You’ve heard of exit interviews, but have you ever taken the time to sit down with your employees for a “stay interview?” Stay interviews are conversations designed to surface issues that directly impact employee retention.
“The idea of asking employees what they like and don’t like about their job is a pleasant surprise for many,” says Director of Human Resources Michele Kauinui. “Communicating regularly and having a pulse on staff morale is a huge advantage for retention.”
By listening and acting on suggestions from the front lines, you can increase loyalty, improve company culture, and keep your top performers happy. In other words, retain your best people for as long as possible.
In this article, we’ll explore the stay interview concept and give tips on how to get started using them at your company.
What is a stay interview?
A stay interview, or retention interview, is a one-on-one conversation that helps employers understand what might make an employee leave or stay before they even consider hopping to another job.
Conduct enough stay interviews and you may realize that most employees are citing the same reasons to stay (great company culture, opportunities for career growth) or collectively agreeing on the same reasons they would walk out the door (management style, not enough work-life balance).
Why stay interviews are important
In Hawaii’s hot job market, it’s never been more critical to solicit and pay close attention to employee feedback. Stay interviews allow employees to share both their concerns and appreciation for the way things happen in the company. It gives them a voice they otherwise might not have. And, surprise: most employees won’t directly tell you their frustrations about their job—they’ll just look for a new one instead. In this competitive job market, your best employees will quickly be snatched up by other companies, desperate to hire and promising to meet their needs.
While some complaints and suggestions might be unrealistic (e.g. “I want a raise every month”) other reasonable requests could be easily implemented. At ALTRES, for example, we have a robust wellness program that is the direct result of employee advocacy and has grown to be a cornerstone of our company culture.
Another recent employee-led change was the elimination of single-use plastics in our office lunchrooms. We feel good about addressing the concerns of our employees and they feel good about working for a company that listens to them. It’s a win-win for everyone.
How to effectively conduct a stay interview
Conducting stay interviews is a lot easier than you may think. It is similar to any other type of one-on-one interview, with a few key differences. Start by figuring out how you will review and evaluate the feedback you get. Is there a committee? Are the results confidential? How will you act on the information you receive?
Be sure to explain that you’re doing the stay interview with this individual specifically because you value their contribution and want to ensure that they are happy working at the company. Additionally, assure your employee that there are no wrong answers and that your goal is to hear honest, constructive feedback that will make the company better.
To help you get started, use the guidelines below to determine who should conduct your company stay interviews and when, questions to ask during a stay interview, and how to close a stay interview.
Who should conduct the stay interview
The key to a successful stay interview is trust. If you have invested in your relationships with employees, and if there is mutual trust and respect, people will feel more comfortable answering honestly.
In companies where departmental managers have strong relationships with their staff, they may be the most logical choice to conduct stay interviews. If time is a major concern, informal stay interviews could even be part of ongoing one-on-one meetings or check-ins.
That said, at some companies, asking managers to conduct stay interviews for their team may not be the best move. After all, if you’re seeking feedback on workplace culture and management style, will an employee be honest with their own manager? Consider assigning someone other than the employee’s direct manager or supervisor—someone with no oversight of the employee—to conduct the stay interview.
When to conduct a stay interview
- Time your stay interviews to try to get ahead of turnover. For example, if your company is losing people at the 3 year mark, consider conducting the stay interview after the second year. If you see promising signs of increased retention, consider conducting stay interviews again at a future date.
- Do the stay interview during a slower business period. If you do it at the end of the year when you have ten million other things to wrap up, are you truly going to have time to implement feedback your employee gives you? It’s more likely to end up on your overwhelming list of tasks to get done and then slip off your radar.
- Keep the stay interview separate from performance reviews. Your goal is to put your employee at ease and communicate with them on what they like and dislike about the company and their position in it. They will not be able to give effective feedback if they’re busy worrying about proving themselves during their evaluation, especially if it’s the time you usually hand out raises.
The most important part about a stay interview is listening and responding to the feedback that has been received.
Questions to ask during a stay interview
Use the following questions as a starting point for conducting stay interviews. Each company should tailor their questions appropriately.
Carefully consider the wording of your questions so you don’t invite an unproductive vent session. Reiterate the fact that while you may not be able to act on every issue or suggestion, it will all be taken into careful consideration.
- What about this job motivates you to come to work each day?
- What are some of the challenges you experience in your position?
- What is the best part of your job?
- What is your least favorite part of your job?
- If possible, what part of your role would you change?
- Can you share what this company does/has done to keep you here?
- Have you ever considered leaving? If yes, what prompted it and why did you stay?
- Describe the management style in your department. Is there anything you would improve upon?
- Do you have any suggestions on how to make this a better work experience for you?
- Are there other positions in the company that you are interested in?
What to do after a stay interview
At the end of the stay interview, thank your employee for their time and let them know you will give their answers serious consideration. Then be sure to do just that! Initially, it makes sense to look for easy, inexpensive suggestions that you can quickly implement. Beyond that, address glaring issues and look for patterns among employees.
Again, the goal is to make your employees feel heard. They want to know they didn’t just waste an hour of their morning telling you about things they would change. That means taking their feedback seriously but also not making promises that you can’t keep. Giving your employee false hope that something they want is going to be changed right away is likely to do more harm than good.
Read More: 9 Ways to Have a Happier and More Profitable Business
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should first consult their attorney, accountant or adviser before acting upon any information in this article.