Stay Interviews

Stay Interviews

With the tightening labour market and increasing pressure on businesses to retain staff, a greater emphasis needs to be placed on developing effective staff retention practices. This includes developing strategies to minimise staff turnover, succession planning for key staff and ensuring staff are provided development opportunities in accordance with their interests and ambitions.

The pressure on the labour market is compounded by low immigration numbers, a lack of international visitors on working visas and ‘the great resignation’, often referred to as the ‘big quit,’ an international trend where significant number of workers have left their jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic.  Poor treatment at work is a key contributor to the great resignation, with the pandemic exacerbating already-toxic workplace cultures in a range of businesses.

Another factor is the changing behaviours of each generation. Think back to our fathers where it would not be uncommon for them to stay in one career for their entire working life.  Compare them to the current generation who are more likely to seek change so may experience a number of career changes over their working life.

In order to mitigate the impacts of a more ‘transient’ work force a number of businesses are now adopting a new employee engagement strategy referred to as ‘stay interviews.’ It is a standard process in many businesses to conduct exit interviews for staff that have resigned and while these can be effective in providing information relating to the reason why an employee is leaving, it is a reactive approach and in the majority of cases ‘the horse has already bolted’.

It makes better sense therefore to adopt a proactive approach and interview staff while they are still employed.  A ‘stay interview’ will help managers to understand why employees stay but also what may cause them to leave. They will get a better understanding of what motivates the employee as well as where their interests and aspirations in the business lie.

‘Stay interviews’ are best conducted in a casual and conversational manner by a third party to ensure the employee feels comfortable to talk about things that they may not feel comfortable discussing with their Supervisor, Manager or another member of the organisation.

There are several benefits to developing and maintaining a ‘stay interview’ program:

  • They provide an opportunity for an employee to be heard, which is a great engagement strategy in itself.  
  • They demonstrate that the business values their opinion, which promotes trust and loyalty.
  • They demonstrate that the business is serious about improving, which is motivational to employees.
  • They provide valuable insights for the Business Owner that might otherwise be missed.
  • They reduce the risk of valuable staff leaving.
  • They identify areas of interest and development for employees.
  • They provide valuable information for the business to incorporate into their business strategy.

If you think “stay interviews” are worth exploring further take a read of DRA Safety‘s testimonial on the Testimonials page of our website.

Employees rarely leave employers that they like and respect.

Planning for continued business disruption

Planning for continued business disruption

It’s 2022 – and I’m sure, like myself, you’re probably at least a little sick of hearing/talking about Covid, which is fair enough. We’re into year 3 of what we all hoped would be a short-lived pandemic. Covid fatigue is alive and well.

However, as much as we may all be tired of Covid…it’s certainly not tired of us – or causing further disruptions to our lives.

With the current rise in Omicron cases we’re seeing across the country – and the implementation of nationwide red-light settings, it’s clear that the impacts of Covid will continue to be felt this year. While the government has said there won’t be large-scale lockdowns like we’ve faced previously, the red-light settings and highly transmissible variant pose the potential to cause further headaches for under-prepared businesses.

While the impacts will differ between businesses and industries, I thought I’d share some of the key areas of disruption expected for businesses – and how you can plan to limit the impacts of them. With modelling suggesting cases may not begin to drop off until the end of May, getting prepared now to ensure business continuity for the next few months is critical.


Although the symptoms of Omicron are milder than variants past, its much higher rate of transmission has the potential to impact your ability to keep your business staffed.

Employee absenteeism is likely to be the biggest Omicron-related business disruption. Employees will have to isolate if they either have Covid or are a close contact of someone who does. While the definition of a ‘close contact’ has changed throughout the pandemic – as has the difference between that and a ‘casual contact’ – the latest definition is here.

Taking a proactive approach now and creating employee bubbles (i.e., having set groups of employees who only work/interact with others in their employee bubble) will mean that if an employee was to test positive, their workplace close contacts would be limited to those in their employee bubble. This means that other employee bubbles would be able to continue working – and keep your business open and operating.

Identifying your mission-critical tasks and roles (i.e., those that are 100% needed to keep the place running) should factor into how you create your employee bubbles – as you wouldn’t want to put all the employees in those roles/who carry out those tasks in one bubble!

If you have business tools and/or vehicles that are taken home at night by employees, it may also be worth planning for how you would recover and clean these assets in the event that they are stuck with an isolating employee.

From an employee perspective, there’s an understandable level of anxiety around how they would be impacted if a colleague or themselves were to test positive. Involving your team in your planning in this area and clearly communicating the final plan is critical.

Equally important is familiarising yourself with the Leave Support Scheme that has been put in place to help support isolating employees or those who have to take time off while they await test results – and deciding if you will top this amount up at all (and if so, by how much) – so that you can answer any questions that come your way! For employment contracts, how you notify close contacts may need to be reviewed and communicated.

Supply Chains

Are there certain items that are more at risk of falling victim to supply chain disruptions than others? Can you stock up on them now to mitigate this risk, or is it worth looking into alternative options if you cannot get them into the country? Are there alternative modes of transportation you should be considering – both in terms of getting items to you and getting them to your customers?


