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08.06.2022 Company culture

How to conduct a stay interview to improve retention (with questions)

How to conduct a stay interview to improve retention (with questions)

Great employees aren’t always easy to retain. But in today’s war for talent, it’s more important than ever to create a workplace where they want to stay. Making stay interviews part of your management process can help you figure out how to build this business environment.

Companies and their hiring managers are struggling to attract great talent, with unemployment rates in the European Union reaching a record low of 7%. As the Financial Times reports, this unprecedented labour shortage is a main factor in limiting business output today.

Combine this with the still-visible effects of what was dubbed the Great Resignation, and you are left scrambling to not just attract, but retain top talent as well. So although employee retention should always be high on your agenda, now is the time to take it up a notch. And that’s where a pre-emptive measure like a stay interview comes in.

Stay interviews can help you identify factors that might drive your employees away, before it’s too late. Find out below what a stay interview is and looks like, how to conduct one, and what stay interview questions to ask!

What is a stay interview?

A stay interview is an interview that a manager conducts with their employees to find out why they stay (or might consider leaving) the organisation.

Stay interviews can help you learn more about what your employees think of you and your company. It tells you what you’re doing well as an employer, but also what areas you might need to improve in.

These could be obvious points—like “stop micromanaging”—but it might also uncover that an employee benefit you offer is actually not something your employees want.

You might assume that offering free takeaway every Friday is great, but perhaps you’re actually wasting money because your employees aren’t interested in a benefit like that. Similarly, it might turn out that a seemingly small benefit is actually highly appreciated by your employees.

By learning from the feedback you receive—and making internal changes if needed—you can maintain and create a great working environment for your employees and facilitate a strong feedback culture. Ultimately, the goal is to improve your employee retention rate, which is why a stay interview is sometimes called a retention interview.

Note that stay interviews are not the same as exit interviews. The latter are conducted with employees who have already resigned and are focused on asking why a person decided to leave the company.

What is the purpose of stay interviews?

Stay interviews serve multiple purposes and can be a great tool for improving your business as a place to work. These are the main benefits of holding stay interviews with your employees:

  • Receive feedback from employees to identify potential problems—from time-wasters to issues in your work culture—as well as things you’re already doing but could do even more, like giving public praise for jobs well done.
  • Show you care about what your employees have to say. By holding stay interviews, you show that you value their opinion and well-being.
  • Increase employee engagement and satisfaction as your employees will be able to more actively take part in shaping your company culture.
  • Improve employee retention because you can detect and solve issues that might lead employees to resign before it’s too late.

Stay interview process: How to conduct a stay interview

The stay interview process can take on various forms. How you structure this process will depend on your organisation, team, time, and resources.

Some organisations hold them every six months with all their employees. Others might prefer once a year and just with a selected number of (high-performing) team members. So the final process will depend on your preference. But here are some pointers to bear in mind:

  • Prepare your questions and make sure you ask the right ones. You can find a list of example stay interview questions below.
  • Decide on the interviewer(s). This is often the employee’s line manager, although sometimes someone from the HR department might conduct a stay interview.
  • Decide on the interviewee(s). In the beginning, you might want to focus on just asking a few long-term or high-performing employees, rather than interviewing all employees straight away.
  • Structure the stay interview by creating a template that you can easily reuse and share with all the managers who will be conducting stay interviews. Ideally, you will use the same questions for each interview, so you can best compare answers and feedback.
  • Pick a time and place for the interview. Typically, stay interviews only take about 30 minutes, and they tend to be quite informal. In some cases, a manager might even decide to simply go for a walk outside or grab a coffee somewhere. When done in the office, be sure to book a meeting room (rather than sitting in the office kitchen) as you want your employee to be able to speak freely.
  • Take note of the input your employee provides and, at the end of the interview, summarise the key topics and action points moving forward.
  • Use the feedback you receive by taking action. Listening to what your employees have to say is one thing, but if you don’t do anything with their feedback, they won’t take these stay interviews seriously in the future. Instead, make necessary changes and clearly communicate how you are actioning their feedback.

Examples of stay interview questions

The better the questions you ask, the more valuable information you will receive from your employees.

Here are examples of stay interview questions that you can use during your interviews:

  • What do you like most (or least) about working at our company?
  • Why do you choose to stay at our company?
  • What part of your job do you enjoy most?
  • What part of your job do you look forward to most when you come to work every day?
  • Which part of your job do you the least look forward to every day?
  • What motivates or demotivates you?
  • Would you recommend our company to people in your network? Why or why not?
  • How could another company tempt you to leave our company?
  • What do you think of our company culture?
  • How do you think we are collaborating as a team?
  • Do you feel recognised and valued in our company?
  • As your manager, what can I do to better support you?
  • As your manager, is there anything I should do more or less?
  • What talents are not being used in your current role in our company?

When conducting the stay interview, try to always ask open questions. Or, when it’s a closed question, try to ask the employee to elaborate on their answer. Also, be sure to pay attention to your body language and that you are open to any feedback they provide, both positive and negative.

For more information about how to be open to feedback, have a look at our dedicated article on how to receive feedback.

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