How a Stay Interview Can Boost Employee Retention
- Human Resources
6 min. Read
Last Updated: 07/06/2023
Table of Contents
Stay interviews can alert managers and business owners to existing problems which, once resolved, can help lead to improved employee retention.
What Is a Stay Interview?
Stay interviews, also known as retention interviews, are opportunities for companies to receive information from current employees that can help improve employee retention. Stay interviews can help companies gather information that they can use to get a better understanding of why top employees are satisfied with their job. They can also help to alert managers and business owners to existing problems that can be mitigated before a top performer takes steps to leave the company. All of this information provides a valuable alternative to employee feedback derived solely from exit interviews, where employers learn information that comes once an employee has already decided to leave.
Why Should You Conduct Stay Interviews?
Generally, employers conduct stay interviews as part of their efforts to better understand the motivations, ambitions, and mindset of their valued employees. A stay interview is an occasion for a one-on-one conversation between a manager and employee designed to highlight any "risk factors" about the job that might lead them to contemplate leaving the company. This conversation can encompass current working conditions as well as candid employee feedback about the company's culture and other conditions that either help or hinder job performance.
One of the key benefits of conducting a stay interview is learning why an employee may be thinking of leaving their job before that decision is made. As Paychex expert Brenton Dalgliesh noted on a recent HR podcast, stay interviews should occur after the hard work of building a relationship with employees is complete, because “people can always tell what authenticity looks like.”
What Are the Benefits of a Stay Interview?
Timing is one of the many benefits of stay interviews. When companies find out what the employee is happy or unhappy about at work during a stay interview, there is typically still time to make improvements or adjustments as needed. Also, obtaining an opinion from someone who is currently invested in the company's success can provide an alternative viewpoint from exit interviews, when the interviewees are already moving on to a new employer.
Stay interviews also provide additional information directly from employees that can be used to formulate future company actions and strategies.
Insights Into a Manager's Performance
A conversation with an employee can uncover areas where managers or supervisors may have an opportunity to improve their own performance to better meet their employees' needs. It's commonly recognized that dissatisfaction with one's manager is a key reason employees leave a job.
An ongoing series of stay interviews with different employees may turn up identifiable patterns worth exploring further. For example, if several employees complain independently about an inflexible or overly demanding work schedule, management may want to consider different scheduling or recruiting strategies. The same principle applies to any pattern of dissatisfaction revolving around compensation and benefits. The more you learn about what keeps valued employees happy, the more effective you can be at retaining them in the long run.
The opportunity to offer feedback on their jobs can lead to greater employee engagement. Employees can feel that their opinion is valuable and gain a sense that their employer is listening to their concerns. For employers, stay interviews can serve as an opportunity to identify early warning signs of problems to address and resolve, thus improving an employee's attitude in the workplace.
Getting Valuable Feedback
In addition to getting feedback that can improve employee retention strategies, stay interviews can also help employers run their businesses better by addressing new or shifting areas of concerns that may arise. Asking questions about a range of topics, from the work environment to schedules and benefits programs, can result in a plethora of data that could prove useful when forming long-term business strategies.
Improving Employee Retention
Stay interviews help to uncover areas of an employee's dissatisfaction before a deteriorating situation causes them to leave the company. Trends identified in a sample of company-wide stay interviews can also help businesses prioritize which changes are needed for better overall retention.
When Should You Conduct Stay Interviews?
Companies should set an initial schedule for stay interviews and pay close attention to feedback they receive. Depending on the feedback received, employers may want to adjust their schedule or increase the number and frequency of interviews conducted to receive an optimal amount of data.
Who Should Conduct Stay Interviews?
Generally, it makes sense to have an employee's manager conduct a stay interview. Managers have an established relationship with their employees that can serve as a jumping point for the types of conversations contained in a stay interview. By developing an open and honest line of communication with their employees, managers are most likely to receive information that can be used to improve the work environment and help keep employees engaged in their work.