Some businesses may experience a downturn in customer visits – particularly if there is a high concentration of case numbers in the area where they operate. Communicating your plan to ensure customer safety may help customers feel more comfortable visiting your business.

If your business offers products for purchase/is able to operate via e-commerce (and you don’t already have an e-commerce presence), it may be worth setting this capability up in order to allow customers who do not wish to visit your business in person to have access to what they need/want.

If your business involves employees visiting customer sites, it may also be worth considering setting up a system where those customers can quickly inform you of any potential cases in their business your employees may have been exposed to – rather than waiting for contact tracers to get in touch!

If there are any other areas of your business you’re worried about at the moment, give me a call I’d be happy to lend an ear and see if I can provide any support or advice to help you navigate whatever challenges you are facing.

Activate Auckland

Activate Auckland

Activate Tāmaki Makaurau, the agency established to implement the Government’s support package for Auckland businesses, is now up and running.  The $60 million package designed to assist Auckland businesses through this Covid transition period enables businesses to apply for up to $3,000 for business advisory and planning support and $4,000 for the implementation and execution of that advice.

Your business can access expert advice and support in the following areas: 

  • Business Planning, Strategy and Continuity (e.g. workforce planning, risk management, new products, new markets, new opportunities, operational improvements) 
  • Financial Planning and Cashflow Management (e.g. budgeting, forecasting, scenario planning) 
  • HR and Employee Relations and Legal (e.g. people leadership, advice about attracting and retaining staff, contract law, legal requirements, COVID-19 framework guidelines) 
  • Business Hibernation or Exit (e.g. liquidation plan and succession planning advice) 
  • Marketing Advice (e.g.  marketing strategies, value proposition development) 
  • Digital Marketing (e.g. digital marketing strategy, website strategy) 
  • Digital Enablement (e.g. digital productivity, client interaction strategy, operational digitisation, cyber security)  
  • Health and Safety Advice (e.g. working within COVID-19 framework guidelines) 
  • Health and Wellbeing Advice for your business to support your workforce (e.g. to develop plans to support wellbeing and build resilience of your employees) 

To get started visit Activate Tāmaki Makaurau here.

It’s been a long, hard road for many Auckland businesses.  If your business is one of those adversely affected by the events of 2021 we’d love to assist you to get your business moving again. The Alternative Board is registered to provide both advisory and planning support and the implementation and execution of that advice under the following categories:

  • Business Planning, Strategy and Continuity
  • Financial Planning and Cashflow Management
  • Business Hibernation or Exit
  • Marketing Advice

You can contact our Auckland Facilitator/Coaches here.

Why EQ is more important than ever

Why EQ is more important than ever

Tight margins, decreased profitability, increased stress, labour shortages, and supply chain disruptions – these are just some of the issues that business owners have reported on in our latest Pulse Check. And while there’s no doubt that the dial on these has been turned up over the past eighteen months – these pressures are likely to exist after we get back to ‘normal’ (whatever that might look like). So how do you deal with them?

I feel like a lot of what we’ve been seeing over the past eighteen months have been reactive responses to these issues – but in order to enable long-term growth, businesses now need to start thinking about how to be more proactive about these issues moving forward. Those that take a step back and try to think differently about these issues, and are creating strategies to deal with them moving forward will be better positioned than those who don’t.

Easier said than done though! As business owners, we have the tendency to spend too much time working ‘in’’ the business – particularly during tough times like through COVID – rather than working ‘on’ the business.

And, without getting into the political side of things too much, here in Auckland there seems to be a growing consensus that not enough is being done to support our SME community – both from a financial and wellbeing perspective – despite restrictions continuing (if you feel differently though, I’d love to hear your thoughts!).

With all of this, it’s easy to understand why business owners are feeling stressed, anxious, and having sleepless nights.

Now, you might be wondering why I’ve titled this post “why EQ is more important than ever”, and what any of that has to do with what I’ve just spoken about above.

Recent research has shown that, despite trending upwards prior to 2020, there’s been a rather worrying downward trend in EQ over the past year – despite research suggesting that it is even more important than IQ for predicting business success, particularly during times of uncertainty (i.e. a pandemic).

It’s fair to say that EQ has a bit of a ‘soft’ reputation, that it is only about being nice and empathetic to other people – but while empathy certainly is a key component of EQ, it’s actually about being smart with our emotions.

While eight measurable and, importantly, learnable EQ capabilities have been defined, only one has increased over the past year – consequential thinking (i.e. the ability to evaluate the associated risks and benefits of our options).

And while this is typically a useful skill to have, it can also lead to increased risk aversion from business owners – which, consequently, makes it harder to be proactive about solving for some of the struggles they’re facing.

For SMEs, one of the most crucial EQ capabilities to focus on is optimism. Not the kind of optimism that sees us holding hands and dancing round in a circle – but the kind that shifts our thinking to be future-focused, “what are my options?” or “what is my best possible outcome?”.

Understandably, it’s been a struggle for many to tap into that optimistic mindset of late – but with things looking unlikely to change anytime soon, it’s vital that business owners adopt this mindset in order to drive their businesses forward.

