“Stay interviews” can provide critical retention insights

“Stay interviews” can provide critical retention insights

Why are you still here? It’s a deceptively simple question, and one best asked gently and constructively of your employees. Many employers are doing so by conducting “stay interviews” — one-on-one conversations between employees and their respective supervisors directed at strengthening engagement and improving retention.

Important distinctions

You might understandably ask, “Why conduct stay interviews when we can just deal with these issues in a performance review or through an employee survey?” A fair question.

A good reason to separate stay interviews from performance reviews is each discussion has a different purpose. Performance reviews should focus on specific objectives and whether the employee accomplished them. Stay interviews address the broader issues of employee satisfaction and motivation.

Employee surveys can be useful for gathering broad workforce data to establish certain trendlines. But you won’t likely get many specific, personal details.

Key guidelines

Here are some key guidelines to conducting stay interviews:

Give a heads-up. Provide employees plenty of time to learn about the purpose, format and tone of the conversation. This will allow them to reflect on their employment situations and, one hopes, fully articulate their thoughts and feelings.

Do it live. Ideally, stay interviews should be face-to-face discussions involving the employee and his or her supervisor. If a remote worker is too far away to feasibly conduct a live interview, you can do it via a webcam or simply on the phone.

Start low-key. Supervisors should keep the interview with each employee as simple and brief as possible. Doing so should lessen some of the natural anxiety of such a conversation and build the employee’s confidence in the process.

Use a scripted introduction. State upfront that you may not be able to address every concern or grant any request brought up in the interview. You don’t want to create an implied contract. For example, a supervisor could say, “I’d like our focus to be on subjects I can help you with every day,” rather than setting a narrower agenda focusing, perhaps, on compensation.

Ask the right questions. A stay interview should elicit responses that help you better understand each employee’s motivations and aspirations. Commonly asked questions include “What aspects of your job do you look forward to every day?” and “How can I help you do your job better on a daily basis?”

You can even ask tougher questions about whether an employee has ever considered leaving your organization and, if so, why. Of course, some employees won’t be completely honest in their responses.

The nitty-gritty

Stay interviews are like exit interviews in that you’re looking to really get into the nitty-gritty of an employee’s work experience outside of the regular performance review process. You’re just doing it before the person has decided to leave. Contact us for more information on cost-effective ways to retain good employees.