Exit interviews tell you why good people are leaving – after they've left. Stay interviews help understand an employee's concerns while she is still on the job.
Even Americans who are lucky enough to be working in this economy are becoming unhappy with their jobs. According to 2011 version of the Conference Board Job Satisfaction Survey, in which researchers interviewed 5,000 households, only 47 percent of Americans are satisfied with their work. To make matters worse, many employers take their employees for granted by saying they should be grateful to have any job in this economy.
Why it matters: These conditions are hardly conducive to employee satisfaction let alone loyalty - and may prompt unhappy employees to head for the door once the economy improves. This could spell trouble for physicians who find themselves facing the loss of key employees.
What you want to learn: How do staff members feel about working in your practice - especially those in highly specialized jobs (e.g. billing and coding) who could easily find employment elsewhere? What, if anything, might push them to look for another job? Why do your best people stay?
Action step: Utilize what's called a "stay interview," which is the inverse of an exit interview. Exit interviews tell you why good people are leaving, but rarely in time to prevent their departure. Stay interviews, however, are done to understand an employee's concerns and to get the person's feedback while he or she is still on the job. Such interviews can be crucial when they identify an issue about which the doctor or office manager was previously unaware - or perhaps underestimated. In short, stay interviews help managers correct problems before employees decide to look for another job.
To start a dialogue, you might say, "You're an important member of our team and I'd like to get your thoughts on whether we are giving you the kind of support you need to do your job and pursue your career goals."
Here's a list of the types of questions typically used for such discussions:
• What do you consider the best part of your job?
• Is there something you're not doing that you would like to have included in your job description?
• If it's possible to do so, what task would you like removed from your job description?
• Do you feel good about the people with whom you work? Why or why not?
• Are we fully utilizing your talents?
• Why are some of the reasons you stay with us?
• What might entice you away?
Reality check: Learning what employees like best (or least) about their jobs may enable you to revise their job descriptions. In all likelihood, you won't be able to give employees everything they want - but you can listen to them, hear their concerns, validate their feelings, express your support, and assure them that you'll do what you can to explore options. Sometimes, just listening and working to discover solutions are what your employees really need.
Stay interviews are no panacea, but rather a tool to help management gain insight into what needs must be met to keep employees happy, productive, and on the job. Ignoring their concerns will either build resentment or hasten an employee's departure.
Bob Levoy is the author of seven books and hundreds of articles on human resource and practice management topics. His newest book is “222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices” published by Jones & Bartlett. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.