In this installment: The Exit Interview and Retaining Seasonal Staff
The Exit Interview:
What is an exit interview?
An exit interview is a scheduled meeting – often with HR – that occurs at the conclusion of a professional’s employment. In the events and conferencing industry, exit interviews are often held between front-line seasonal staff and a leadership staff member (who was not their direct supervisor) to gain insight into that season’s opportunities for improvement.
How long should it be?
It’s good to approach your interview time strategically. The end of summer is still a busy time, since many front-line staff are students returning to their studies. It may be a good idea to develop your questions and then gauge your meeting length on how much time you’ll need to learn what you need to learn. Don’t forget to leave time for your interviewee to ask their own questions!
Wait, what do I ask?!
Well, what do you want to know?! List out your goals for next summer as well as what you thought were the challenges from this summer. Use these lists to help guide your interview question development. Exiting staff are more likely to be candid in their answers to questions, so this is a great time to ask about management pitfalls or client setbacks.
Why do an exit interview?
The number one benefit of performing exit interviews with your student summer staff is that it’s the best opportunity to get candid feedback about your operation, management, and clients from a captured audience. Set the tone that all feedback will be taken objectively and kept confidential, and be sure to stick to that promise. Students will open up and divulge their true feelings about the summer and, in return, consider offering them the opportunity to return next summer to help change the operation for the better.
What should be prepared?
Both parties in an exit interview should prepare questions and constructive feedback for each other. Request that your interviewee bring their feedback and feelings about the summer. Be sure to have your own to offer in return. This is a great time for praise and guidance with professional growth opportunities they may have.
What do I do with this information?
Create a spreadsheet in which to easily organize your interviewees answers to questions you pose, as well as concerns raised. It may benefit you to form your questions in an online poll format. Many free polling options generate automatic statistics based on answers. Trending responses help you identify where your operation’s opportunities are.
Retaining Seasonal Staff:
In the higher education conferencing and events industry, the opportunity for returning summer clients is high. Reoccurring annual events, hosted by the same clients and, largely, consisting of the same itineraries, should make for a good portion of summer operations going smoothly. Unfortunately, this is seldom the case. With the tendency for high staff turnover from one summer to the next, establishing a trusted relationship between your returning clients and fresh-faced college student staff can be difficult. The solution: don't lose your best staff in the first place.
1. Encourage, and listen to, staff feedback.
Consider the first article in this newsletter installment: The Exit Interview. An exit interview is a great opportunity to make the change in your team culture toward one that lets your staff know that their opinions and experience are valuable to the success of your program.
Identify the staff you'd like to see return. Before your exit interviews with these star staff members, make a point to note their successes as well as some pitfalls you think that they might identify during their interview. These notes will give you some guidance during your conversation with them that may provide more candid feedback than they have given in the past.
While an exit interview is a wonderful opportunity to touch base, plan for bi-weekly meetings with staff throughout summer 2018. Keeping in touch throughout the summer lets staff know they're heard and valued.
2. Let them be the change they wish to see.
If you were to ask the average professional employee about a time when they felt frustrated in the work place, I would bet most situations would boil down to a break in communication.
Regularly meet with your staff during the summer to ask them some regular, key questions. Set the expectation that they prepare their responses for each meeting. The goal of these questions should be for the staff member to: 1. to identify an opportunity and 2. to offer a solution.
Once the staff member identifies their own solution, give them the ownership of the project and let them fly. The more a staff member feels that they own a part of their team, the harder it will be for them to leave it. Plus, they get the added benefit of beefing up their resume!
3. Keep in touch throughout the academic year.
Send a card, invite them to a company event, shoot them an email with well-wishes. Staying in touch throughout the busy academic year will keep you top-of-mind when summer rolls around. Creating a mentor/mentee relationship may also prove fruitful for both parties.
4. Offer perks.
This is perhaps the most obvious way to make returning to a summer job enticing. Set aside a portion of the summer's earnings to create an incentive opportunity.
If your team successfully executes 5 check-ins in a row, they'll get a pizza party. Create a point system toward a reward at the end of the summer.
Separate the team into mini-teams, name them after Hogwarts Houses, and let them earn (or lose) house points throughout the summer. The winners get out of walk-throughs at the end of the summer and a free pony!
The options are endless, as is the opportunity for a fun, playful team environment.
5. If all else fails, ask for referrals.
As the age-old adage goes, "Not far from the tree does the apple fall." If a star staff member isn't returning for reasons not pertaining to the role, ask them if they have any friend or family who would be a great fit for the team.
It may be possible for you to make this an annual process, regardless of whether your star staff are leaving or not. Recruiting folks that star staff deem worthy and then allowing them to train the new staff is an efficient way to pass along key information from one staff generation to the next.
Consider modeling your team after the higher education Greek system. Assigning a sophomore staff member a freshman staff member mentee will allow the team to grow into a family tree, of sorts. Talk about a great way to ensure training, best practices, and expertise is passed from one star staff member to the next!