Staying Power

business men shaking hands

As competition for top talent heats up, more organizations are being proactive about retaining their strongest project professionals. To improve retention rates, more than half of organizations around the world either use stay interviews or plan to incorporate them in the future, according to a report by talent firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

But stay interviews are more than a boon for employers. With the right strategy, stay interviews can be a valuable opportunity for project, program and portfolio managers to tailor their professional development to match the needs of the organization.

Before you begin, however, it’s important to be mindful of how you seek to turn stay interviews to your advantage. “You don’t want it to seem like you’re toying with the idea of leaving,” says Lynn Batara, director, enterprise project management office, Franklin Templeton Investments, San Mateo, California, USA. “Couch the conversation as an opportunity for you to grow professionally, so you can make even more valuable contributions.”

Widen Your Scope

If you find yourself working on the same projects year after year, stay interviews can be a prime opportunity to suggest shaking things up, says Jess Tayel, head of transformation and corporate planning, WaterNSW, Sydney, Australia.

If you make concrete recommendations or requests about the work you want to be doing in the future, your manager will be better armed to convene with HR and make a change happen. Specificity also helps: Is there a particular program that you want to work on? A type of project or level of project authority you want to attain?

“I’ve seen project professionals use stay interviews to talk about transitioning into a management role or taking on more intensive projects or simply having a change of heart about the types of projects they’ve been doing,” Ms. Tayel says.

Seize New Perks

While a pay raise is typically tied to an organization’s performance review cycle, stay interviews are a great opportunity to bring up other work perks you believe you’ve earned, says Ms. Tayel. For instance, more than half of office workers say they’d change jobs for greater schedule flexibility, and nearly 40 percent would make a move if it meant getting a private office, according to a 2017 Gallup poll. Whether it’s an extra week of time off or getting the organization to pay for education or certification opportunities, explaining why the perks are merited and how they might benefit your work and your team will strengthen your case.

Get Aligned With the Future

Getting a handle on the future direction of the company during stay interviews is a great way to see how you fit going forward. Take note of any strategic changes within the organization so you can customize your professional development to match.

For instance, learning about a new market opportunity might push you to seek out new training opportunities, submit a request to work on a particular project that stretches your skill set or invest time in starting to learn a new language.

“You want to leave that meeting with a long-term sense of where you might fit in the value chain for both current priorities and future strategies,” says Ms. Tayel. “That can’t happen if you don’t discuss the organization’s strategic goals.”

And, of course, if a stay interview reveals that the organization is moving in a direction that doesn’t align with your career ambitions, you might walk away with a clear signal that it’s time to move on so your career can keep growing.