Expert Advice of the Month: Strategies for keeping staff: Don’t wait until the exit interview!


By Sarah McVanel

Sarah McVanel is the founder of Greatness Magnified, an organization that specializes in providing training programs and certifications for employees at large. She is a recognition expert, professional speaker, coach, author, and creator of F.R.O.G.—Forever Recognize Others’ Greatness. She invigorates companies to earn great people and to see their people as exceptional so that, together, they can create a thriving culture where everyone belongs.

Asking why folks are resistant to returning to the office, even after “all this time,” can help you to understand why someone might quit even when things are going well. Conduct “stay interviews” and learn what is threatening your retention.

Traditionally, people put up with a lot as part of working for a living, but in Covid, we saw other impacts. An example is the commute and all its downsides—taking time away from family, fatigue, not spending enough time exercising, maybe even some anxiety—and suddenly, it is not “why are they resisting our HR policies?” It’s a request for support of a healthy work and life.

Expectations of Flexibility at Work. We have all come out of Covid and have forever changed. You cannot go through the biggest health crisis of your lifetime without having had, as psychoanalyst Dr. James Hollis calls it, “a meeting with ourselves.” Not everyone has an intention to stay so firmly rooted that it’s impossible to shake. And we HR folks know that intention to stay is one of the best predictors as to whether there is looming turnover.

Think about it: What about professionals struggling to make a living wage? What if the rising cost of groceries paired with the gas bill makes the decision for them to work closer to home? What if they don’t get their mojo back post-Covid, and they’ve lost their sense of purpose and passion for the work? What if they’re looking for a role that gives them more satisfaction personally?

Whether you’re reading this as an employer, a middle manager, an HR professional, or an individual contributor, we all know folks are asking themselves questions like:

  • What is this job worth to me? What is it costing me?
  • What is this job giving me? How is it fueling me?
  • What gives me meaning and spirit? Am I getting it here?
  • Who is important to me? Does work make me feel more connected?
  • Am I safe here, getting to work and getting home?

Asking questions like the ones above helps get a picture of why people stay and how likely they are to stay.

Stay Planning. Guess what? When you ask questions like “What makes people stay?” you find answers that were there all along and that you can now act on.

We’ve been building Stay Plans with our clients in 2024. With a bit of prep and a powerful mix of folks, we facilitate a one-day process where a one-page Stay Plan maps out one clear “reason to stay every day” elevator script, clarity of the burning platform, the max three priorities to fix turnover, the outcome and process measures to track progress, and a list of quick wins across all 10 phases of the employee experience journey.

(If you’re unsure why folks would stay or how to build a plan to solidify stay in your organization, we should talk. Book a chat with me. Let’s see how we can make 2024 the year of stay.)