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How to Use an Employee Stay Interview for Retention

By now, we’ve all heard about the Great Resignation. In fact, some may say it’s old news with trends like quiet quitting and other workplace trends. But did you know that employee churn costs U.S. businesses about $1 trillion annually?

If churn is costing you, it may be time to implement employee stay interviews. These interviews–also called stay discussions–are designed to help managers combat plummeting employee satisfaction levels by regularly meeting with team members to find out what’s not working and what could be improved before they leave.

An employee stay interview may not always prevent churn, but it’s an effective tool for understanding why churn happens and can help you increase employee engagement and satisfaction. Knowing why people are unhappy allows you to change work practices and retain other valuable workers.

Keep reading to learn more about this valuable retention tool and how to conduct this conversation correctly.

What is an employee stay interview?

At their core, stay discussions are a tactic to improve worker satisfaction levels by highlighting weak spots in your workplace culture before your top talent churns. Some companies may ask these questions during exit interviews, but there’s no need to wait to learn more about employee satisfaction.

Understanding why employees decide to leave your company helps your bottom line. According to LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning report, 79 percent of L&D pros believe hiring new employees is more expensive than training new ones.

Regular stay interviews can help you evaluate your company culture and reduce the costs associated with employee turnover.

What are the goals of employee stay interviews?

These interviews aim to determine whether team members are satisfied, understand the employee experience, and adjust policies based on employee feedback.

Managers and employees have different roles to play:

  • Managers should focus on areas of impact on the organization, such as talent development, internal mobility, employee satisfaction, etc.
  • Employees should focus on areas of impact for the people side of your organization, such as pay raises, skill development, mentoring opportunities, etc.

Generally, the idea is for your employees to give constructive feedback about their roles and the parts of the organization they would like to see improved. In the long run, this helps managers identify high-achieving employees and lends itself to internal mobility opportunities.

Stay interviews are useful since 54 percent of L&D pros agree that internal mobility is a higher priority since COVID-19. Plus, companies prioritizing internal mobility see nearly 2x higher retention rates than average. 

The average employee retention span is around 2.9 years. That number skyrockets to 5.4 years when you look at companies focusing on internal mobility and continuous learning opportunities.

Beyond stopping churn in its tracks, an employee stay interview helps keep your workers happy because they feel heard. Keeping a happy employee is easier, and lower turnover helps your organization save money.

When should you do a stay interview?

Think about stay interviews as an evergreen or always-on-program. These discussions should occur regularly to allow employees to speak with their managers. This helps build relationships between workers and managers, which helps build trust.

Managers should build these meetings into their workflow and schedule the conversations during a time that works well for both themselves and their workers.

These discussions are important for all employees, but consider doing the extra work to pinpoint team members at a high risk of churn. Even your happiest workers have some aspect of their role that could be improved, but be on the lookout for employees who seem dissatisfied; these are the people who are the most likely to jump ship.

The most important thing to remember is that these discussions should be iterative; they aren’t one-and-done conversations. When the discussion is ongoing, all parties involved get the chance to follow up on focus areas and action items.

How often should you conduct stay interviews?

Consider monthly or quarterly check-ins to make sure your employees feel heard. This could look as simple as dedicating 15 minutes of a regularly scheduled one-on-one meeting to assess employee satisfaction.

Employee stay interview best practices

If you set up recurring one-on-one meetings, it’s easier to work the stay interview into the regular flow of conversation, and it doesn’t have to be formal to be effective. Keep the discussion focused on the most significant areas of improvement.

Just remember, these kinds of conversations can be nerve-wracking for employees. No one wants to face retaliation for speaking out about workplace policies. Stay action-oriented and reassure team members that they can speak freely so that you can get to a constructive outcome. And then stay true to your word.

Identify skills that are being underutilized or discover if there are areas of a person’s role that aren’t clearly defined. This is particularly important since employees who don’t feel their skills are put to good use are 10x more likely to leave. This feedback can also help to create courses that are most relevant to your employees. 

Also, please make time to ask employees about their career goals. Not only does this help your managers build career paths for high-achieving workers, but it helps to ensure that your workforce is a good fit for their roles. 

What questions should you ask in a stay interview?

It’s a good idea to let your employee guide the direction of the interview. This can cultivate a sense of trust between manager and employee.

Richard Finnegan, author of “The Stay Interview: A Manager’s Guide to Keeping the Best and Brightest,” recommends starting with one question to kick off every stay interview: “What do you look forward to when you come to work?” From there, you can personalize your questions to your company’s needs. 

Here are some stay interview questions you can include:

  • What’s an aspect of your job that you love?
  • What’s an aspect of your job that you dread?
  • Have you ever considered leaving the company? Why?
  • Do you have any skills you’d like to use in your role?
  • Do you feel like your responsibilities and duties are well-defined?
  • Do you feel like you have a good work-life balance?
  • Do you feel like your feedback is well-received by leadership?
  • Would you ever recommend our company to a friend?
  • What can I do to support you?

Download our free employee stay interview guide

A stay interview is a tool to better understand your employees’ needs. So, keep it simple, and focus on creating an optimal work environment based on your team’s feedback.

Not sure how to get started? In our free, downloadable employee stay interview guide, we walk you through each step and provide a detailed questionnaire employees can fill out, or you can use it to guide your conversations.

Learn how to use this valuable tool to boost employee engagement and retention. Click here to download your free copy: Use This Guide to Stop Employee Turnover in Its Tracks.


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