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HR managers conducting stay interviews with high-performing employees.

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Stay Interviews: What Are They, and What Are Best Practices for Using Them?

Mehreen Khan

What Are Stay Interviews?

Stay interviews are a method used by companies to gain valuable insight from employees at different stages of their employment journey. The intent behind them is to enhance the overall employee experience by providing insights for organizational development and improvement.

Stay interviews are conversations conducted with current employees to understand why they choose to stay, as well as why they may be dissatisfied with any aspect of their work or workplace. As a preventive measure, these interviews are held before an intent to leave arises. Stay interviews focus on understanding what aspects of the job and work environment contribute to employee satisfaction, identifying areas for improvement, and taking proactive steps to retain valued employees.

They are a proactive approach to retaining talent, as they identify and help address concerns before they escalate.

In contrast, exit interviews gather valuable feedback from departing employees to help enhance an organization’s future retention strategies.

Challenges of Today’s Labor Shortage

In today’s competitive hiring market, amid a persistent U.S. and global labor shortage, organizations in 2023 more than ever are seeking out strategies to attract and retain top talent. If companies fail at keeping their people engaged and happy, employees will not only be less productive but will likely look for opportunities elsewhere, costing valuable time and money. Such talent acquisition and management challenges are highlighted in a 2022 article in Forbes, citing a Gallup estimation that replacing a single employee can cost up to two times the employee’s annual salary. The article further notes that the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)’s benchmark for filling open positions was 36 days in 2017, “and in light of the Great Resignation, the current number is likely much higher.”

In this article, we will explore the benefits of conducting stay interviews, and why companies should prioritize them to support their employee retention efforts and reduce turnover.

Benefits of Stay Interviews

  • Proactive retention: Stay interviews allow organizations to identify and address concerns and potential reasons for employee dissatisfaction before they escalate to the point of the person considering leaving the company. Thus they increase the chances of retaining valuable talent.
  • Increased employee engagement: By conducting stay interviews, organizations demonstrate their commitment to employee development, growth, and satisfaction, which can lead to increased engagement and motivation among workers.
  • Employee and team development: Stay interviews can provide insight into the career and development aspirations of employees, creating a better environment for managers and their teams to discuss developmental goals.
  • Tailored retention strategies: Insights gained from stay interviews can help managers and their employees develop a personalized retention strategy for that employee, addressing their unique needs and aspirations, or for a specific team.
  • Building trust and open communication: Stay interviews provide a platform for open and honest dialogue between employees and management, fostering trust, transparency, and a sense of being valued within the organization.
  • Continuous improvement: Stay interviews offer valuable feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, enabling management to make proactive changes to enhance overall work environment and the experience of employees.

Challenges of Stay Interviews

  • Time and resource-intensive: Conducting stay interviews requires significant time and effort from both employees and management, particularly in organizations with a large workforce or high employee turnover.
  • Limited effectiveness for imminent departures: Stay interviews may not be effective for employees who have already made up their minds to leave the organization soon, as at that point their intentions may be difficult to change or influence significantly.
  • Potential for superficial responses: Some employees may provide superficial or guarded responses during stay interviews to avoid expressing their true concerns or intentions, due to fear of repercussions or negative consequences.
  • Skill and training requirements: Conducting effective stay interviews requires skilled interviewers who can create a safe and open environment for employees to share their thoughts and feelings. Without proper training of the HR representative or manager who speaks with the employee, the quality of the interviews may be compromised.
  • Individual bias and subjectivity: Stay interviews rely on individual perceptions and interpretations, which can introduce bias and subjectivity into the feedback gathered. It’s important to analyze and interpret the data collected from stay interviews critically.

Leverage Stay Interviews to Keep Your Key Employees (and Keep Them Happy)

Despite these drawbacks and cautions, stay interviews are a powerful tool for organizations to proactively identify and address concerns, strengthen employee engagement, and improve retention rates. When implemented effectively, they contribute to a positive work culture and higher employee satisfaction.

An article by SHRM mentions the benefits experienced by a Senior Director of Enterprise Talent Strategy at Paylocity, Kate Grimaldi, after conducting stay interviews:

Grimaldi said stay interviews have vastly improved employee engagement because they show the company is taking an active interest in making the employee work experience better. “Formal sit-downs can come off as rigid and detached. We are trying to create moments for employees to voice their feelings to managers, helping them feel valued within the organization,“ Grimaldi said

Takeaways and Tips

Stay interviews can help identify and address concerns before they escalate. Following are tips for success:

  • Effectively prioritize stay interviews by establishing a comprehensive employee feedback strategy, which includes multiple touchpoints throughout the employee lifecycle.
  • Combine stay interviews with regular pulse surveys, performance evaluations, and other feedback mechanisms to provide a holistic understanding of the employee experience and allow for proactive interventions at various stages.
  • Companies should also invest in training managers and HR to conduct effective stay interviews, to create a safe and supportive environment for employees to share their thoughts and concerns openly. Clear guidelines, confidentiality assurances, and active listening can help you gain valuable insights from employees.
  • See Forbes’ helpful list of example questions for a stay interview.

Organizations should prioritize stay interviews as a proactive retention strategy. This simple step can demonstrate a commitment to employee engagement and potentially lead to a positive work environment, increased retention rates, and ultimately, the long-term success of the organization.

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Looking for HR or People leadership to help up-level your workplace strategies, and enable excellent high retention? At Frederickson Partners we have a 28-year history in helping organizations recruit top leadership.

Contact us to learn how we can help you identify your requirements and hire to win.

 Mehreen Khan, Marketing and Communications Specialist, Frederickson Partners

Mehreen Khan , Senior Marketing Communications Specialist at Frederickson Partners, a Gallagher company, has past HR experience as a Workplace Practices Specialist. Mehreen is currently pursuing her Masters in Industrial Relations and HR at the University of Toronto, where she also earned a B.A. with Honors in English. She holds an advanced diploma in Journalism and two graduate certificates in HR management. (See Mehreen's LinkedIn)

Read Mehreen Khan’s Full Biography.

Frederickson Partners, a Gallagher company is a market leader in retained executive search since 1995. As one of the top-rated HR executive search and C-suite recruiting firms, we have expertise in placing Chief People Officers, Chief Human Resources Officers, Chief Diversity Officers, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Legal Officers and many other senior leaders. We draw on a broad network of rising and established executives and leaders, and a 28-year reputation as a talent acquisition and HR Advisory provider.

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