I’ve lived in the same building since the 90s. New York, my neighborhood, and the world have roiled with change. My home has been remarkably stable.

This stability is partly due to a group of people who have worked in the building since before I moved in.

It’s a nice building. Reflecting on why I stay, the building’s amenities are second to the team who keeps it running.

Recently, the wonderful man who ran our front desk left. In every circumstance — forgotten keys, broken elevators, 9/11 — his humanity and calm professionalism have been simply world class.

Residents were shocked. He had recently been promoted, and we’d seen no sign of his discomfort.

Yet after close to 20 years, when he left, he didn’t have another job.

When someone’s performing well, it hurts when they leave unexpectedly.

It’s life. People move on. Sometimes, it’s not in your control.

The Stay interview is one way to learn why our employees choose to work for us. Then, we can decide what we can influence, if not control.

We make implicit and explicit promises in our recruiting processes. And after someone joins us, we continue to make promises.

My focus in a Stay interview: why did an employee join us? What promises have they heard us make? Are we keeping our promises?

Sometimes, employees hear promises we’re not actually making. Sometimes, we make promises we can’t keep — or that don’t fit an employee’s timeline.

By identifying where we’re not aligned, it’s possible to find solutions.

Example:  Beth wants to be promoted. She’s qualified, and performing well. Yet we don’t have an open spot, and don’t know when we will. To us, this might not feel like a problem. To Beth, it might feel like career disaster. And without knowing it, we’re at risk. We might lose her.

Stay interviews might uncover some of your Beths, and help you to act to retain them. If you can’t promote Beth today, maybe you can give her a project to keep her learning, and to position her for that next open spot.

You, your lead on People, individual managers — anyone whose interview skills are proven — can do Stay interviews.  An experienced third party can also be useful. Done well, you can aggregate results, and identify themes that offer broader organizational actions and solutions.

(As an aside, bargaining with someone who has already quit? In the long term, rarely useful. But that’s another topic.)

Photo:  Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive. – Hafiz, by Jennifer (SweetOnVeg) via Flickr, under Creative Commons License.

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