July 5, 2013

Summer: the Perfect Time for Stay Interviews

Business man sitting and working on the beach working on mobile computerWe are entering the silly season in terms of job search, i.e. the summer months, particularly August. August is the time of year when candidates, hiring managers and recruiters take holidays and when you can never really get in touch with anyone or get anything done. Recruiters’ contracts go cold as critical elements of the supply chain disappear at inconvenient moments, e.g. the hiring manager is in Aruba and her deputy is at Disney with the kids, and so interviews are delayed. Good candidates are in short supply as they disappear or become sluggish in their responses. Hiring managers stall in the face of small short-lists and want to wait until the grass is greener in autumn.

This summer slowdown in hiring/job search activity has been reflected in a study by The Ladders that have measured job seeker behavior throughout 2012 and found that during the summer, candidates perceived employers to be 71 percent less responsive compared to 10 percent who said they were more responsive. And 60 percent of job seekers found searching for a job harder in the summer versus 9 percent who found it easier.

But, what they also found was that as a result of this depressed activity in the summer, there is pent up demand for talent and jobs, which shows itself in September when job search activity spikes. This means you may be at a higher risk of losing talent who become ‘flight risks’ because they will have had time to think and reflect on their career during the summer. Sure, there will be more talent available in September, but you will be in the rat race and not ahead of the game.

So, does this mean you should be hiring through the difficult summer months to get ahead of the game? That’s one possible strategy, but you may be limiting yourself to a smaller pool of talent and potentially reduced quality. I actually think that you may be better served focusing on housekeeping tasks (that don’t require a buoyant market as this is not there) and, in particular, focusing activity on retaining current staff who could easily become a ‘flight risk’ in the September job spike.

It’s a perfect time for it, because employers have the bandwidth to engage with staff about their careers and candidates may be more introspective and thoughtful due to the easing of pressure during the summer months. It can help employers to focus employees on developing their career with their own business and not elsewhere.

This is why I think these summer months are the perfect time to engage in stay interviews with your staff which are a simple set of questions that you ask your staff to find out what makes them stay with you. It will give you an idea of who is happy and who is a flight risk (and who is somewhere in between), and might give you an opportunity to make positive changes helping you to re-engage and retain the employee through the high risk September period.

The good news is that stay interviews don’t have to be complicated. Just have your managers sit down with each team member and ask some or all of the following questions (or some variation of):

1.What aspects of your job make you excited about work on a Monday morning?

2.What aspects of your job make you want to roll back over and go to sleep?

3.What concerns you most about your current role?

4.What crosses your mind when you are on your way home from work?

5.What do you think about on the way to work?

6.Can you describe your ideal job?

7.What do you love doing?

8.What aspects of your last position do you miss?

9.What is the biggest concern about your current role?

10.What would your ideal day be at work?

Now there are lots of styles of stay interview questions. These are aimed to be some ‘light touch’ stay interview questions to help engage with staff during those summer months, which will produce answers to enable you to make real, qualitative changes to your employee’s working situation to help retain top talent through the high risk period when the job market bounces back.

Read more in Retention

Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.