At times, it may make sense for other personnel, such as senior executives, business owners, or human resource managers to conduct stay interviews. Regardless, anyone who conducts stay interviews should participate in the proper training and feel prepared to manage the process.
Who Should Receive a Stay Interview?
Setting up a formal process for the identification of individuals to conduct stay interviews with can ensure companies are getting the information they need. Dalgliesh does not necessarily recommend anonymous surveys because “you don’t know who your star performers are” when evaluating responses. Determine who could provide the useful feedback or advice that management would likely take into consideration for future retention or hiring strategies. Interviewees might include top performers who are often the main focus of retention efforts. Managers may also want to interview employees with the longest tenure, as they have worked for the company through a variety of changes for comparative purposes.
How To Conduct a Stay Interview
Setting a company standard for stay interviews can help to ensure equitable treatment and consistency to identify trends among individuals' responses. Everyone who participates in the process should first gain a firm understanding of why the conversations take place and the overall goal of the interviews. Dalgliesh recommends sitting down with employees and making sure they feel “valued, respected, and appreciated.”
Determine Employees To Interview
Management should identify categories of individuals who will receive stay interviews. They may include all employees with a certain tenure, such as greater than five years, new employees who can provide comparative information based on experiences with other companies, or all employees achieving the highest level of performance rating.
Determine Who Will Conduct Interviews
If managers are assigned to conduct interviews, they should carve out time to talk to their staff outside of the annual review process. If someone other than an employee's direct supervisor is deemed a more appropriate interviewer, they should be informed and given time to prepare.
Choose a Location
Set the tone of a stay interview by choosing the location. For more formal environments, a conference room or private office may work best. If the hope is to solicit more extended, informal feedback, the interview can be conducted in a more casual location.
Communicate With the Employee About the Interview
Allow the employee time to prepare by providing them information in advance about the upcoming interview. Employees should understand the reason for the interview and management may even choose to frame it as a vote of confidence or a show of respect for the employee due to their tenure or job performance. Stay interviews take a more positive approach with the goal of finding out what makes an employee stay at their job, compared to exit interviews that discuss why an employee chose to leave.
Schedule and Conduct the Interview
Aim to conduct interviews over a set period of time. In this way, you'll receive the most current feedback across the board. Interviewers should ask consistent questions for comparative purposes, while also allowing time during the session for informal discussion.
After the interviews are conducted, the interviewers will need to collect and document responses. The data received from stay interviews can be reviewed for the identification of positive trends or potential areas of improvement. The information can also be used to prepare summary reports to present to executive management with suggestions of additional actions that might improve employee retention.
Questions To Ask During a Stay Interview
Prior to conducting interviews, consider what type of feedback you hope to receive. Ask open-ended questions that can encourage discussion and help the employee to explain what they most like or dislike about their job. Some possible stay interview question include:
- What motivates you to come to work every day?
- What's the one part of your job you like the most?
- What does your dream job look like?
- Are there areas where you feel most discouraged in your job?
- What might entice you to seek employment elsewhere?
- How do you feel your work contributes to the success of our business?
- Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the level of recognition you receive?
- What kind of feedback or recognition about your performance encourages you to perform better?
- What specific changes would you like to see made in your job and/or the workplace in general?
- Can you point to a situation in the past few weeks that was particularly frustrating? What happened to change that, if anything?
- What interests or skills can we help you develop in your role?
- How would you rate your work/life balance and what could we do to improve it?
Stay Interviews Can Lead to a Better Understanding of Your Business
For stay interviews to be truly effective, employees should have a sense of trust in their manager. Remember, the goal of these conversations is to find out what a company is doing well and also to identify any changes needed in the workplace, where appropriate. If a business owner fails to follow through with action, employees may feel disheartened and begin searching for a new job elsewhere.
A stay interview can offer significantly more benefits to an employer than whatever might be gleaned from a departing employee's exit interview. You'll have the opportunity to better understand a valued employee's motivation, which could highlight specific employee benefit options it might be beneficial to include in your benefits package, and could help address any issues that could otherwise lead them to leave down the road.