Nothing hurts your business like employee turnover, especially when you lose your top talent, but there is a useful HR tool – the “stay interview” – that can proactively combat turnover threats by shining a light on employee needs and fostering engagement before someone reaches the exit door.
“Only interviewing employees when they’re entering or exiting your organization could be why some retention efforts are lacking,” writes Amanda Schiavo in HR Brew. “Instead, HR pros may want to consider conducting stay interviews, or regular, one-on-one conversations with staff to gauge their experience at work.”
Surprisingly, a 2022 survey of HR professionals and the tactics they use to improve employee retention found that only about 1 in 4 (27 percent) included the HR practice of stay interviews.
According to Schiavo’s Jan. 2, 2024, article, these personalized, two-way conversations between staff and HR are key tools in retaining talent.
Stay Interviews vs. Exit Interviews vs. New Hire Interviews
If you are like most companies, you certainly conduct new hire interviews, and some may conduct exit interviews, but most do not include stay interviews.
Unlike exit interviews, which gather feedback after the resignation has been penned, stay interviews are proactive conversations held while employees are still thriving.
New hire interviews, on the other hand, focus on assessing fit and expectations, while stay interviews delve deeper into existing employees’ perceptions.
Stay interviews can be formal but are typically informal sessions where management checks in with their employees and asks them questions about how they feel about topics ranging from their specific role in the company to the overall workplace culture.
It’s not about grilling them on why they might leave; it’s about understanding what excites them about staying and uncovering any roadblocks hindering their satisfaction.
Why Stay Interviews Matter
So, why should you consider accentuating the positive and conduct stay interviews to stave off exit interviews?
Here are 6 compelling reasons why stay interviews are a must for your HR arsenal:
- Boost Employee Engagement: Show your employees you care about their opinions and experiences, fostering a sense of value and belonging.
- Identify and Address Retention Risks: Uncover hidden concerns, challenges, or frustrations before they snowball into reasons for departure.
- Improve Company Culture: Understand what aspects of your culture resonate and which areas need tweaking to optimize the work environment.
- Attract and Retain Top Talent: Show potential hires you invest in employee well-being, making your company a magnet for high performers.
- Increase Productivity and Performance: Happy employees are productive employees. Addressing their needs leads to a more engaged and motivated workforce.
- Strengthen Manager-Employee Relationships: Open communication fosters trust and understanding, building stronger bonds between teams and leadership.
Sherri Manning, a CPO for the restaurant company Olo told HR Brew that stay interviews “can be a really important retention tool. For most companies that doesn’t mean sitting down with every employee who works for you, but having a plan to triage how you sequence that may be by looking at top performers or long service folks.”
Best Practices for Conducting a Stay Interview
Here are some tips for crafting the perfect conversation:
- Choose the right timing: Schedule interviews outside of peak work hours for focused attention.
- Create a safe space: Assure confidentiality and encourage honest feedback without fear of repercussions.
- Ask open-ended questions: Go beyond “happy?” and delve into specifics like career aspirations, workload, and growth opportunities.
- Actively listen and show genuine interest: Give your full attention and acknowledge their concerns with empathy.
- Take notes and follow up: Show you value their input by documenting action steps and keeping them informed on progress.
CNBC also says that HR experts recommend the process to be informal and conversational and encourage a two-way dialogue instead of an “interview.”
Best practices also include holding stay interviews throughout the year and not having them tied to set performance reviews.
10 Top Stay Interview Questions to Spark Conversation
Ready to spark some insightful conversations with your employees? Here are 10 powerful questions to get you started:
- What motivates you to come to work each day?
- What are your biggest challenges or frustrations in your current role?
- What do you appreciate most about our company culture?
- How do you feel about your work-life balance?
- Do you feel you have opportunities for growth and development here?
- What would make your job even more enjoyable?
- Do you have any concerns about the future of your role or the company?
- What would make you consider leaving our company?
- What can we do as a company to better support you?
- Who else at the company would you recommend we have a Stay Interview with?
While it will help your management team to have some sample questions on hand when conducting the stay interviews, as they get used to conducting them, they will be able to hold more informal sessions without prompts on hand to facilitate a more natural conversation and give-and-take with the employee.
“Stay interviews need to get to the heart of the employee experience. HR pros should ask employees detailed questions about how they feel about the organization and work environment, what they look forward to each day, and whether they’re satisfied in their role,” writes Schiavo. “HR should also ask about benefits, including what their employees are using and what they want. How employees respond can shed light on their stressors outside of work, allowing HR to provide relief through new benefits and enhancements to existing benefits so workers can bring their full attention to work.”
Remember, stay interviews are not a one-off event but should be an integral part of your HR strategy.
“The stay interview is a great way to make employees feel like they matter,” HR consultant Ricklyn Woods told CNBC. “They want to be seen, heard, and valued. So, ask them what they think and genuinely get to know their feedback.”
Schedule regular conversations throughout the year to maintain a pulse on employee sentiment and build a culture of continuous improvement. By proactively nurturing your talent, you’ll see your retention rates.