There’s the job interview, aimed at finding the best person for a position, and the exit interview, a chance to pretend to learn from a departing employee what is good or bad about the organization.
And now, there’s the stay interview. As proposed by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans in their book “Hello Stay Interviews, Goodbye Talent Loss,” the stay interview is a conversation between a manager and a valued employee aimed at keeping that employee in the fold.
Kaye and Jordan-Evans offer the most common two-part question that might arise in such an encounter — “What will keep you here?” What might entice you away?” — but they add a few of their own that can help a manager learn about an individual employee and an organization, and give that good employee a morale boost.
“What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning?” It’s an unexpected question about job satisfaction that typically elicits fascinating responses.
“What makes you hit the snooze button?” This is a safe way to ask an employee about what could cause job dissatisfaction.
“If you were to win the lottery and resign, what would you miss the most about your job?” This can be helpful for knowing who wants what.
“What do you want to learn this year?” This can unearth ideas for enriching a job.
“Does work give you back as much as it takes out of you?” A manager might want to think about his/her own answer to this question first.
There’s a cost to really screwing up
Even an honest error can trigger one an audit by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and that exacts a cost in time, resources and possibly, reputation.
“The IRS Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax, asks a lot of questions about procedures and activities,” said Dan Romano, Grant Thornton partner-in-charge, Not-for-Profit Tax, from his New York City office. “But often, there’s no black-and-white answer to many of the questions, and it can be easy to trigger an audit.”
High executive compensation levels, especially if they’re beyond industry standards, could arouse the IRS’s suspicions, Romano noted, suggesting that an independent compensation study could be a defense for a nonprofit. “Excessive perquisites, like housing or spousal travel reimbursements could also wave a red flag in front of IRS,” he added. “Smaller organizations might unintentionally skip over a question, leading to a penalty or an audit. We recommend having a board committee or outside auditor review the Form 990 before submitting it.”
The federal Form 990 is very complicated, with one schedule often impacting another, added Kelly Frank a partner in the accounting firm CohnReznick and based in Roseland, N.J. office. “It’s common for nonprofits to mix up their ‘yes-no’ or other answers and unintentionally set off an IRS audit,” she cautioned. “Even if they don’t set off an audit, Form 990s are posted on the Web and if they look out of whack, then independent ratings organizations like Charity Navigator may downgrade their assessment, potentially scaring away donors.”
Allocated overhead expenses can also raise questions if they’re not properly segmented, according to Brenda DeCosta, an assurance partner at Marcum LLP’s Boston office.
“In addition to excessive compensation or excessive lobbying costs, neglecting to properly allocate overhead expenses could potentially set off an IRS audit,” DeCosta cautioned. “Let’s say you don’t have a line item for ‘fundraising costs,’ but instead lump the charge into overhead. IRS may wonder how you’re able to raise revenue without spending anything on fundraising to drum up support. It might be an innocent mistake, but it could cost you a lot to explain it.”