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Should we treat our employees like we treat our clients?

Posted on July 10, 2022

by Punam Rogers – Attorney; Constangy

Yes. Here’s why-

All employers invest time, energy, money in marketing strategies in order to attract and retain their clients or customers.  Companies spend a lot of resources to conduct market research, collect and crunch data that tells them how to do this best.  Companies train, incentivize, reward and promote employees who do this well.  Often strategies are revised and upgraded based on customer reviews.  Most industries have a ton of data analytics on how to do this smartly in order to maintain a competitive edge.  However, emerging data reveals that most companies do not invest nearly the same amount on understanding their own employee experience in order to minimize attrition.

By now you must be familiar with the labor market term the “Great Resignation”—which reflects the record number of employees leaving their jobs in the wake of the global pandemic.  Many workers are reevaluating what they are actually getting out of their jobs — or more aptly — what they aren’t. Most are not feeling valued, not being acknowledged for their hard work, or aren’t sharing a sense of purpose or community with their peers or their employer. Organizations witnessing this phenomenon are recognizing the need to invest in employee experience and engagement programs to retain their current employees and mitigate future attrition rates.  Since unemployment rates continue to be at record low levels, employers who are trying to hang onto their top talent have realized that retention must be a top priority.

Employees rarely quit in a vacuum, and instead leave telltale signs along the way. If you can identify the risks early enough, you can implement solutions proactively to mitigate attrition risks.  I believe the most effective way to do this is for employers to treat their employees the same way as they treat potential customers/clients.

Labor market research confirms that the “Great Resignation” is a result of employers not paying attention to their most valuable asset—their EMPLOYEES! Many employers are scrambling to hire workers, and offering all kinds of sign on bonuses to attract often times mediocre candidates.  However, they are neglecting to provide pay increases or attractive bonuses for their existing employees who have stayed, endured and worked hard.  More importantly, they are not investing nearly as much on working on ways to understand why their current employees chose to stay, and what they can do to keep them employed.

Employers have forgotten that the return on investment (ROI) for hiring and training the right employee depends directly on a solid retention plan.  And, retention practices are not about providing industry level pay or benefits only, rather a workplace that treats its employees as humans first.  Especially in the last two years.  One of the best and underutilized tools that employers can leverage to retain their workforce and improve employee experience is to conduct periodic “stay” interviews.

Many employers end up losing valuable employees for avoidable reasons. For the vast majority of employees, it’s not just about the money offered or an end of year bonus but rather other tangible things, like how inclusive the workforce is, whether the values of the organization align with their own values, whether the organization understand and promote healthy work/life balance, does the employer have environment, social and governance (“ESG”) programs, is an employee’s skills being utilized in a meaningful way, etc.  Therefore, it is imperative to understand how the organization is meeting these needs. Stay interviews are an amazing tool to build a positive employee experience.

So what the heck is a “stay interview”?

It can be as simple as a brief, individual conversation with your employees aimed at knowing what makes them want to stay, and what may actually cause them to leave. The goal is to provide structure and a formal process for checking in with your employees.  This is different than engagement surveys as those tend to be anonymous and typically provide systemic trends through aggregate data rather than individualized data.

It is similar to the exit interview, the formal process of where employers seek explanations of why someone left, and what could have done to avoid it. But here, the focus and goal is to figure how to keep doing the “good” stuff and work on eliminating the “bad” stuff. It may not always deter someone from leaving, but it will likely improve a manager’s understanding of what their teams like and dislike, which should help them retain other valuable new hires.

While there are no clear-cut rules on how to conduct a perfect stay interview, data-driven recommendations tend to agree that the following suggestions are a good starting point:

  • Communication about the stay interview process-The meeting’s intention should be clearly articulated to ALL the employees so that each employee feels free to speak openly, without fearing negative repercussions. Psychological safety is key. So, be thoughtful and clearly set ways to record, measure and act on the information you collect.
  • One-on-one meetings- Schedule private one-on-one meeting with each employee, typically at team/department level. Managers may need some training to ensure that their tone and tenure is positive.  They should frame the discussion around constructive questions like –“I would like to get a better sense of what excites you/keeps you interested/motivates you to stay with us.” In addition, managers should not be defensive when they receive constructive feedback from employees. Examples of questions: What do you like most about working here? Least? What would make a long term career with us appealing for you? What could make your job better or what suggestions do you have to motivate the team more?
  • Schedule stay interviews periodically —This is not a one and done tool. Data shows conducting stay interviews improves general communication within an organization. Few things are more important for effective management than the ability to create open communication channels and candid and meaningful dialogue with employees. Most work problems—like most relationship problems—are caused by a failure to understand others. There’s no better antidote to this than effective communication. That means you don’t just do a stay interview once but make it part of your employee experience process.  This can be scheduled on annual or semi-annual basis.
  • All team members should be scheduled-You do not want to create the perception that managers only care about certain employees, and not being interviewed means your opinion is not valued. Everyone on the team should be scheduled.
  • Act on the data— Be sure to measure and track your results and actions. Whatever information you gather will be useless unless you are determined to act on them. This requires you to not just digest the findings of your stay interview, but also make an effort to reinforce what works, change what doesn’t, and assess how your efforts are working out. This will require you to prioritize the requests or feedback. You certainly cannot implement everything, and that’s okay.

As you double down your efforts for diversity hiring, it may be a good time to also implement stay interviews not only for your new hires, but more importantly for your current employees.  As the culture of our work force is shifting, the stay interviews can help get a pulse of where your organization is at, so you know where to go next.


Punam Rogers is an attorney at Constangy.  Punam’s practice focuses on Business Immigration law and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.  On the immigration front, Punam works with U.S. employers of all sizes, from start-up to large multi-national organizations, seeking to hire non-resident foreign professionals who need to obtain temporary or permanent immigration status in the U.S., as well as visas in countries around the world for their global workforce.  Her clients are from a wide range of industries and activities, including: health care, information technology, telecommunications, biotechnology, electronic component technology, insurance, financial and management consulting, think-tanks, hospitality, general manufacturing, non-profits and education.