Retain your top talent with stay interviews

November 21, 2022

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” It’s an evergreen question favored by hiring managers to gauge a candidate’s drive, ambition, and desire to grow within your company. But for many, the interview is the last time anyone checks in to see how their career goals within the company are shaping up.  With 4 million people quitting their jobs per month, you can’t afford to wait for the exit interview to find out what you could have done differently. Hailed as the next big trend of the Great Resignation, Stay Interviews are a proactive tool to improve employee retention. 

Amp up your retention efforts with these proven Stay Interviews questions and best practices. 

“What do you most look forward to every day when you come to work?”

This isn’t an interview for a job where a candidate answers by telling you what they think you want to hear, and it’s not an exit interview, where you are reactively surfacing why they their quitting. No, this is the best question to ask: what is keeping them here. 

Understanding what makes them happy is key to continuing what matters most to them and making sure you continue those practices. This question also helps you collect data. If the majority of people in your organization answer that they enjoy the work culture, you can leverage this in your branding efforts when recruiting. 

“What would make your work more meaningful?”

Good corporate citizenship is becoming increasingly more important to employees. In fact, 9 out of 10 workers are willing to take a pay cut to do more meaningful work. Yet there’s still a significant gap between what employees want and what companies are actually doing. 

One way to make workers feel like their work has meaning is to show them how their jobs are helping others. Microsoft inspired their server maintenance workers by explaining how their work was helping doctors and nurses exchange medical information and save lives. If an employee shares that they’d like their workplace to be part of the greater good in society, empower them to be part of a Core Impact Team that develops and executes an efficient strategy to create positive change.

“How would you like to be acknowledged?”

To keep positive morale flowing, find ways to reward outstanding work regularly. A raise or bonus may not be in the budget, but there are other ways to recognize their contributions. Begin by letting your staff know they’re doing a great job during their Stay Interview. Then ask them how they’d like their hard work to be acknowledged. You can offer a lunch out to celebrate, flexible hours, or even more benefits (which are tax-deductible). Let them also know you’ve told higher-ups about their contributions. 

“What de-motivates you?”

If it’s becoming increasingly obvious that a top performer has one foot out the door (they’re showing up late for work, calling in sick often, and no longer participating in team meetings), avert disaster by identifying their pain points in the Stay Meeting. It may be that they can no longer see a career path within the organization…yet. Or they feel disconnected from decisions. Whatever their answer, it’s important you avoid defensiveness, or else it will get around that you can’t take feedback.

You may also be surprised to discover that an employee’s low morale has nothing to do with work. There could be an issue at home, a family illness, or financial worries. Making yourself available to listen, acknowledge, and empathize is sometimes all they need to feel valued again. 

“What strengths or talents do you have that aren't being utilized?”

It’s important for management to recognize when an employee feels stagnant in their job because the antidote to that is going elsewhere. This is especially true if your worker feels you don’t appreciate the new marketable skills they’ve gained over the years. Help your worker build on their skills by mentoring them, developing training programs, and/or giving them more responsibility. Challenging employees is essential to keeping them engaged, motivated, and supported within your company.

“When is the last time you thought about leaving us, and what prompted it?”

This is the million-dollar question that can identify a high-priority issue that may drive them to leave. It may also surface a systemic problem that is affecting your entire team. Listen carefully. Since they are closer to the problem, they may also offer solutions and actionable insights. Ask them to tell you more about how that happened; what can you do to make that better; and how important is that to you now on a scale of 1-10.

Tips to make your Stay Interviews successful

  • Send an invitation to the meeting a few days in advance so they can prepare. 
  • Don’t schedule anything immediately after, in case the meeting runs over.
  • Silence your phone and alerts so your employee knows you have their full attention.
  • Keep the dialog going in both directions; don’t pepper them with questions.
  • Don’t tie it in to performance reviews; this isn’t a status update meeting.
  • Be prepared to hear some painful truths. Better now than in an exit interview.
  • Summarize the key reasons given for staying or potentially leaving the organization. Then work with them to develop a stay plan. 
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