Imagine you own a ship. You are staring out at the water one day and notice several people standing at the railing looking out, as if they are looking for something. They look like they are considering bailing out, jumping ship. Would you wait until they actually jumped to ask why? No chance. As soon as you saw those people looking out over the horizon you would ask what they are looking for. Why they are considering bailing out? Now consider you own a business. Does it make sense to ask employees why they are leaving when they have already decided to leave in the form of an exit interview? No! You want to know why they would leave before they do. That is where a stay interview comes in. Let’s dig in.
What is a Stay Interview?
A stay interview is an interview conducted one-on-one with a current, high-performing employee in order to determine what they like about their job and what they would like to see change. Since managers are those that work with employees daily and know the in and outs of the employee experience, they are the best person to conduct the interview. Employee satisfaction surveys are another way that employers previously gauged workforce engagement, but they are not as personal and not helpful in encouraging employee retention.
According to weforum.org, “more than 4 million Americans left their jobs in 15 of the past 17 months.”weforum.org
That is a startling number.
Stay interviews are often confused with exit interviews. They are two entirely different concepts. An exit interview is conducted with human resources after a person has resigned. This is to understand why they decided to leave. A stay interview is with an active employee with the goal of reducing employee turnover. It is important to understand what is working for current employees and what their biggest pain points are, in order to retain quality, efficient talent.
Why Conduct Stay Interviews?
Hiring is Expensive
Stay interviews are simply a conversation and take minimal time and no money. They are a very cost-effective way of keeping good employees around and boosting employee morale. The expense of recruiting and hiring quality employees is often way underestimated. This is a very expensive process and it is just not very efficient. On average, it costs about $4,000 and takes 24 days to hire and train new employees. Every effort should be made to retain current employees in order to create efficiency and lower costs. Stay interviews are a great technique to help accomplish this goal. Create an environment that encourages employee retention by making space for voices to be heard.
Improve Company Morale
There is always room for improvement when it comes to improving company morale. The day-to-day of most jobs comes with a significant amount of stress. boost morale in the workplace and stay interviews should be added to any company’s to-do list. Communication is key in any relationship, and the employer-employee relationship is no exception. Conducting stay interviews is a great way to help an employee’s voice be heard. They will feel that their opinion matters and this will empower them in their role.
Identify Problems Early
Arguably the best benefit of a stay interview is that it helps you catch problems early. It is hard for employees to feel safe articulating their concerns. Stay interviews should be the space created to encourage this conversation. Identifying problems as they begin, helps you fix them before the damage of losing quality employees is done. There are several problems that can be identified during the interview and it is important that the employer commits to truly listening to the issue and developing solutions. If there is frustration with a lack of communication, schedule more meetings or plan to communicate more content. Maybe a customer is feeling forgotten or alone. That can be such an easy fix, by creating birthday cards, milestone cards, or congratulations cards for goals met using Kudoboard. Maybe an employee has a great idea for improving processes that would not have otherwise would not have been heard without the stay interview platform.
Best Approach for Stay Interviews
Who Should Conduct the Interview
Exit interviews are conducted by someone in the HR department and are often super formal and impersonal. This will not work for stay interviews. Since managers work with employees directly and have context for their specific positions, they are best equipped to conduct stay interviews. They understand what the employees are dealing with and can relate better. It is also an opportunity to open up lines of communication between managers and employees, which also leads to higher satisfaction in the workplace.
Identify Candidates for Interviews
It is important to be strategic in identifying candidates for stay interviews. There are definitely employees who will give information that is more helpful for the business than others. New hires are often at the highest chance of turnover, so it is important to check in with them once they have time to settle into their new position. The 90-day point is a great time to schedule a chat. It is also important to identify high-performing, efficient employees and make sure you are meeting with them annually, in addition to their yearly performance review. Another great way to identify a good candidate for a stay interview is to find employees who were previously highly engaged and have dropped off lately. This is a great way to take their temperature before they officially decide to leave.
Plan ahead and give your employees plenty of notice and context for your meeting. No one likes to have last-minute meetings thrown on their calendar. You could even provide some stay interview questions ahead of time so that the employee can really prepare and get their thoughts together. This way they can make sure they communicate everything they intend to.
Best practices for a stay interview is to schedule anywhere from 30 min to an hour for this interview. It is important to not make it seem rushed or like you are checking them off the list and trying to fit in as many interviews as possible. This is a great opportunity to really get to know your employees and open up those lines of communication. Take the time to help your current employee feel important and heard.
Find a comfortable and convenient location for the meeting. When employees are comfortable, they are more likely to share their true thoughts and feelings. The meeting could happen in the office, on a walk, or even at a coffee shop for a fun change of scenery. Try to avoid an intimidating environment. There is already an unavoidable power dynamic between managers and employees so it will be beneficial to mitigate that dynamic in order to get quality information out of the interview.
Be Prepared to Really Listen and Commit to Change
It can be hard to hear what makes people unhappy in their workplace, especially as an employer. It is important to not take anything personally and not get defensive. This will not help you towards your goal of reducing churn in employees. Instead, focus on active listening and be ready to learn from your current employee. Check egos at the door in order to have a successful interview. It is a great idea to formulate follow-up questions as you listen to each stay interview question in order to help you understand the why behind their issues. Spend quality time after your interviews coming up with an actionable plan for each current employee as a solution to their problem. It could be reassuring them PTO is safe to take, assigning more responsibility, or finding education opportunities to help them advance in their careers at the company. It is important to show you are listening and ready to step in and take action to help them progress.
Another benefit of truly listening during a stay interview is to hear what people love about their job. You can apply this to other employees and use their positive experiences to help you create plans for other employees. You will hear many great things from employees that will help get you through the tough parts of the interviews. Remember to always look for the positive and you will get through the interviews and come out with a better company.
15 Questions to ask During a Stay Interview
It is important to spend time creating a list of interview questions that will help you get the most information possible out of these interviews. Here are some suggestions that can inspire your own list. Remember to actively listen to the answer to each question and come up with some follow-up questions to increase engagement and make sure you understand completely.
- What is your favorite part of your job?
- What is your least favorite part of your job?
- Do you feel recognized for your achievements?
- Do you feel you have a good work-life balance?
- Do you feel like a valued employee? What would help you feel more valued?
- Do you think that you have room to have your voice heard?
- Do you consider your relationship with your boss to be a good one?
- In the past, describe a day at work that has caused you frustration.
- What part of your job do you look forward to the most?
- What are your professional goals? Do you feel you are working towards them in your current position?
- What do you like about the professional development programs we offer? What can we improve?
- What is your favorite part of our company culture?
- What would you change about the company culture?
- Are you happy with the benefits you receive from the company?
- Is there anything that you would like to be doing that you are not currently doing?
Get Started with Stay Interviews
Remember that in order for stay interviews to be effective, action must be taken by management after the fact. Be sure to set expectations properly. If an employee is not happy with their pay, make sure they know what is possibly budgetarily. It is a good idea to schedule all of your stay interviews within about a week of each other so that you have time to put all of the feedback together and create an action plan in a reasonable amount of time. This plan will help to create a company where employees can develop long and lasting careers. Put your money where your mouth is by taking action on the promises you have made. Be proactive and not reactive in order to keep your high-performing employees right where they belong.