Most companies conduct an exit interview with an employee who's leaving, typically handled in person or in written copy. Its purpose is to gain some insight, improve certain aspects of the company and help reduce employee turnover. But at the exit interview point, it's too late to get appropriate feedback — and sometimes it's not even the company to blame.
Instead, companies should conduct "stay" interviews to get suggestions and advice from team members, according to Holly Blanton, director of human resources at rotational molder Trilogy Plastics Inc. in Alliance, Ohio.
"[From employees' stay interviews,] I got insight into their personal situations that could affect them at work," Blanton said. "In some of those stay interviews, I ask them, 'Does your supervisor know that? Because it would really help the supervisors to really understand you and set you up for success and shape your work environment so that you can be more successful here.'
"In answering that," she continued, "the employees usually tell me, 'No, I'm busy all day long, and we just don't have time to talk about that stuff.' So, I thought, 'All right, we just need to keep the pulse of our people a little better.'"
From there, pulse meetings were born.
For five to 10 minutes each month, on-the-floor employees meet one-on-one with their supervisor to discuss both personal and professional issues that might impact their workday.
When employees join the company, there's a basic orientation with administrative officials and a "buddy" program with Trilogy technical specialist Kim Lynch to show newbies the ropes. She meets with new hires on a regular basis while they get settled in.
Promotions are earned through merit, not seniority, through the "level program." Employees can study new material, take classes, learn skills and then take a test to earn a promotion to the next job title — or move up to the next "level" — Blanton said.
"I have people who have been here two years, and they're at a higher level than some people who have been here five years just because they're more capable and want to move ahead," said President Steve Osborn.
The company also initiated a pre-shift stretching program for employees to loosen tight muscles before they start working. Prior to the program, Osborn said, many of the lost-time injuries were due to pulled back muscles. Now, Trilogy has been at nearly 1,000 days without a loss-time accident.
Blanton and Osborn said they value a strong work ethic, good sportsmanship and safety.
Trilogy Plastics, which has roughly 205 employees, won the Plastics News Excellence Award for Industry and Public Service at the Executive Forum, March 7 in Naples, Fla.
"We care about our people," Osborn said. "I think that if you look at the culture here, we treat everybody as a person, not as a number."
Blanton echoed a similar sentiment.
"Every time I do stay interviews, I ask that question: 'What sets Trilogy apart from other places that you have worked?'" she said. "And that is overwhelmingly the answers I hear: 'You care about your people. You help them through things. You teach them. I'm not just treated as a number here; I'm treated as an important human being.'"