Many companies conduct exit interviews, but fewer have a practice of holding regular stay interviews. Stay interviews are also known as “pre-exit interviews” as they help an employer understand why employees stay, so any threats to their long-term tenure with the organization can be effectively resolved.
Stay interviews are done with A-level workers whose departure would have the greatest negative impact on business performance. If your sense is that such a top performer may in the next 12 months look elsewhere for employment, then that individual should be on your stay interview list.
A Key Engagement Tool
If you conduct enough stay interviews, you will likely see patterns emerge which define why employees want to stay at your company – or consider leaving. While engagement surveys are an excellent tactic for garnering average information about average employees, stay interviews are critical for pinpointing the unique needs of high performers.
Stay interviews can be invaluable business drivers.
- They stimulate employees. Those who participate typically are excited by the fact that their company is concerned with their needs and their future and took the time to consult with them about key issues.
- They are limited to key employees. Stay interviews are conducted with only a select number of individuals, so you focus managers’ efforts and help make the best use of the time they devote to retention.
- They are action based. In addition to identifying problems, stay interviews encourage corrective actions that improve the employee experience and eliminate turnover triggers.
- They lower emotions. Discussion occurs before an employee has made a decision to consider leaving. Therefore, the emotion level of both employee and manager is lower.
- They lower time pressure on managers. Because an employee is not actively interviewing elsewhere, there is less time pressure on managers to immediately solve retention issues identified during a stay interview.
- They are inexpensive. In most cases, the only budget requirement is an hour of a manager’s and employee’s time.
Cons and Cautions
Stay interviews are relatively easy to strategize and implement, but keep this considerations in mind:
- You must do them regularly. Conducting stay interviews on an annual basis is a good rule of thumb. The exception is new hires, who should be interviewed more frequently, perhaps every four to eight weeks as they complete their onboarding process.
- You may encounter resistance. Especially if an employee has never participated in a stay interview, they may feel you’re questioning their loyalty or commitment. They may not be used to talking openly about their motivators and sources of job-related frustration. Perhaps they haven’t had enough time to prepare or – in the stickiest of scenarios – the manager doing the interview may be the primary source of their issues.
- Identified issues may be irresolvable. In these cases, a stay interview may prompt a resignation. The employee’s departure may have been inevitable in any case, but all of a sudden, it’s happening today.
Let’s Talk Trust
If your data reveals that trust is a major issue in your organization, stay interviews can be meaningless, yielding unreliable information that if acted upon, could prove detrimental to your business. In this case, trust-building initiatives and training should take place first.
On a positive note, this “trust con” can also be a “trust pro.” If your company has moderate trust issues, then rolling out stay interviews can go a long way towards establishing and building trust.
Stay interviews can be a powerful combination of customer relationship management and market research. By utilizing them, HR becomes more of a data-driven and results-oriented function.