5 Common Mistakes When Conducting Stay Interviews

Today’s competitive job market has made retaining employees a tough task for many employers. Read on to see how you can maximize retention with stay interviews.

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5 Common Mistakes When Conducting Stay Interviews

Here's what you need to know:

  • Stay interviews are held with current employees to prevent them from leaving
  • Benefits of conducting stay interviews include addressing potential reasons for attrition, improving morale, and more
  • Common mistakes when conducting stay interviews include not being transparent about their purpose and leaving the interviews entirely to HR
  • Other mistakes include not asking the right questions, not acting on feedback from employees, and not following up with employees after the stay interview

When it comes to employee retention, many employers focus on reactive measures like raises and bonuses. However, these financial incentives are often insufficient to keep employees from looking for new opportunities.

A better strategy is proactively engaging with them and addressing any issues before they lead to attrition. One effective way to do this is through stay interviews.

Stay interviews are one-on-one conversations typically conducted by HR with individual employees or by a manager with their direct reports. A typical stay interview serves 2 primary purposes:

  • It allows a company to understand what keeps every employee motivated and engaged in their work, so it knows where to focus its retention efforts.
  • It helps bring to light any potential concerns that could lead to employees leaving the organization.

Contrary to popular belief, a stay interview is not a conversation in which you try to persuade a leaving employee to stay.

Instead, it is a meeting with a current high-potential employee during which you look for aspects that motivate them to report to work every day. You also learn what makes an outstanding employee leave and what you can do to keep them around for the long term.

The stay interview is a chance to talk about what is working, what is not, and what the company can do to improve the employee’s experience.

The stay interview is a chance to talk about what is working, what is not, and what the company can do to improve the employee’s experience.

Conducting stay interviews may seem like a lot of extra work for already busy managers, but the pros far outweigh the cons. Read on to understand the importance of stay interviews and how to avoid 5 common mistakes companies make when conducting them.

What are the benefits of a stay interview for employers?

When done correctly, stay interviews can help you identify and address issues effectively before they lead to attrition. They can also do wonders for employee morale and productivity.

Here are some of the top benefits of conducting stay interviews:

  • Addressing potential reasons for attrition: Stay interviews enable you to stay ahead of issues that may undermine the employee’s experience. That way, you can take steps to fix the problem before you lose top talent.
  • Improving morale: Employees who feel supported and valued will work harder and be more productive. With the company’s backing, employees will put forth their best effort to drive the business forward.
  • Building loyalty: Conducting stay interviews with your high-performing employees is an effective way to show you value their input and feedback. Therefore, they are more likely to trust and remain loyal to your company.
  • Assessing company culture: A stay interview can help you discern if your company values align with your employees’ expectations. As a result, you can develop a positive and dynamic culture that benefits your entire company.

What are the differences between stay interviews vs. exit interviews?

Stay interviews are often confused with exit interviews. While both types of interviews are necessary, their functions are different.

  • An exit interview is conducted after an employee has decided to leave. Its primary purpose is to understand their decision, so the company can improve its policies and procedures and potentially prevent others from quitting.
  • A stay interview is held with current employees to prevent them from leaving in the first place. It is an opportunity for companies to identify and address any issues that might make an employee want to quit.

A stay interview enables you to avoid mistakes, while an exit interview helps you to learn from them.

Common mistakes when conducting stay interviews

Although stay interviews can be incredibly beneficial, many businesses make avoidable mistakes that prevent them from getting maximum returns. Below are some of the most common mistakes companies make when performing stay interviews and how to avoid them.

1. Not being transparent about the purpose of the stay interview

Companies often try to downplay the reason for introducing stay interviews, which is to find out why an employee might leave. Instead, HR departments and managers kick-start the meetings with questions, making it seem more like an interrogation than a conversation.

Starting the conversation without clearly communicating your intentions will do more harm than good. Employees need to understand that the purpose of the meeting is to help the company keep them happy and engaged in their work. Only then will they feel free to share their thoughts and suggestions candidly.

2. Leaving the interviews entirely to HR

Many organizations leave the responsibility of conducting stay interviews to their human resources teams. However, while HR may have the expertise to handle these types of conversations, they are not always the best people to talk to employees about their experience with the company.

HR does not have as much first-hand knowledge of an employee’s day-to-day work life as their direct manager. As a result, they may not be as well-positioned to find out what employees think and feel about their jobs.

Research indicates that a lack of trust in their manager is the top reason high-performing employees quit. Therefore, managers must take an active role in conducting stay interviews with their direct reports.

3. Not asking the right questions of employees

The main objective of a stay interview is to extract employees’ thoughts about their job satisfaction and motivation and uncover any potential factors that might lead them to quit. Unfortunately, many businesses make the mistake of not asking the right questions to elicit this information.

Instead of open-ended questions encouraging employees to share their candid thoughts and feelings, businesses often ask leading or loaded questions that skew the results. For instance, asking an employee, “Are you happy with your salary?” is likely to produce a less than honest answer, as most people would feel uncomfortable saying they are unhappy with their pay.

Additionally, avoid asking questions that can have a straightforward yes or no answer. Instead, focus on understanding an employee’s underlying thoughts and feelings.

Some excellent questions to ask during a stay interview include:

  • What motivates you in your work?
  • What challenges or projects are you most passionate about right now?
  • Is there anything that frustrates you or gets in the way of you doing your best work?
  • What would make you want to leave this organization?

4. Not acting on feedback from employees

After conducting stay interviews and receiving feedback from employees, businesses must take action to address the issues raised. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. According to a study by AllVoices, 20% of all employee reports are ignored, while another 33% are only partially addressed.

In some organizations, managers collect employee feedback but do nothing with it. In other cases, they may share it with senior management but fail to follow through on promised changes. Either way, employees feel unheard and unappreciated, leading to disengagement and attrition.

To avoid this eventuality, complement your stay interview process with a solid plan for addressing the issues staff raise. That way, employees will see you are taking their feedback seriously and are committed to making improvements.

5. Not following up with employees 30 days after the stay interview

Some organizations conduct effective stay interviews, receive valuable feedback, and act on it, but forget to follow up with employees to see if the changes they made have the desired effect.

Others make adjustments but fail to communicate them to the relevant staff members. As a result, employees are left in the dark, feeling as though their feedback was ignored.

A stay interview is not complete without follow-up. So, conduct a brief check-in with each employee approximately 30 days after the stay interview to ensure the changes are working well and get additional feedback.

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Stay interviews are a must-do in a competitive job market

Shifting priorities among employees, tough economic times, and increased demand for certain skills have made it incredibly challenging to keep good employees on board. Now more than ever, organizations must take a proactive approach to employee retention.

Stay interviews are among the most effective tools for reducing attrition because they uncover the factors that could make employees want to leave so that you can address them as soon as possible. However, making the most out of the process requires a proper approach that accounts for the avoidable mistakes we have discussed.

By conducting stay interviews properly and following through on feedback, you can create a more engaged, productive workforce and improve your organization’s chances of retaining talent in the long run.

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