Why You Should Conduct Stay Interviews to Retain Top Talent

Is keeping current employees a priority for your business? If so, conducting stay interviews can help you achieve your retention goals.

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Stay interviews are a new instrument HR and management professionals are using to retain talent. The opposite of an exit interview, the stay interview talks to current employees to discuss why they’re happy at their job and why they might not be. Stay interviews can uncover issues that can be corrected before an employee decides to jump ship — saving business the cost of recruiting and training a new hire.

These interviews are an important tool to retain talent, but they go further. They express to employees you’re interested in their perspective on the job and the company, and willing to make adjustments if necessary to keep them and keep them happy. That level of interest can go a long way to boost morale and engagement. In the short term, stay interviews reduce churn. In the long term, they underscore the value you place on workers.

Why stay interviews are critical

Experts predicted a “great resignation” as the pandemic wanes. Talent that enjoyed the flexibility of working from anywhere may be hesitant to return on-site for their physical wellbeing. Some found a better work/life balance from their home office. Whatever the reasons, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in September that resignations jumped to nearly 1 million in June of 2021.

A recent survey found more than half of working Americans will be looking for a new job in the next 12 months. Bankrate’s August 2021 Job Seeker Survey found 55% are likely to do so. Another 28% said they’re not actively looking for a job, but still expect to move companies in the next year. The survey found 56% of workers are looking for flex work arrangements in their next role.

A challenging market, where business has had difficulty hiring, has raised wages — additionally enticing workers to make a career move. The same survey found higher pay is the driving force behind 53% of workers looking for a new job: 47% are looking for more job security. These and other factors have made retention of current employees a priority for business. The stay interview can help achieve retention goals.

The breakdown 

Intent to resign crosses all age groups. Bankrate found 45% of Gen X; 77% of Gen Z; 63% of millennials; and 33% of Boomers plan a move in the coming year. By income level, 72% of those who earn under $30,000 are looking to move on — along with 44% of those who make more than $80,000 per year. Additionally, almost 70% of workers in minority groups and 44% of white employees plan a job hunt in the next 12 months. The data suggests almost no demographic in your company will be exempt.

Who to stay interview

The more difficult they will be to replace or train to get up to top performance levels, the higher they should be on your stay interview list.

With these numbers, you may consider everyone in your organization is at risk for flight in the coming year. As you plan stay interviews, start with your top performers: the employees whose absence will impact your company most. Then look at the staff members who will be most difficult to replace. These may be the most entry-level of workers in some organizations; in others it may be tech or specialized talent. The more difficult they will be to replace or train to get up to top performance levels, the higher they should be on your stay interview list.

Who should perform stay interviews?

Managers are best suited to perform the stay interview since they have a deeper knowledge of the challenges employees face on a daily basis, and potentially more power to make necessary changes. The interviews should be held privately, of course, but with an approved script of questions to ask. When possible, the manager should make adjustments that will help retain the employee. When necessary, they should go to HR or business owners to affect changes outside their scope.

Ask managers to invest a half hour to meet with every member of their team. They may find, across all workers, a consensus among staff members of problem areas, like hours, shifts, or wages, that are contributing to churn. With more data, they’ll be better able to make their case to management for change.

What questions should be asked? 

Structured interviews, with pre-determined questions, can help any manager conduct stay interview that remain on topic. The goal is to find and enhance areas of satisfaction and uncover and resolve areas where there are issues. Some standard questions can get the conversation started and guide the manager to find as much information as possible.

Remember employees may be hesitant at first to discuss the things they don’t like about their job or the company. Start the meeting with a retention attitude. Let the employee know you’re conducting a “stay interview,” hoping to uncover what’s making them happy at the company, and what can be changed, if needed.

Let the employee know you’re conducting a “stay interview,” hoping to uncover what’s making them happy at the company, and what can be changed, if needed.

Some sample questions include:

  • Are you happy here? In your role and with the company?
  • What’s the best and worst part of your job?
  • Do you see yourself here for the next few years? Why?
  • How can we help you achieve your career goals?
  • How can I help you find more satisfaction in your job?
  • Have you considered leaving? Why?
  • What would you change if you could?
  • What can the company do to make you feel more valued?
  • Will you talk to me, in future, if you’re considering making a move before you make a final decision?

Organizations may create questions more pertinent to their workplace or even to their team members. Front-line managers may have more issues with shift scheduling than back of the house. Office managers may see reluctance to return to on-site work. While team questions can be tailored to address specific need, they still should be predetermined to assure everyone in each category is being asked the same questions and all the relevant topics are discussed. Have managers work with their HR team to develop a script.

After the stay interview

The next step will be acting on the information received. Giving an employee a chance to vent is great: ignoring what they said is demoralizing. If staff members have provided honest, legitimate concerns that are actionable, take steps to correct them immediately. If they’re asking for something outside the power of the supervisor to grant, let the employee know you’ll be discussing issues with management to try to resolve them.

For managers conducting multiple stay interviews, let each staffer know your plan is two-fold. You’ll try to resolve any individual issues with them that you uncover. Next, you’ll be looking for issues that concern everyone on the team (like wages) to discuss with HR and management before changes can potentially be made. Work quickly to schedule stay interviews so you can resolve individual and team problems before employees jump ship.

As unemployment benefits finally run out we may see head counts return to normal. That can ease the burden on companies and on employees who struggle to do more with less. Long past staffing recovery and the great resignation, consider keeping stay interviews as part of your management team’s responsibilities. They can go a long way to retain and to remind talent how valued they are in your organization.

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