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Engage and Retain Top Talent with Stay Interviews

You’ve probably heard the business adage, “People don’t leave their companies. They leave their managers.” In his book It’s Your Ship, U.S. Navy Captain Michael D. Abrashoff notes that the underlying factors behind 80 percent of his sailors leaving as soon as their assignments were up supported this premise.

How can you stop your company from losing top talent before it’s too late? The answer can often lie in holding regularly scheduled stay interviews. As the name implies, they’re the counterbalance to exit interviews – conducted with the intent of correcting any potential issues and keeping your superstars on board your ship.

What a Stay Interview Should Look Like

A stay interview is a structured discussion during which a manager learns from an employee the specific actions that must be taken to strengthen that individual’s engagement and retention with your organization. It’s a good idea to hold these sessions twice during an employee’s first year on the job and once annually thereafter.

Maximize the effectiveness of stay interviews by:

  • Plan ahead. Stay interviews should last 20 to 30 minutes and take place at an optimal time of day for both the individual and their manager.
  • Provide ample notice of stay interviews. Let employees know the purpose of the meeting (note: a stay interview should not be combined with a performance appraisal), but don’t send interview questions ahead of time. The goal is for the meeting to be conversational; not prescribed responses.
  • Actively listening during the interview. The intent is to understand how the employee is feeling, not jump to a response. The manager should ask open-ended questions and take additional time to process information as needed.
  • Follow up afterward. Think about the feedback gleaned from a stay interview and assess what it all means. Then, act upon it accordingly. Schedule a follow-up meeting with the employee, to develop a “stay plan” (if needed) and regularly communicate progress made.

Sample Questions

Here are a few questions to consider as you plan for a stay interview:

  • “What gets you most excited to come to work each day?” As an employee describes what they most like about their job, listen for skills you can tap into and opportunities to utilize their unique strengths. Find opportunities for adjustments to their job that might better engage them.
  • “Do you feel you’re learning new things here?” Does the employee feel they’re growing, stretching, and being used to their full potential? This opens a dialogue on their career development and the skills needed for their next opportunity.
  • “What keeps you here?” Dig below the surface to understand a person’s motivators and drivers. You want to learn that their job means more to them than just a paycheck.
  • “Describe a recent frustrating day at work or a time when you considered leaving.” This helps uncover those pain points or areas of discontent that you need to be aware of to be a true leader and make things better. It’s better to find out what may cause an employee to leave before they actually give notice!

For additional guidance in conducting stay interviews and other techniques to better attract and retain the best talent on the market, contact the HR Works team today. We look forward to customizing a solution that will deliver the results you need and deserve.

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.