what are stay interviews


What are Stay Interviews?


By definition, stay interviews are periodic, structured interviews with select or all employees that serve the purpose of gathering information to better understand why employees stay and what causes them to leave. Additionally, it is a time to gain valuable data that can be utilized in programs that influence employee retention. Meeting with employees to learn more about their opinions and experience with the company, it also reinforces the company’s commitment and value to their staff. Employees can feel that they are being heard and that they are contributing to improvements or enhancements of the department and organization.  

With a competitive job market and the cost of turnover being so high, it is critical for employers to be proactive in looking for ways to improve employee retention. For many organizations, conducting exit interviews has been a consistent practice in gaining useful knowledge as to why employees chose to leave. While the details obtained in exit interviews can assist in making appropriate adjustments or changes, they are not proactive in retaining top talent. By the time you are conducting an exit interview, it is too late. One important strategy to implement that will assist in collecting valuable information from employees is stay interviews. 

A stay interview is essentially a conversation so that you can probe further into certain areas. Unlike a survey, you have the ability to easily ask follow-up questions to better understand specific areas and responses.   

How to Conduct Stay Interviews 

Stay interviews should be conducted once or twice a year. Oftentimes, high-performing or highly valued employees have been the focus of stay interviews. However, it is a good practice to widen the focus. Include entry-level to senior-level employees, new employees, tenured employees, average-performing employees, as well as the strongest performers. The intent is to find details for improving practices. Including your average employees may bring insight into ways that can enhance or elevate their engagement and production.

Once you have selected the employees to include, consider who will be conducting the stay interviews. In some cases, managers can successfully implement stay interviews with their staff to build trust and gain additional knowledge on where to focus or what changes are needed. One drawback with managers conducting the meetings is that employees may not be as open or may not feel as comfortable discussing issues within the group. Another option is to have a third party conduct the stay interviews as they can be seen as objective and neutral. This can ensure more candid feedback and allow employees to be more honest about their concerns.  

Stay interviews should take approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Meetings longer than this timeframe can become less focused and too much of a casual conversation. Have a short introduction prepared that explains your commitment to their overall experience and that the purpose of the meeting is to obtain information from them with the intent to improve their time with the company. This is critical to building trust and also can be used as a recognition tool. Most employees will value an opportunity to give feedback and provide ideas to improve processes. Lastly, be prepared to ask strong, probing questions. In some cases, the really important details are ascertained by appropriate follow-up or probing questions.  

Effective Questions 

The differentiating component to stay interviews is the depth of the details you can uncover as opposed to various opinion surveys or even exit interviews. The questions should draw upon more significant engagement questions that uncover what factors enhance their loyalty and engagement.  

Include questions that focus on the most compelling or exciting aspects of their work to areas that are frustrating or limiting. Ask questions to better understand if their feelings have changed since they first joined the organization. The following is a list of common questions to consider. 

  1. What areas or functions of your job excite you the most? What areas or functions of your job do you least like? 
  2. Describe your onboarding experience. What worked well and what was missing? 
  3. Are there any skills that you possess that you feel are not being utilized? 
  4. What aspects or values of the company do you align with the most? The least? 
  5. What types of recognition have you received in your position? Are there actions that we can take to further recognize you? 
  6. What does your manager do that is most effective? What could he/she be doing more or less of? 
  7. Think about a time you became frustrated at work. What led to that frustration? 
  8. What can management do to best support you? 
  9. What is the most rewarding part of your work? 

Stay interviews should be an ongoing practice to effectively be able to uncover specific triggers that negatively impact retention and turnover as well as areas that are successful and should be continued. The feedback collected through the stay interview process can be highly effective in increasing the number of reasons why employees chose to stay with the company. By implementing this simple process, employers can reduce turnover and make a tremendous impact to the bottom line if they are willing to take action on the feedback received in the stay interview process, provide feedback regarding progress and roadblocks, and keep those lines of communication open, active and two-way.   

By Kim Matus, Human Resource Business Partner, HR Service, Inc. 

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