key points and concerns. In order to be effective, the management team must  approach these (interviews) with an open mind and with humility,” Mulligan says. “It will be common when the employee may not like something or want a change in their work environment. And it is easy for managers and especially owners to take the criticism personally. 

Mulligan encourages operators to leave their egos at home and listen for opportunities to improve the work culture.

Experiment with the frequency of your stay interviews. Recruiting experts vary in their advice about how often to schedule stay interviews. Mulligan suggests at least once-a-quarter, with the first interview scheduled within 14 days of the hire. Kaye thinks as often as once per month could work. 

And Meagan Johnson, author and expert on fostering positive workplaces that feature multiple generations, thinks a stay interview should be scheduled immediately if managers sense that an employee is becoming discouraged or burnt out.

Peacock says that it’s important for employees to know that their managers are listening to their concerns.

Telegraph clearly that the stay interview will be a safe space for the employee.  The very premise of the Stay Interview demands real trust from the employee. So you'll want to be sure employees are convinced they won't be penalized for what they say.  

"Executed properly, stay interviews provide a safe, structured discussion for team members to share their career growth aspirations, how they prefer to be led, engaged and recognized," Mulligan says.

Be prepared to dig deep. The more granular you're able to get with your stay interview, the more likely you'll be able to effect real, productive change. Peacock discovered that one of his employees secretly wanted some imaging software that would enable her work to appear more artistic and professional. The stay interview opened up the dialogue for progress.

"This was a minor thing for me and a convenience thing for her,” Peacock says. “I would never have known if I had not asked her."

Have answers ready for those tough questions. While many managers are reluctant to do stay interviews for fear they'll be unable to deliver on some employee requests, Kaye recommends managers be honest about what they're actually able to do—and then focus on those capabilities.

"Our research has proved that if managers are willing to hang in and drill deeper," they'll be able to find three or four changes for an employee that they're able to make, Kaye says.

Ensure you follow through. The easiest way to sabotage your interview is to nod and smile, and then do nothing. Most employees realize that asking for the moon will get them nowhere. 

Michael Murphy, CEO of the accounting and HR firm Platinum Group, says that the trust necessary to have an open dialogue makes the follow-through very important.

"Letting them know they are heard by the actions you take after the interview is the most powerful thing you can do,” Murphy says.

Key Questions

 Here are key questions that should be part of every Stay Interview, courtesy of Burr and the Society for Human Resource Management:

1. What  factors cause you to enjoy your current job and work situation and contribute to your staying at our firm as long as you have?

2. What gets you excited to come to work here every day?

3. What do you look forward to when you come to work each day?

4.  What do you like most or least about working here?

5.  What keeps you working here?

6. If you could change something about your job, what would that be?

7.  What would make your job more satisfying?

8. How do you like to be recognized?

9. What talents are not being used in your current role?

10.  What would you like to learn here?

11. What motivates—or demotivates—you?

12.  What can I do to best support you?

13.  What can I do more or less of as your manager?

14.  What can we be doing differently as a management team?

15. If you managed yourself,  what would you do differently that I currently do?

16.  What might tempt you to leave?