Human Resources and Benefits

Conducting Effective Stay Interviews

stay interview with employee and manager

Employee turnover can be a significant challenge for employers, as it can lead to increased costs, loss of productivity, and a negative impact on company culture. Stay interviews offer a proactive approach to understanding and addressing the needs of employees, ultimately enhancing retention rates. Unlike exit interviews, which are conducted when an employee is leaving, stay interviews are conducted while the employee is still employed at the organization with the goal of identifying factors that contribute to their job satisfaction and commitment.

What Are Stay Interviews?

Stay interviews are usually once-a-year meetings conducted with each employee and their supervisor. Unlike performance reviews, these meetings focus on an existing employee’s attitude toward an organization. Specifically, stay interviews attempt to discover the following:

  • What makes an employee want to work for the organization?
  • What makes an employee want to stop working for the organization?
  • What aspects of the organization need to be addressed to make working there more attractive to employees?

A Proactive Approach

Stay interviews help employers discover issues before they manifest into employee departures. Moreover, they help employees feel heard by their employers—showing them you care enough about retaining them to improve workplace operations. Giving employees this level of attention is critical. Even if an employee is resolved to leave, understanding their motivations for doing so can help you retain other employees who may feel similarly. Stay interviews enable you to learn this information sooner and address those issues head-on.

Conducting Stay Interviews

Typically, managers or direct supervisors would conduct stay interviews with each of their employees. However, if the manager-employee relationship isn’t great, having another person—potentially from HR—conduct the interview would be better, as its results hinge on transparency from both parties.

Since the intent is to have a frank discussion about the employee’s disposition, whoever handles the interview must position it properly. Prior to and during the meeting, employees should understand they’re being interviewed because you want them to be happy with their work environment—not to punish them for any qualms they may have with it.

Stay interviews don’t need to be long, but they should all happen around the same time period. This way, managers can quickly assess all the feedback and implement changes as needed. To that end, consider holding stay interviews each year when your business cycle typically slows.

Best Practices

Impactful stay interviews can help maximize employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention. Consider the following best practices for stay interviews:

Establish clear objectives. Before conducting stay interviews, establish clear objectives and goals. It’s important to determine what information should be gathered from employees and how it will be used to improve engagement and retention strategies. This may include identifying areas of dissatisfaction, uncovering potential issues, and recognizing areas of strength within the organization.

Integrate stay interviews into onboarding. Stay interviews aren’t just for the company’s tenured employees; they can be incorporated into the 30-, 60-, and 90-day milestones of employee onboarding. By gauging employee satisfaction early on, you can proactively address any issues and make necessary adjustments. Early identification of potential problems can prevent them from escalating into larger issues down the line.

Create a safe and confidential environment. A safe and confidential environment is crucial to encourage open and honest communication during stay interviews. Assure employees that their feedback will be kept confidential and there will be no negative repercussions for sharing their thoughts and concerns. This trust-building exercise can foster genuine dialogue and provide valuable insights.

Train interviewers. Ensure managers and HR professionals conducting stay interviews are adequately trained in effective communication and active listening skills. Training should emphasize the importance of empathy, respect, and nonjudgmental attitudes when engaging with employees. Interviewers should be prepared to ask probing questions to uncover underlying issues and concerns.

Ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions can prompt employees to freely share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It’s important to avoid leading questions and instead focus on topics such as job satisfaction, career development, leadership and management, work-life balance, and organizational culture. (Sample questions for stay interviews are listed in the next section of this article.)

Actively listen and validate. During stay interviews, it’s essential for interviewers to actively listen to employees’ responses without interrupting or dismissing their concerns. Validating employees’ feelings and experiences demonstrates empathy and understanding. Interviewers should paraphrase workers’ responses to ensure clarity and show that their feedback is valued. Probing to learn more can also demonstrate authenticity.

Identify actionable insights. After conducting stay interviews, analyze feedback to identify common themes, trends, and actionable insights. Look for opportunities to address areas of concern and implement changes that align with employees’ needs and preferences. Also consider involving employees in the decision-making process when looking to make changes to foster a sense of ownership and empowerment.

Follow up and track progress. Following up with employees after stay interviews is crucial to communicate any actions taken based on their feedback and provide progress updates. To evaluate the long-term effectiveness of stay interview initiatives, retention metrics and employee satisfaction levels must be continuously tracked. Strategies should be adjusted as needed to ensure ongoing improvement.

Stay Interview Questions To Ask

What managers ask during a stay interview will differ depending on the organization and the employee, but here are a few sample questions that could be asked, sorted by category:

Questions About Motivations for Staying

  • What motivates you to work here?
  • What do you like most about your role?
  • What’s your favorite part of the workday?
  • What aspects of your job do you find most fulfilling?
  • Can you tell me about a good day at work you had recently?
  • If a close friend asked you why you work here, what would you tell them?
  • If you had to rate how happy you are with your job, what would you give it on a 10-point scale?

Questions About Motivations for Leaving

  • What demotivates you when working?
  • Are there any challenges or obstacles you’re currently facing in your role?
  • Can you describe a bad day you recently had at work?
  • What aspects of your day make your work life harder?
  • If you could choose, what aspect of your job would you change?
  • What are your thoughts in the morning on your way to work?
  • What do you like least about your job?
  • What would cause you to consider leaving the organization?

General Probing Questions

  • Do you feel appreciated?
  • If you could change any aspect of the organization or your job, what would it be?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • How do you prefer to receive recognition for hard work?
  • How can we better support your professional growth and development?

Addressing Feedback

After all stay interviews are complete, compile feedback and determine aspects to focus on. It’s important to take swift action, even if it’s just starting a longer process. Sitting on feedback too long can lead employees to feel like their voices were not heard, and they may not speak up in the future about how they are feeling. If your organization cannot implement changes for whatever reason, be sure to communicate that to employees. Do your best to offer alternative solutions so employees know their feedback was seriously considered.

Stay interviews are a way to show employees that you value their work and are committed to improving their work lives whenever possible. It’s important to reaffirm the purpose of the interviews so employees feel welcome to share their feedback, regardless of how negative it may be. Keep in mind that it’s better to hear tough feedback before an employee leaves than when they’re out the door.

Contact your Leavitt Group insurance advisor to learn more about workplace strategies that can help you retain valuable employees.

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