How to conduct effective stay interviews

Stay interview could have impact on minimizing employee turnover

How to conduct effective stay interviews

Amid the “great resignation” of 2021, more organizations are looking into conducting stay interviews to prevent employees from leaving. But because they were never given as much importance as exit interviews, stay interviews remain a mystery to many employers.

So what is the stay interview, and does it really have an effect on minimizing employee turnover rates?

Read more: What are the most popular interview questions?

What is a stay interview?

As its name implies, a stay interview is an informal one-on-one discussion between a manager and employee to find ways to keep the employee in the organization.

During this discussion, managers aim to understand what changes would make an employee stay and what’s driving them to leave. Companies can then use the information to address problems in their workplace.

While similar, the stay interview differs from an exit interview because the aim is to motivate an employee to stay and create a workplace where they can see themselves in the long run.

Advantages of stay interview

The most obvious and significant benefit of a stay interview is its role in lowering an organization’s employee turnover rate.

According to a Mercer study, Canadian companies have an average employee turnover rate of 21 per cent -- and the recently released 2021 Hays salary guide found that the most common reasons for Canadian employees wanting to quit are due to unmatched compensation expectations, lack of career growth opportunities, and insufficient benefits being offered. A stay interview allows companies to identify these reasons early and address them appropriately.

Conducting stay interviews can also uncover new and innovative learning and development opportunities for both the company and employees. For example, poor communication among teams is something managers can address with the help of the learning and development department. Offering training seminars to the team members will improve their communication skills which can benefit them in their future roles and professional development – leading to better output with their co-workers, which helps the company and clients as well. 

Additionally, stay interviews can help increase employee engagement and trust in the workplace. Checking in with current employees about their current state is a great way to get information and to build open communication between managers and employees. When employees feel the genuine concern of their employers, they feel appreciated and are more likely to share honest opinions.

Therefore, it is crucial for the manager to make the employee comfortable during the stay interview and invite as much critical feedback as possible. Since it is in the form of an informal discussion, employees would likely feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts through a stay interview compared to a formal interview or survey.

Things to ask in stay interview

Asking the right questions that lead to companies gaining insight on their performance and how employees view the company is crucial for a practical stay interview. There is no fixed flow of questions to follow. Managers and HR leaders should be prepared to create a good flow of questions during the interview and be comfortable enough to ask meaningful follow-up questions to understand the thoughts of the employee on certain issues.

The goal of stay interview questions is to find out what companies need to do to keep good employees from leaving. For example, an employee may state they would most likely quit due to the company’s poor work environment. Managers can then use that feedback to find out further what employees would like to see and discuss steps that would help, such as scheduling weekly meetings to improve work relations and the environment.

Listed below are some sample questions managers and HR leaders may use to start a discussion:

  • Do you think your talents, interests, and skills are being fully utilized?
  • If you could change one thing about your position, team, or how this department functions, what would it be?
  • What tasks are the most interesting to you?
  • What keeps you working here?
  • Has your perception of the company changed since you interviewed for the job?
  • What would you say are our priorities as an organization?
  • What motivates you at work? What demotivates you?
  • What do you think is the main reason people choose to leave our organization?
  • What kind of flexibility would you want us to offer you?
  • What do you want to learn this year?
  • Is there anything else you’d like to bring up?

Tips for conducting a successful stay interview

Even if stay interviews are conducted in an informal style, it is best to still prepare for it like any other tight interview. Below are a few tips to achieve an effective stay interview:

  1. Schedule the interview in advance

Scheduling the interview in advance lets the employee know they are important enough for managers to reach out and chat with them at an allotted time. It also gives both the managers and the employee time to prepare their thoughts.

The interview is structured to be informal yet focused and straightforward – allotting about 30 minutes to one hour is long enough to get the information managers need.

  1. Share the questions in advance

Managers can inform the employee of the purpose of the meeting in advance to allow them to prepare. Sharing the questions is also helpful as the employee can reflect on their answers, making the interview go by faster and giving more time for managers to ask follow-up questions and discuss other matters relating to the topic.

  1. Hold the meeting in a comfortable space

The meeting venue plays a role in creating a comfortable space for employees to share their thoughts. Hold the meeting where no one can disrupt or overhear the interview. Managers should choose an area free from loud distractions and promotes collaboration like the manager’s office or a conference room. If the stay interview is held virtually, managers should ensure the online meeting room is accessible to both parties and that all other equipment such as headsets and microphones are working fine.

When employees are comfortable, they are more likely to express their true feelings about the company and their work experience.

  1. Keep an open mind

Managers need to stay professional and keep an open mind when dealing with positive or negative feedback. It is important not to get defensive and hostile when the employee shares their opinions and thoughts. When a manager becomes defensive, it makes the employee feel they did something wrong and uncomfortable sharing any more feedback.

Managers need to create a judgment-free space in order to explore the employee’s underlying interests and dislikes that lead to their specific requests and preferences.

Read more: The debate between structured and ‘conversational’ interviews

  1. Schedule for followup interviews

Improvement and development do not stop once the stay interview is done. Companies will need to gather all the information and data collected from employees and see what steps can be taken to improve employees' experiences. Once an action has been implemented, companies will need to monitor its effects on employees and the workspace.

Conducting more than one stay interview per year helps to check up on how the employee is adjusting to the new changes and whether there are new issues to address. Another way to gather new feedback is for managers to regularly ask some of the stay interview questions during normal conversations with employees.

The information collected during stay interviews can be powerful when applied properly in the workplace. When employees see positive changes being implemented, it boosts their morale and productivity, making them satisfied with their job and not looking for other opportunities elsewhere.

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