Some managers give a knee-jerk twinge when asked to conduct stay interviews, to meet with their individual employees to learn how to make their jobs better. They instinctively fear a rebound response of something they can’t control like pay, promotions, schedules, or time off. Or this one which we’ve learned is the most dreaded of all:
“We need more staff.”
I can easily see why a few managers fear the worst when they anticipate conducting Stay Interviews with their teams. Their minds move to that one employee, past or present, who continually harped on a pet-peeve subject you couldn’t say yes to, some immovable object like “Get the CEO to see things right”.
To set our thinking straight, the by-far #1 thing employees ask about during Stay Interviews is ways to improve their own work processes... ideas like... stop building reports nobody reads, or asking you to hold other employees or departments accountable for getting their work done correctly and on time. These types of “make-me-more-productive-and-end-my-frustration” suggestions have consistently led the pack of all employee concerns. And what manager wouldn’t want to know how to make their team produce more and better work?
But let’s travel back to needing more staff. Learning to train managers to conduct effective Stay Interviews has opened the door to leveraging probing to find the absolute best solutions. “Need more staff” provides a great example because to some employees this is a simple request that deserves the required, simple, knee-jerk response: “Yes, in fact I’ll get two new positions approved instead of just one”.
Let’s be fair here. Employees have never experienced the struggle of getting a budget approved, surviving the compulsory request to shave a pre-determined percent of your overall expenses off the top after you think your budget is approved, and then the pre-meeting shudders of building the justification to hire someone who is not in that budget. Plus the intimidation of knowing your request will probably be rejected and your manager might think you a wimp for bringing your add-more-staff request in the first place. To your employees getting more staff is simple math: We work hard, we can’t get all of this work done, we deserve more help, and you should get it for us.
When caught off guard by a surprise request like adding staff, we train managers to probe deeply to solve completely. Probe to learn more, to dig deeper into the issue, to see precisely how your employee sees this issue, and don’t try to immediately solve it. Probes here would include those about specific work processes, work distribution, individual team member performance, eliminating other work, asking another department to share the work, and more. And by probing and listening, you just might find the solution inside…and your employee will learn that a simple request is not so simple.
Dick Finnegan is a world-renowned expert on Stay Interviews, Employee Engagement, and Cutting Turnover. He travels extensively, speaking at executive meetings and conferences, has authored five books on Stay Interviews and Employee Engagement and is CEO of C-Suite Analytics and Finnegan Institute.