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What Are 'Stay Interviews' and Why Should You Conduct Them?

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Do you know why your employees keep working for your? Do you know what supports their continued engagement in their work? 

If you begin answering this question with the words “I think …,” you may want to read on.

As leaders, we make a lot of assumptions as to why our staff stay in their roles and many times are surprised when they leave. If staff continue to do their work, we can be lulled into a false sense of security, believing they are happy and content. However, this is not the same as engaged and motivated. Therefore, we need to be more proactive about knowing what our staff enjoy doing, what keeps them wanting to come to work each day and what they need to continue to grow. We can find out all these things by conducting stay interviews.

Stay interviews are becoming more common, and many organizations have developed formal programs. However, whether your organization has implemented a formal process or not, this is something you can do with your staff. Let’s look at stay interviews and how you can use them to be more proactive in knowing, and therefore retaining, your staff.    

What Is a Stay Interview?

It’s a casual discussion to understand why employees choose to keep working at your organization. It is not designed to convince an employee to stay on, but to check in and retain staff long before they would decide to leave. 

Why Do a Stay Interview?

Stay interviews support employee retention. They are a proactive version of an exit interview. Instead of understanding why an individual is leaving, a stay interview allows informs a leader of what situations can be adjusted or problems can be solved to help an employee stay, before they make a move to leave.

Who Is Involved?

This will depend on your goals and staff size but could include the employee and manager or the employee and a human resources staff person. Some organizations choose to have human resource staff members facilitate these discussions because doing so provides the opportunity to understand trends among staff, builds a connection to HR and offers support if an employee doesn’t have a strong relationship (read: trust) with his/her leader. Other organizations encourage these discussions to take place with the employee and his/her leader. In this case, leaders can still share insight with HR to identify trends.

When Should It Occur?

These should take place on a regular basis to keep a pulse on your staff. This could be scheduled as a separate quarterly or bi-annually (every 6-months) meeting or could be included informally during regular check-ins. 

How Is It Done?

Schedule the meeting in advance, sharing its purpose with the individual. During the meeting, engage in a 30-minute discussion. 

If no formal stay interview process exists, the leader can identify one or two questions that probe what is important to your employee(s) and what may be needed to keep them engaged. Build these into your regular check-in meetings. 

What Should Be Asked?

Questions should be direct and open-ended, allowing for discussion and reflection. Here is a sampling of questions that could be used as part of a formal or informal stay interview.

  • What do you look forward to when you come to work each day?
  • What keeps you working here? 
  • What motivates (or demotivates) you? 
  • What talents do you feel are not being used in your current role? 
  • If you could change something about your job, what would that be? 
  • What would you like to learn?
  • What kind of feedback would you like about your performance that you are not currently receiving?
  • What accomplishments have you felt good about in your role?

Follow Through

These conversations may not be easy for everyone to have (leader or employee). Be sure to ask any clarifying questions, thank the individual for being open and commit to supporting your team member as you are able. Be sure to follow through on any questions, information gathering or commitments you make.

Engaging in a stay interview (formal or informal) can help you retain your staff and support your ability to manage projects and assignment to suit the needs and skills of your team.

 Be Talented  TalentED Mark 


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