Engaging and retaining your employees: What is a stay interview, and why should I be doing them?

Stay Interviews
Stay Interviews

I am sure that you have heard of exit interviews. Someone puts in their two weeks’ notice and as a part of the offboarding process, HR will meet with them to understand why the person is leaving the organization. Questions are asked, such as:

  • How did you rate management?
  • What did you think of the benefits?
  • Were there growth opportunities?
  • What could we have done differently?

Stay interviews are when you have these conversations BEFORE someone leaves. You find out what your employees value about the workplace, so that you can do more of it. It is like a wellness checkup at the doctor - reinforce good habits so that you don’t end up in a crisis.

This is the approach that I have taken with my firm. Instead of conducting performance reviews, each manager takes their team member out to lunch twice a year for a “Celebrate Success” meeting. This structured opportunity helps the supervisor to review how a team member has demonstrated our core values, made noteworthy contributions, helped our clients, etc. As part of the process, each employee speaks to key questions including:

  1. What should I (as your manager) keep, start, and stop doing to best support you? 
  2. What type of development opportunities can we provide to you? (Is there another area that you would like to explore?) 
  3. If you could change something about your job, what would that be? Additional tools, infrastructure, other?  
  4. What do you like working on the most, and why?  
  5. What are 1-2 professional goals for the next six months?
  6. Were you able to hit your goals? What could you/we have done differently?

The benefits of this approach are many and include:

Addressing little issues before they become big issues. Sometimes it can be difficult or awkward for employees to give their managers constructive feedback. Instead of raising an issue that could be easy to solve, it festers to the point of the employee updating their profile on LinkedIn and starting to look for another job elsewhere.

Ensuring that time for recognition and development is built into the calendar. Being a manager is hard. There are lots of demands on your time and it can be easy to forget to reward and recognize the members of your team. And, some managers don’t even realize that this is a key part of being a manager.

Providing ample opportunities for positive reinforcement. Ensuring that your employees get feedback so that they can successfully do what the organization needs them to do is key - even if you don’t have annual performance reviews. And, addressing performance problems is still a key part of the process. However, the other side of the coin is showcasing the GOOD things that an employee is doing, encouraging them to keep doing that particular thing, and encouraging them to show that attribute in additional ways.

Reinforcing the values/behaviors that are important. If you have core values, this is a time when you can formally include reminders of these key elements that help drive your culture. In my company, our “Celebrate Success” form includes a chart of the core values where the employee and manager can record examples from the past six months that highlight the demonstration of these core values (aka our “superpowers”).

Identifying areas of cross-training for the organization. Knowing about areas of interest that employees have is a key component to building out your organizational capacity. I am a huge fan of cross-training. Having many people that can do key tasks helps provide coverage for vacations and absences, and is a key development opportunity that also can feed into your succession planning strategies.

Stay interviews are part of a trend to move away from traditional performance reviews. Going in this direction may or may not make sense, but adding them into your toolbox is a great way to go.

Want to dive deeper?

Here are some free resources we can provide for you:

  • Stay Interview Form
  • Employee Engagement whitepaper

Want to take your employee engagement and retention plan to the next level?

Here are some ways that we can help:

  • HR one-hour “Quick chat” to talk about your employee retention situations
  • Retention workshop for managers on April 27, 2023 
  • Employee retention strategy designed for your culture and organization

Let us know how we can help! Schedule an appointment with our HR expert, or call us at (734) 747-2936 to determine if this is the right fit for you.

Next month I’ll be musing about employee onboarding and offboarding. Do you have a question that I can answer - send it to me at Amy@AmyCellTalent.com.

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About The Author: Amy Cell

Amy Cell is a renowned and passionate pioneer in HR and Talent initiatives. She also leads an innovative consulting firm that specializes in recruiting and HR services for startups, small businesses, and municipalities.

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