Stay Interviews from the Millennial Point of View

One of the more recent fads in HR circles has been the so-called stay interview. In other words, meeting with top performers to discuss their concerns and aspirations in an effort to keep them on the job. As the economy gains momentum and the skills gap continues to grow, employee churn is becoming a significant cost. But I have to wonder about the value of this effort.

On one hand, anything an employer does to build connection and trust can’t be a bad thing. On the other hand, shouldn’t managers maintain enough of an on-going connection with their people that they can detect restlessness and discomfort as it begins to fester? Why make a production out of it?

Some managers will complain that it’s tough to stay in touch with everyone these days and offer a litany of reasons – too much on the plate, off-site employees, the transactional nature of today’s communication and so on. But isn’t taking the time to stay connected with your people the key role of supervision?

There is also a congenital urge on the part of most organizations to systematize everything. Stay interviews are no exception. If the firm is losing top performers maybe interviewing the ones that are left is a good way to find out what’s wrong. Create a set of forms. Conduct a training session on what questions to ask. Analyze the metrics. Hmmm.

Examine this from the Millennials’ skeptical point of view. This generation has always looked at employment relationships as contracts, as in “This is where I happen to be working right now.” Millennials see work as one slice as a larger life.

They are also uber-connected, meaning anything you explain to one will be posted to others almost immediately, probably with their own take. You don’t want your retention efforts to be reduced to a joke – “I have my stay interview today. What do you think I should tell them?” I’m kind of surprised that we haven’t seen a parody of stay interviews go viral on YouTube.

Millennials are also focused on fairness. If you select only “top performers,” how are you defining that? Isn’t everyone a top performer? How will the top performers who weren’t selected feel? Maybe this discriminatory process will drive those people away or, worse still, they will tell their friends that the firm isn’t a workplace focused on fairness.

As with many other similar efforts, the effectiveness of stay interviews comes down to corporate culture. It’s been said forever that employees join companies and leave managers. If you have to implement stay interviews to address employee retention, you might have a more systemic problem.

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