The Art of the Stay Meeting

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Young man with a splash coloured like a rainbowStay meetings are a fantastic tool that managers can use to increase retention, productivity and job satisfaction. These meetings take place with those workers who are defined as key talent in the organization and a manager, to discuss openly those matters of satisfaction and dissatisfaction in both their position and the organization as a whole.

While these meetings don’t require formal training, they do require tact. Anytime you ask employees to open up about their feelings toward management, their job and their coworkers, the setting and tone has to be right in order for the feedback to be honest and effective.

Don’t Wait for a Reason

You have these great employees. They always produce, they’re capable and they have a good attitude, but lately they seem a bit grouchy, maybe a little disengaged. Well, it must be time for a stay meeting. Wrong. That time has probably already passed. Your attempt at a stay meeting might actually turn into an exit meeting, and that’s exactly what you don’t want.

Experts agree that stay meetings should be conducted once a year, and these meetings with key employees should all be conducted within a close time frame. If management waits for a good employee to become disengaged, it may be too late to retain him or her. Even if the person does decide to stick around, odds are that he or she won’t bounce back to his or her former glory. By putting these meetings on a schedule, leaders can ensure that employee satisfaction is continually being monitored, not just in times of dissatisfaction.

Check Yourself

To put it simply, remember that the point of this meeting is to find out what makes the employee want to stay and what makes the employee want to leave. This is not the time to make the employee prove his or her worth in the organization or inflate your ego as a manager (which seems to be the direction that a lot of meetings take).

In order to get honest and effective feedback, employees must feel safe. They must feel like the manager is actually open to their thoughts and feelings without fear of the manager going on the defense. This has to be established at the beginning of the meeting. Let them know that whole reason this meeting is happening is because you want them (and others like them) to stay.  Dr. John Sullivan, an HR pro and former chief talent officer for Agilent Technologies, is a big proponent of stay meetings. He suggests starting the meeting with a script like this:

Thanks for taking the time to have this discussion. As one of our key employees, I want to informally pose some simple questions that can help me to understand the factors that cause you to enjoy and stay in your current role.

Sullivan also provides us with a list of 20 questions management should consider asking during a stay interview.

This Feedback is Gold; Use It!

When conducted yearly with key employees, stay meetings will provide an outline of exactly how to drive the success of the company on a talent level. Experts have found that many of the same positives and negatives will be reported by the majority of employees. You want these employees to stay and you want to attract more like them. You have collected information on exactly how to achieve both of those goals, but the journey doesn’t end here.

While many employees are excited about even being asked about their job satisfaction, the issues that arise must be addressed. Together, both parties should come up with ways to address those frustrations or fears that come up during the interview. Furthermore, when employees are asked to provide feedback that is not acted upon, they are likely to  (justifiably) assume that it was not valued.

Stay meetings are a cheap and effective way to constantly drive improvement in the entire workforce. Managers get the feedback they need and employees are empowered to address issues and celebrate positives.

By Maren Hogan