What is a Stay Interview and Why Should You Conduct One?

Employee conducting a stay interview with employee Adobe

A stay interview is neither a job interview nor an exit interview; it sits somewhere in between. It is designed to help you engage with your team members before they become dissatisfied and acts as one of the many tools you can use to improve retention – especially if you want to hold on to your all-star employees.

To help illustrate this concept, we've compiled a brief guide into what exactly this process entails, as well as listed some of the key benefits for your company.

What is a Stay Interview?

The concept of stay interviews has been around for some 20 years, but surprisingly, they are not widely practised. Indeed, a study by outplacement firm Challenger, Grey & Christmas found that only 27% of US companies conduct stay interviews, with only a further 24% interested in incorporating them. 

This is unfortunate because they offer a crucial opportunity to get into the minds of your employees and develop a positive working experience. In this sense, a stay interview is all about checking in with your employees (especially your top performing ones) to see how they are getting on in the job. It enables you to get direct answers to key employee development questions, such as:

This process also allows you to see if any of your staff are thinking about looking for employment elsewhere. Maybe they feel that they have hit the ceiling in their current position or place of work and are thinking about leaving (if they haven't already). Regardless of if this is true or not, you could ultimately end up losing an extremely valued member of your team if you are completely unaware of their feelings towards their role. 

Conducting stay interviews puts you in a commanding position to uncover what excites, engages and empowers your team. It can reveal the reasons behind why your staff choose to stay or leave, if there is anything you can do to improve their productivity and happiness, and whether or not they will be with you for the long run. 

Conducting a Stay Interview

First and foremost, for a stay interview to be a success, you need to create a high level of trust and transparency between yourself and your employees. Your organisation needs to cultivate a culture of open communication for these interviews to be effective. Your employees also need to feel comfortable about having authentic, honest conversations, and they need to feel that they can trust you with their responses. 

For the process to be beneficial, it needs to be an informal conversation where you ask open-ended questions that provide scope for a wide range of answers. This will give you a much deeper insight, rather than asking simple, close-ended questions. 

Finally, you need to act on your employees' feedback. If you gather information but fail to act upon it, then the entire process will be a colossal waste of time, causing your team to inevitably lose their trust in you. 

How Can a Stay Interview Improve Retention?

As touched upon, stay interviews are a vital means to retaining your best workers. Here are some of the ways that they can affect your staffing and HR strategy:

It is An Opportunity to Cultivate Trust

Most employees will not tell you if they are starting to lose interest in their job or are feeling unhappy; they will just leave. 

However, by conducting stay interviews, you can use the opportunity to have an honest, open, two-way conversation and develop follow-up ideas. This will empower your staff because you are having a broader discussion with them that shows you care about their happiness and wellbeing in the workplace. 

This is also a fantastic opportunity to build trust with your personnel and to assess their level of engagement and satisfaction towards the company, the department they work in, and of course, their individual role. When employees feel cared for, listened to and understood, they want to turn up to work each day, do an excellent job and remain with you for the foreseeable future. 

It Raises your Awareness

By checking in and seeing how your employees are doing, you could learn something valuable about them. You may have some exciting new projects in the pipeline, some employee development programmes to offer, or even a different role entirely that could be ideal for the employee in question. 

However, unless you check in with your team and identify what they like about their current job and employer, you won't be in a position to know how to hold on to your top talent. 

It Eliminates Unnecessary Hiring Costs

It costs a lot of time and money to find and hire a new employee, and even more to replace a good one. It is inevitable that at some stage you will lose good people, but doing so when it could have been potentially avoided is incredibly frustrating.

It Can Stimulate the Employee

Most employees feel stimulated simply by the fact that a manager has taken the time to consult with them and show concern about their future. Because the interview is personalised to the individual and their needs, this also makes them feel valued.

It Identifies Actions to Take

While an exit interview only identifies problems, a stay interview encourages participants to identify actions that can improve an employee's experience. This, in turn, should (hopefully) eliminate any significant turnover triggers. 

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Stay interviews are the ideal way to understand your employees' commitment and loyalty. They give you insight into what might potentially make them leave, and allow you to uncover ways to tap into an individual's strengths, interests and desires. 

They also give you the chance to identify opportunities to push your employees to their greatest capabilities, which positively challenges them and gives them the opportunity to leverage their potential. They don't take long to conduct, either, and are certainly easier to arrange than a job interview! 

Therefore, instead of waiting until it's too late for an exit interview, it's in your best interests to engage with your team right now. It will reduce turnover, improve your organisation and make it more appealing to current and potential staff, driving wider business success in the process.

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