The Best Employee Retention Strategy You Haven’t Tried: Stay Interviews

March 12, 2018 Mary Lorenz

For all the advancements we’re seeing in the world of HR technology, the ability to read employees’ minds is not one of them. While that’s probably for the best, lest we want to find ourselves in a Black Mirror-type situation, it would sure come in handy when it comes to knowing if and why your employees are thinking of quitting. Fortunately, a stay interview could be just as effective.  

What a Stay Interview Is - and Isn’t

The first thing to understand about a stay interview is that it isn’t synonymous with an exit interview. Whereas an exit interview is typically conducted after an employee has announced his or her resignation, a stay interview is a proactive step you can take to avoid a resignation from ever happening.

ERE’s John Sullivan defines a stay interview is “a periodic one-on-one structured retention interview between a manager and a highly valued ‘at-risk-of-leaving employee’ that identifies and then reinforces the factors that drive an employee to stay. It also identifies and minimizes any ‘triggers’ that might cause them to consider quitting.”

Questions to Ask During a Stay Interview:

Before the stay interview, make sure you clarify the purpose of the interview. Tell your employee you value their contribution and that you want to better understand the factors that keep them there and any actions you could take to improve their employee experience. The more they understand the purpose of the interview, the more they will open up and give honest, valuable feedback for the following answers.

  • What do you enjoy most about this job? What factors make you want to stay?
  • What is the type of impact you are looking to have while working here? Do you feel as though you are making a difference in the organization and beyond?
  • Are you receiving the regular feedback you need to do your job well? Do you feel as though you are being fairly recognized for your contributions here?
  • What specifically would you want to change about your current role, if given the chance? How would you want to widen your professional horizons here?
  • Do you feel like you have sufficient autonomy over when, how and where you work? How could we improve your work-life balance?

5 Reasons to Give Stay Interviews a Try

1) They Help You Hold On to Star Employees. Losing a star employee can be distressing in more ways than one. Not only are you losing a talented worker, but now you have to go through the time and hassle of finding a worthy replacement. With stay interviews, you can find out if and why they’re considering quitting before they give their two weeks notice – and prevent it from happening in the first place.  

2) They Provide Unmatched Insight. Stay interviews are more effective than other methods of employee retention tactics, such as annual employee surveys and exit interviews, because they give you specific insight about the employee in question.  

3) They Help You Stay Competitive. Stay interviews help you learn what’s really important to top talent - which can help you in your recruiting strategy. While answers may vary from one A-player to another, you will likely see patterns and commonalities. For instance, if you notice a handful of individuals seeking better work-life balance than is currently offered, you might look into flex-time. If many of them seem to be complaining about poor compensation, it might be time to revisit your compensation and benefits policies to ensure they are competitive.

4) They Help You Do Your Job Better. Stay interviews offer top employees the opportunity to candidly discuss and assess what’s working and what’s not. This might mean hearing some unpleasant truths, such as problems with your management or leadership style, or flaws within the organization. Instead of immediately getting defensive, try seeing this as an opportunity. Ask the employee what he or she would like to see change and is he or she has any suggestions for improvement.

5) They Can Increase Morale and Reduce Turnover. Chances are your star employees aren’t the only ones who are feeling frustrated right now and thinking about leaving. Stay interviews can bring to light issues that might be affecting your entire staff without your knowledge. If you can pinpoint the source of these issues and minimize or resolve them altogether, you can improve in morale, productivity and retention across the organization.  

Considering that 40 percent of workers plan to change jobs this year, it’s a good bet that many of your top performers already have their eyes on greener pastures. The sooner you act to start conducting stay interviews, the better.

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