Stay interviews – an employee retention essential

Everyone’s heard of exit interviews. They’re a great way for HR and managers to understand why people are leaving, what the issues are and what they can do as a business to improve their employee retention going forward.

While exit interviews are good in theory, often they come too late in the day and changes are reactive or perhaps not implemented at all.

As companies seek to tackle their talent issues and reassess their retention strategies, many are turning to ‘stay interviews’ to gauge what they need in order to get ahead of any issues and keep their best people within in their business.


So, what exactly is a stay interview?

Stay interviews are used to identify what motivates employees, where they see their career going within the company and where they and the business can improve. They can cover a lot of ground and employees are encouraged to have their say on a number of topics.

Crucially, they’re about gathering feedback on issues that would impact retention rates before that employee’s had a chance to get halfway out the door.

In terms of gathering the feedback, questions similar to the below are a great way of finding out how engaged your teams are in their roles:

  • What motivates you to log on/turn up every day?
  • How are you feeling in your role?
  • Are you able to find a positive work/life balance? If not, how can we help?
  • What are your long-term career goals?
  • What are the challenges you face preventing you from reaching your potential? How can the business help alleviate these challenges?
  • Do you feel your efforts are properly recognised?
  • What would make you want to leave?

The idea is that through asking these questions, employers build trust and engagement with their teams, add value to their culture and avoid recurring issues.

When should you conduct stay interviews?

In essence, stay interviews can be conducted at any time, but it’s been suggested it’s a good idea to consider the factors likely to contribute to staff turnover and plan accordingly.

For example, during periods of change or transition when disruption occurs to routines this can add to levels of stress and increased frustrations. At these points, it’s essential that communication lines remain open, and employers are aware of the feeling amongst their employees.

Likewise, fluctuations in terms of workload, be it too great or too small, can lead to people feeling unsupported, unmotivated, and undervalued. Therefore, gaining a better understanding of how people are coping with the tasks at hand is important if you’re to check in with them and help.

Conducting interviews at the end of the year is another important time to gather feedback to include and focus on in your plans for the year ahead. Employees tend to reflect on the previous 12 months at this time of year too, so getting a sense of how they’re feeling during this time can be invaluable.

Finally, if you notice a dip in someone’s morale or a change in behaviour, it’s important to get ahead of the issue before it impacts their engagement with your business or begins to affect others around them.


How to conduct a stay interview?

There are no set rules, and much will depend on the make-up of your business and your culture.

It’s important to be clear on the purpose of the interview, ensure they’re informal and conversational and carried out in a way that empowers employees to feel they can speak honestly without anything they say impacting negatively upon them.

As important as having the right format is, picking a setting that’s comfortable and more casual than a typical meeting is also a good idea. Be aware this location should be private enough and far enough away from others so you can speak freely without being overheard.

Listening more than you speak is important too as is displaying empathy and being responsive to feedback by sharing their own thoughts where appropriate.


What happens next?

Any stay interview is only an effective tool if there’s a strong follow up on the feedback you receive.

With everyone having individual motivators, stresses, values etc. it’s clear that a one-size-fits-all approach no longer works for businesses. Tailor your response accordingly so that your overall employee engagement and retention strategy and individual, personalised plans are both thoroughly addressed.

Doing so is vital if you want to better support your employees, help them grow their careers and ultimately, stay engaged so your business can grow around them.