There are significant opportunities to be had for those businesses who get ahead of the curve now and start thinking about solving for some of these challenges differently. Lifting up these pressures and planning for them strategically is imperative.

And it’s where optimism comes into play. By analysing and considering these challenges through the lens of “what are my options” and “what is my best possible outcome”, business owners can tap into these opportunities.

At The Alternative Board, a lot of our time is spent helping business owners strategically plan for their businesses – which means a lot of our time is spent adopting this optimistic mindset so we can try and determine the best path forward.

It means that even if you can’t tap into that mindset at the moment – which, believe me, is more than understandable – there’s a support network of peers behind you who can adopt it for you.

What do a well-managed team and a well-run business have in common?  Plenty as it turns out.

What do a well-managed team and a well-run business have in common? Plenty as it turns out.

Standing on the side-line of my 16-year-old son’s school rugby team last week I was really impressed with what I saw, and I’m not just talking about the rugby.

Choosing to look at the team through a different lens it was the structure and process they have in place that really impressed me. Let me explain.

Firstly,  they had a starting team of fifteen, each of whom played a different position depending on their skill set and what the team required.  They had four subs who they could bring on when fatigue set in, performance dropped, or to cover injury.  They had the right people in the right places with a robust succession plan.

They had a game plan, which was based on the conditions, the opposition, and the style of rugby they wanted to play.  They had a shared vision and a clear goal.

The players prepared well.  There was a lengthy warm-up, they practiced their moves and their set plays.  They had a pre-game team talk where they reinforced the game plan, they spoke about representing their school with pride, playing for each other going into the game with the right attitude.  They were focused, committed, and aligned.

They lined up for the referee who checked their sprigs and mouthguards.  He spoke to the players about his zero tolerance for high tackles or foul play.  Everyone understood the Health and Safety protocols and the consequences of any breaches. 

Every player understood the game plan and the contribution they would need to make in pursuit of victory.  They were given the freedom to make decisions and play what was in front of them.  They had clear expectations, delegated authority, autonomy, and accountability.

They spent time on attack, scoring points through well-executed plays that breached the opposition line.  They were resolute on defence, refusing to have their line crossed.  They played as a team, with resilience and a competitive mindset.

They had a Captain and Vice-Captain who both led through their actions, rather than their words.  They played hard and fair, and the rest of the team followed the example they set.  They had strong, inspirational leadership.    

They played with intensity, heart and to the limit.  If they overstepped the mark however, they were penalised or yellow carded.  Those players let the team down and were held accountable for their actions by the referee.  There was a fair and transparent process for dealing with adverse behaviour.

At the end of the game they shook hands with the referee, the opposition team and then thanked the supporters.   They had values, played with a spirit of fairness, and showed gratitude.

There was a debrief after the game where they spoke of the things that went well and the things that didn’t.  They talked about ‘work ons’ for the next training session.  They celebrated success but always had a mindset of constant improvement.

So why is rugby so successful in this country?  It’s because as Kiwi’s we have an inherent expectation of success on the rugby field, the coaches create a platform for these players to excel and the players are empowered to execute in pursuit of victory.  

If you’re a Business Owner or Leader and you can resonate with this thinking, get in touch with us at The Alternative Board and let’s start developing your game plan.

Avoid the urge to rush – don’t ruin your business engine

Avoid the urge to rush – don’t ruin your business engine

It’s a horrible feeling. That sudden realisation that the wrong fuel has gone into the car. I’ve done it myself – in fact, I did it the other day. I made the fatal mistake of putting petrol in my diesel vehicle, but fortunately I realised what I had done before starting the engine. From what I understand it is not an uncommon mistake, particularly for those that regularly swap between diesel and petrol cars.

After several phone calls I realised that the only thing I could do was to engage a ‘fuel removal specialist’. Although I had a busy day in front of me I had no choice but to wait for two hours at the filling station for the expert to arrive so he could suck the petrol out of the tank and thus avoid serious damage to my engine. Not only did this cost two hours of my time, it cost $275.00 for the service. A costly experience, but a small cost in comparison to what I would have had to pay for engine repairs, had I started my engine.

On reflection, there are two reasons why this incident happened; I was rushing and I wasn’t truly present in the moment.

Relating this experience to business, how often do employers make a rash decision because they are rushing and not present in the moment? Maybe they make a poor hiring decision and promote the ‘not quite suitable’ person from within the company, or employ an external candidate even when their gut feeling says they shouldn’t – but they do so anyway because it seems the easiest option and they just want to get it done.

I have made this mistake too and it is one that I always regretted. Like the fuel scenario, hiring the wrong person can be detrimental to business – much like putting petrol in a diesel engine. Not only can this lead to a financial cost to the business, it can also undermine the culture within the team. In this example, your investment in an effective recruitment process to ensure you have the right people on board will pay significant dividends over time and will more than compensate for the time and effort you put in.

We live in a busy, sometimes chaotic world, so we need to raise our awareness around this propensity to rush. Rushing affects our ability to be present, it increases our stress levels, it can lead to mistakes and it can inhibit our ability to make effective business decisions. So take your time – and don’t ruin your business engine.

The Alternative Board - OwnersAuckland South